New Efficiencies for Financial Professionals in the Post-Covid World
With the world altering pandemic, it’s safe to say that everyone had to make adjustments. This includes financial professionals who, both small and large, were forced to adapt to a remote world. Some firms were prepared for this, others, as they quickly realized, were not.
As we now start to look forward, there is a lot of talk about this being the “new normal”, but this also creates a new opportunity for investment firms and financial professionals. Sometimes it takes a large external change to finally make necessary internal changes that will benefit a firm in the long run. This is a period that requires not only our firms and staff to change, but it also requires clients and their expectations to change as well.
The “new normal” has forced firms to improve their existing models by building more efficient systems and processes to scale during these challenging times.
With every change there will be challenges. The best way to illustrate those challenges is through an example, one that we here at Fusion experienced ourselves. Fusion was founded in January 2011 and at that time we primarily worked with Investment Advisor Representatives that rolled up to our corporate RIA’s. As we grew that business we started to run into some growing pain challenges with the “Traditional Tech Stack”.
In 2015, we had a processing and operational staff of 6 people working with our IAR’s and RIA partners. We hit a growth spurt and added over $300 million in AUM in about 6 months and the average account size was around $90,000. It doesn’t take much math to see that is over 3,000 accounts in 6 months. Which meant our staff of 6 already hard working people were asked to be superhumans. If all of those accounts were spread out over time, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but as more advisors transitioned over to us, so did all of their accounts.
We had a couple of challenges:
Executing all the necessary tasks to set up an account accurately with portfolio management software as well other tech stack components (CRM, ticketing software, etc.),
Tracking any changes requested by custodians, advisors, advisors’ staff, our staff, and effectively communicating to all appropriate parties,
Understanding workload and time spent (Business efficiencies) to manage workload for advisors and our team.
We knew something had to change!
We not only started building out our own technology, but we started to build smarter integrations with iPaaS providers (Integration platform as a service, more on that later!). We learned that by building these smarter/more efficient workflows, it would reduce the team’s workload and provide more efficiency for our advisors, RIA’s and mutual clients.
Fast forward to 2020, solving these efficiency issues with “Traditional Tech Stacks” has become a lot easier for advisors to solve. Technology has made immense improvements in just 5 years and the options for financial professionals and institutions are almost overwhelming. One of the challenges many financial professionals face today is trying to decipher the tech stack and how everything works together.
What is a Tech Stack?
For those not familiar with that term, it simply means manually layering different software products together to accomplish something of a makeshift system. It’s likely, as we’ve found, what you and most other financial professionals use to run your business
Financial Professionals and Firms are faced with questions like,
“Which software should I utilize and how does it connect to my other software I already use?”
Or, something we hear from firms (and something we dealt with ourselves) is,
“How do we offer a platform that connects with advisors and doesn’t force a square peg into a round hole?”
Luckily, there are a lot of tools that institutions and advisors can use to implement existing, as well as new, processes and workflows without adding several other software providers to their tech stack. The introduction of iPaaS providers has made integrating new and existing workflows within the financial practice relatively easy.
iPaaS providers are like extension cords for your different software programs...
...allowing them to plug in, communicate with each other, and even share information and trigger actions within each other, without you having to know a lick of code. Have an email that comes into your inbox automatically create a new client in your CRM. Have your CRM automatically generate paperwork to be sent out to clients. Have any account updates trigger notifications and next action steps. The options for efficiencies are endless, and they all just take a few clicks.
iPaas providers are changing the software game, allowing regular people, like you and I, to string together our software programs like a coding pro in just minutes.
This is also changing the way financial professionals evaluate potential software solutions. Here are two questions we think you should look for in choosing software for your firm or when choosing to partner with a new firm:
• Does the platform or tech stack provide an “Open API” infrastructure?
• Does the platform or tech stack integrate with an iPaaS provider?
The ability for a software program to be able to work with another is critical, especially in this environment, because having this infrastructure allows everyone the ability to adapt, and adapt quickly. In this pandemic shaped world, this is allowing firms to innovate new ways to interact with clients through video chat, sending client communications, onboard new clients, and more.
Utilizing an iPaaS provider will not only allow firms and advisors to adapt in an ever-evolving world, but also allows them to make necessary changes to different software components, processes, and more, very easily.
You might think that with all our talk about the value of iPaas solutions, we must be one. We are not.
Like I said, in 2015 we built our own solution that advisors and RIA’s around the country utilize. But for everyone out there not utilizing that awesome solution (it’s called Fusion Elements, by the way, and for those not looking to build your own wheel, click here to skip down further on this page to learn how to take advantage of ours already built for you), we still want to help you thrive in efficiency in the coming weeks, months, and (let’s face it), years.
Let’s take a look at some of the iPaaS providers we like and then we will lay out some ideas for building out a few of the most important processes that benefit your firm with some tools that are easy to use and implement for immediate results.
First, let’s put some faces and names to the iPaaS providers we’ve been talking up this whole time. This is a rapidly expanding category of software and is in no way limited to the providers we mention below (these are just a few of our favorites):
automate.io - https://automate.io/
Free account offering 250 actions a month, limited speed and action steps in free account but many options available to upgrade.
Over 100 integrations/Services
integromat - https://www.integromat.com/en/
Free account offering 1,000 actions a month, limited speed and action steps in free account but many options available to upgrade.
Over 250 integrations/Services
Zapier - https://zapier.com/home
Free account offering 100 actions a month, limited speed and action steps in free account but many options available to upgrade.
Over 2000 integrations/Services
tray.io - https://tray.io/
No free account but extreme flexibility, account starts at $595 monthly.
