Do you have your client data in spreadsheets, paper, and sticky notes all over your office? Are you overwhelmed with the number of technology options out there? Ready to improve client experience? Is your firm in growth mode? Trying to attract advisors to your firm? If you are asking yourself any of these questions, it might be time to update your technology.
This summer our firm, Black Mammoth, a modern family office in West Des Moines, Iowa took on the task of updating our technology stack to improve client experience and increase efficiency for our team. We had a 3 month turnaround time so, while limited in time in some respects, the deadlines allowed us to focus. Summer made the perfect time to re-evaluate everything we were using as it is generally a slower time for client meetings in our office and really allowed us to re-imagine our client experience and build a strategy around that.
Does all of the technology out there overwhelm you? Use these five steps to determine the best tech for your firm.
Clarify your why. Get together with your team (or if solo) work through these questions with a trusted friend/advisor/client. Here are some specific questions to think about: What do you want the technology to do and why do you need it? Is it to improve client experience, efficiency, ease of use, increase advisor or clients adopting the technology, or something else? In addition, figure out your why and have that drive your conversations. For our firm we narrowed down to two priorities: improving client experience and client engagement and making sure the technology was easy to adopt and use on both the advisor and client side.
Research. There is so much information out there but you are going to need to narrow it down. Two places I went to were the Kitces Financial Advisor Tech Directory and Bob Veres and Joel Bruckenstein's 2022 T3/Inside Information Survey. These proved to be extremely valuable and filled with a wealth of information. The Tech Directory was a great starting point to learn about all the different technology and software out there. You can narrow down by choosing sample tech stacks based on type of firm (examples: startup advisor, solo, ensemble) or look in specific categories (examples: Operations, Financial Planning, Investment Management). The T3/Inside Information survey really helped narrow down the choices for demos. I looked at the user ratings in each specific category and the Software All Stars (p. 11) and Mighty Mites (p. 12). This allowed me to create a focus list.
Demos. Next step was to set up Demos with all the different companies we were exploring. This part is a bit time consuming but worth it to actually see the technology and decide if you would use it on a daily basis. Don't have time for demo? Prefer to hear from people in the fin tech space or other advisors or want to see the latest trends? Some cool people are doing new things in the industry. Check out Advice Tech Live. In addition, some companies, offer free trials. If they did, I set our team up on a trial to explore it. I made sure to get in there and try it out and see if it was easy to adopt.
Plan for Future of Firm. When you think about technology you have take the perspective of what is going to work well now but also have one foot into the future. You probably don't want to be changing major technology every year so looking out a couple years and making sure the solution is going to be relevant for your firm will be critical.
Make a Decision. to invest in the technology and GO! It takes time to onboard your team as well as clients so make sure you build that into the planning process.
So after all that, we narrowed it down and made our tech decisions. What did we end up using and why?
Adyzon - CRM/Portfolio Management/Reporting tools
We had a complicated CRM that no one was really using and to update it, we would need to hire someone to make changes. When we looked at Advyzon for Portfolio reporting, we also became intrigued with how to use at it as a CRM as well. When you are all in one system it might help with usability. While not a stand alone CRM, it had an avg. rating of 8.18 (p. 13) on the T3 technology survey. This could not be overlooked. While Wealthbox and Redtail have the most market share in the category, Adyvzon has also been climbing in market share and based on demographics fit our firm (higher % of users with firms in years 1-5). Once we had a demo of Advyzon and saw that we could see clients portfolio, net worth, budget, and do everything we needed a CRM to do, we were all in.
Advyzon's Portfolio Management also ranked very high in the T3 survey with an avg. client satisfaction rating of 8.49 (p. 24) and category leading all in one rating of 8.33 (p. 27). Yahoo Finance and Bob Veres Inside Information August 2022 highlighted their remarkable year. The user interface is easy to use. One of our pain points was client billing and compliance as we were still doing everything manually in… you guessed it… Spreadsheets! Once we saw their billing capabilities and compliance reporting, this also sold it for us. In addition, they have an outstanding learning program called Advyzon U for anyone in the office to learn the system and they have a team of people ready to help transfer your data and support you as you onboard. And you can't forget to factor in cost. As a newer firm (less than 5 years), we have to manage our costs while also improving efficiency. Advyzon allowed us to get rid of our CRM and add Portfolio Management/Reporting tools for the same cost we were paying to not use our CRM.
Asset Map — Client Discovery and Planning
While working with clients we have learned that they appreciate financial planning in visuals and prefer to tackle things in smaller chunks. No one wants a big binder anymore. We had been keeping our eye on Asset Map as a financial planning tool for our clients to help see their whole financial picture on one page and to be able to engage them in a better way. We decided to try a demo and see what our clients thought. The first thing that happened was clients started to fill out the discovery link. The data wasn't always complete but they were filling out most of it-which is better than I can say before. When we met with clients for their meeting we could easily see what was missing and the picture helped us facilitate asking the right questions. This has made a huge difference in the early stage of our client relationships and has enhanced our client experience.
Right Capital — Financial Planning
Similar to our CRM, while the current planning software we had was popular choice for RIA Firms, we hadn't been using it to it's full capabilities. We decided to look at Right Capital as it had a good looking onboarding process for clients, a student loan module, and had just introduced the one page snapshot. The T3 survey also had Right Capital increasing market share with an avg. rating of 8.14 (p. 16). Based on the demographics from the survey Right Capital was also popular with smaller and younger firms as well. This again fit us and once we had a chance to demo it, we realized the user experience for us as a firm as well as clients was far superior. In addition, once we rolled it to clients, we found more engagement and completion of the necessary information to complete plans.
While still early in our adoption Right Capital and Asset Map, client feedback has been positive. We have added the visual and planning tools necessary to create a high-level experience for our clients, improved ease of use for advisors, and increased engagement with our clients.
Tools we have on our radar.
Addepar — is sleek and has amazing data integration capabilities, a private marketplace, and the Navigator tool that allows you to analyze how different strategies impact investment portfolios.
Hubly — helps firms and advisors build repeatable workflows. It only integrates with Redtail and Wealthbox now so once it integrates with Advyzon, we will be looking at this to improve our team collaboration and tracking of workflows.
FP Alpha — using AI the technology allows you to upload insurance documents, tax returns, estate planning documents and has a patent pending recommendation engine with insights gathered from 40+ experts. They also have a prospect tool that generates a financial wellness score. Sounds pretty cool.
Still feeling overwhelmed with too many options? You got this! Remember you can break it down with the five simple steps above. What worked for one firm may not work for you so really focus on the needs of your firm and have an eye to the future so your tech can grow with you and complement your strengths as an advisor. And finally make sure you, your team, and your clients will use it!
Related: Delayed Client Gratitude