In March, I received a call from my sister. “Your building is burning down,” she said. “Turn on the news.” I watched in horror as a massive fire destroyed two tall apartment buildings in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, just one block from my firm’s office. Despite the shocking footage, I told her: “If the building burns down, we’ll lose some computers and desks — it’s fine. We can operate business as usual tomorrow.”
Over the last several years, our advisory firm has made a conscious effort to become a completely cloud-based fintech office. In the event of any disaster, emergency or even just employee travel, any person in our company can work remotely from a phone, laptop or tablet. As we’ve recently seen with some of the devastating natural disasters that have ravaged our country in recent months, implementation of technology that allows for business continuity is crucial — and with today’s fintech innovations, it’s fully possible.
With the evolution of fintech, firms and advisors in our industry can easily implement CRM and trading systems, financial planning and risk management software, data storage applications and even phone systems that can operate from any smartphone or tablet. In fact, many players in the fintech space are actually working together to benefit advisors. Competing technology providers have become frenemies to integrate systems and create a better overall experience. With the plethora of tools available to us, why isn’t every advisor using them?
The fact is some advisors feel they don’t need new technology. Others hesitate because of cost pains, lack of knowledge and a concern about being able to integrate new tools into their current practice. All of these excuses are indicative of one thing — a fear of change.
In fact, in a 2016 PWC survey, less than half of respondents said they put fintech at the heart of their business strategy — a shockingly low percentage given the advanced technology available today. It’s also a lost opportunity. Last year, our firm changed broker-dealers because we needed more efficient and streamlined technology. Following the integration process, we realized we didn’t have to replace a staff member, who had previously left the firm, thanks to our modernized operations. The cost savings in human capital alone led to a giant ROI.
The new technology also saved time as we cut down on hours spent preparing for client meetings. Moreover, cloud-based technology eliminated the need for clunky equipment and reduced commercial real estate expenses. Of course, technology costs money and implementation takes time, but the benefit far outweighs the initial cost.
For advisors worried about making the transition to a new suite of technology, the great news is that consulting firms, BDs and industry conferences are all available as resources to help navigate unchartered waters. Utilize their network and consider working with consulting firms to gain a comprehensive understanding of the best technology integrations available.
I am not a techie by any means, but I realize the importance of staying up-to-date with current technology. Attending industry conferences helps. Most of these national or regional conferences — hosted by industry names such as Carson Group, Riskalyze, Orion or eMoney — have sponsor booths where fintech companies will gladly provide demonstrations. Hands-on interactions help examine available options to create the most effective technology stack for your firm’s needs. Our firm has already implemented the following solutions:
- Riskalyze for risk management software
- eMoney Advisor for financial planning and client aggregation
- Jive Communications for voice-over-internet phone system
- Redtail for our client CRM and email archiving
- Dropbox Business for cloud file storage
- Albridge for performance reporting
- Fidelity’s Managed Account Solutions as a portfolio-trading and management platform
- DocuSign for digital signatures
Keep in mind that practices may soon need to be cloud-based. In fact, FINRA Rule 4370 requires firms to create and maintain written business continuity plans relating to an emergency or significant business disruption. And in 2016, the SEC issued a proposal to amend Rule 204-2 to require RIAs to make and keep all business continuity and transition plans that are currently in effect. The implementation of cloud-based technology, particularly as it relates to data storage, helps to satisfy the data backup and recovery element of these rules.
Don’t get overwhelmed … fintech isn’t friction.