After reviewing your iPaaS provider options and selecting which to utilize, it is time to start automating and building out efficiencies that can help you and your team work remotely or adapt on the fly in future situations.
A common necessity for advisors and institutions in the “new normal” is the ability to track what everyone is working on to allow transparency while maximizing the team’s efficiency.
We have built a proprietary ticketing system to track all requests from our institutional partners, their advisors, underlying staff down to the end client. This can be applied to both institutions and advisors to help track and monitor productivity, but it can also track several key business metrics.
ALERT: ACTIONABLE BUILDING STEPS ARE RIGHT HERE, TELLING YOU EXACTLY HOW TO DO THIS!
So, if you wanted to build something simple that would allow you to do this for your team, you really only need a few things, which you might even already have.
Email information or communication tool utilized for your team and clients.
Then, just follow the steps below. (CLICK THE PROCESS TO ENLARGE)
Do the work once...
Let the iPaaS provider do the work every single time after that.
We are going to bring this back around to our practice and share some of the data leading us to why we believe so strongly in helping firms and advisors with technology that offers an open API or partnering with an iPaaS provider.
Over the last two years our team has processed over 68,000 requests, with much of that “work” being done by our solution, Fusion Elements, leaving our operations team to focus on more complex challenges on a day-to-day basis, versus some of the more basic tasks which are completed via our system or automations and workflows we have built.
You Don't Have To Reinvent the Wheel
We all agree in the value of these efficiencies, but not everyone wants to build those out themselves. We get it. There is a lot of power in utilizing what exists rather than reinventing the wheel.
We have had many Advisors come to us wanting to make sure they have someone keeping them on the cutting edge of new technology, or who have realized that their confidence to build an integrated system had outweighed their skillset to execute on it.
It's a common story that can be summed up in one simple frame...
Honestly, we know that this is the feeling for most advisors trying to create a technology solution, which is why we have so many firms and advisors using Fusion Elements.
We built our system out of the necessity to scale and grow our business while overcoming normal day-to-day challenges. Instead of taking time away from growing your business and enhancing client relationships, with the needs of doing monotonous tasks, and training staff, then re-training staff, and of course hiring staff, you can plug directly into an integrated system that can solve all of those problems for you.
Let’s examine some of the reasons why we built Fusion Elements and of course touch on a handful of the benefits. The biggest thing that we wanted to achieve and is even more critical as more and more firms find their staff working remotely is: (...wait for it...)
Our ticketing system allows for streamlined communication in one place. Everybody, from you to your staff to our staff to custodial staff, knows exactly what is happening with an operational task in real time. We have built one simple dashboard where advisors and their team can see all of their operational items, what stages each task is in, what has been executed, or what we might be waiting on. There is no need to dig through emails or go from one program to another… all the information is right there at your fingertips.
It might sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. Frankly, we know that it needs to become more commonplace to protect firms for an array of challenges like staff turnover or even a global pandemic, and make sure that through these challenges, the advisory firm doesn’t skip a beat!
One of the biggest challenges advisors find in working remotely is how to open new accounts and communicate all of the items required with that, digitally. This is a breeze with Fusion Elements, which can auto-populate paperwork and allow you to open all of household accounts in one DocuSign envelope.
If you have a CRM system in place, GREAT! Continue to use that system to pre-populate client data. Yes, our system works with any CRM that has an open API, there is no need to retrain or learn a new system. Once you plug in your CRM to start the account opening process, you can see the account paperwork being received at the Custodian, when the accounts gets opened, the transfer(s) that occur to fund the account, automatically plug into the NIGO system (more on that later), confirm beneficiaries, do a quality check and open the account… ALL. IN. ONE. PLACE.
Let me say that again… the entire account opening process, digitally, all in one place. Don't believe us? You can see it with your own eyes here!
We tend to take it for granted, but we transparently can share what is happening across the company for all operational items. This includes everything from executing trades, requesting distributions, depositing funds into an account, or any other operational request that could be needed for a client account. Everything is time-stamped and tracked digitally with every request. Working remotely or gauging your staff’s workload has never become easier!
While we are talking about opening accounts, we should address that nasty four-letter word we all hate: NIGO (paperwork that is Not In Good Order). We have built out technology to help virtually eliminate NIGOs if the system is used correctly!
Again, sound too good to be true? Here’s our secret to success….
Before we digitally populate the client paperwork, we automatically double check the data entered against relevant databases to ensure accuracy. We check the SSN against the Patriotic Act database, we check the address against the USPS database, we ping the email address for accuracy, just to name a few. This allows users to correct errors BEFORE submitting the paperwork to the custodian.
It’s like the red underline of misspelled words in an email, before you send it out as a mass memo to everyone on your list… It’s a lot easier to fix upfront.
We also have Artificial Intelligence running in the background to flag missing fields on the paperwork to make sure nothing critical is left out. Before you ask, the answer is yes, based on the paperwork you generated, Elements knows fields that have been flagged as a NIGO on that same form previously so you can avoid the past mistakes of others.
We can talk all day about operational efficiency, tracking client data, measuring profitability, eliminating the need to audit client billing, or helping to integrate your technology stack. Seriously, give us a captive audience, we can’t get enough of sharing the value of this stuff.
We truly believe that along with all of the challenges of this “New Normal” this is also your “New Opportunity” to operate your business efficiently and effectively, all by doing it safely. Click to subscribe to our email list for more tips on capturing this new opportunity, or schedule time with our team to learn more about how the Fusion Elements Solution can help you take advantage of it today.