Implementing Technology

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

You don’t necessarily need the most cutting-edge technology to get to the top of your game. According to a recent study, you can start by leveraging the technology you already have.

Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services’ 2013 RIA Benchmarking Study reveals that high-performing firms—those in the top quartile for growth, profitability and productivity—focused on smart technology and adoption, not getting the latest and greatest. These high-performing firms focus on optimizing their technology in three areas: portfolio management, service, and client reporting.

Here are ten steps you can take to make sure you get the most from your technology.

  1. Make adoption a priority. Commit putting in the time and effort to learn how best to maximize all of the system’s features. If you can’t do it yourself, make someone else in your office accountable.
  2. Plan. Learning a new software program is like learning a new language. It’s hard to know where to start. Your technology provider should be able to give you an implementation guide to show you the steps to follow, and milestones to hit.
  3. Set aside time. If you don’t carve out time on your schedule, it isn’t going to happen.
  4. Network. There are relatively few programs out there that haven’t already been tried and tested by others in similar positions as yours. Talk to everyone you know who has gone through the implementation process and find out what they did and what they wished they had done better.
  5. Gather resources. Request an inventory of the training your technology provider makes available. Once you know what they have for support materials, you can choose the format that best matches your learning style.
  6. Optimize Your TechnologyGet names and numbers. You need to have key information handy in a few different areas. Know the software name, version number, and license holder so that when you call or go online for help you can be sure you are asking about the right program. Also know the names and numbers of customer support persons at your technology provider.
  7. Troll the internet. Use social media find online user groups or other social media sites that could provide helpful implementation hints. For example, there may be a LinkedIn User Group already established for the purposes of optimizing your software.
  8. Monitor progress. Perform periodic self-checks to monitor your progress towards the goals set in your implementation plan.
  9. Celebrate incremental success. Even if you haven’t learned everything there is to know, make note of how the technology improves your efficiency. Success is a powerful motivator and will prompt you to plow through your learning curve.
  10. Provide feedback. Software engineers constantly strive to innovate. If there is something you don’t like about your program or would like to see handled differently, let them know. You may just have a function named after you in the next version!

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only.

Everyone’s Unique

Jeff Raupp Jeff Raupp, CFA, Senior Investment Manager

Whenever I go to the bowling alley it strikes me how unique people are. And no, it’s not because of the multi-colored shoes or even the matching team jackets complete with catchy names like “Pin Pals” or “Medina Sod” sewn on the back. It’s because of the bowling balls.

Every time I head to the lanes, I can bank on spending at least ten minutes trying to find a ball that works for me. You have the heavy balls with the tiny finger holes and the huge thumb, the balls with the finger holes on the other side of the ball away from the thumb, and the ones where it seems like someone was playing around and drilled three random holes. Half of the time I find myself weighing the embarrassment of using a purple or pink ball that feels okay versus a more masculine black or red ball that weighs a ton but can only fit my pinkie. I’m always left thinking, “Where’s the guy or gal that this ball actually fits?”

Raupp_Everyones_Unique_2.14.14But at the end of the day, I find that if I find the right ball, where my hand feels comfortable and the weight is just right, I have a much better game.

In the same way, how to best save toward your life goals is unique to each investor. Even in the scenario where two investors have the same age, same investable assets and generally the same goals, the portfolio that helps them achieve those goals may be decidedly different between them. Investor emotion can play a huge role in the success or failure of an investment plan, and keeping those emotions in check is vital. There is nothing more damaging to the potential for an investor to meet their goals than an emotional decision to deviate from their long-term strategy due to market conditions.

Fortunately, there’s often more than one way to reach a particular goal. There are strategies that focus on total return versus ones that focus on generating income. Strategies that are more market oriented versus those that look to produce a certain level of return regardless of the markets. And there are tactical strategies and strategic strategies. For any investor’s personal goal(s), several of these, or a combination of these, might provide the necessary investment returns to get you there.

Raupp_Everyones_Unique_2.14.14_1Here’s where the emotions can come into play—if you don’t feel comfortable along the way, your emotions can take over the driver’s wheel, and your investor returns can fall short of your goal. In 2008-2009, many investors panicked, fled the markets, and decided to go to cash near the market bottom; but they missed much of the huge market rebound that followed. While in many cases the investors pre-recession strategy was sound and ultimately would have worked to reach their goals, their irrational decision during a period of volatility made it a tougher road.

Unfortunately, you don’t have the benefit of rolling a few gutter balls while you’re trying to find the right portfolio. That’s why working with an expert to find an investment strategy that can get you to your goals, and that matches your personality and risk profile, is vital to success.

Good bowlers show up at the alley with their own fitted ball and rightly-sized shoes. Good investors put their assets in a strategy fitted to their goals.

Preparing for a New Year: The Importance of Goal Setting

Bev FlaxingtonBev Flaxington, The Collaborative

Whether you run an advisory firm with two people – or 200 people – setting goals and determining your desired outcomes for 2013 is critical. Most people think about goal setting in terms of the numbers – how many new clients do we want? How much in AUM? What should our profitability per client be? These are all very important and should be included, but don’t forget to put an emphasis on qualitative goals, too.

goals

What are qualitative goals? You want to think about things such as:

(1)    What do you want your advisory firm to stand for? It seems to be a given that you would want to be trustworthy and responsive to clients, but what else matters to you? Do you want to be leading edge in investment offerings? Do you want to be known as proactive and anticipatory of client needs, instead of just responsive? Do you want to be a value provider – low cost with high service? Think in terms of reputation and define what you would like your firms to be.

(2)    What kind of culture do you want to have in your firm? Many people think culture evolves naturally and cannot be defined. Culture evolves in a directed way, when the firm puts emphasis on it. Aspects of firm culture could include team orientation, or fast decision-making, or a willingness to take risks (with compliance support of course!) or innovation. Take a moment to examine your culture now – see if you can identify the traits associated with it. Now take a moment to define what you would like it to be. What is the “gap”? Where do you need to make shifts? Note these and incorporate them into your planning process.

(3)    What is the client experience at your firm? When writing marketing materials we often ask about the client experience. What is it like for a new client to join your firm? What happens to them step-by-step? Again, this can evolve as your firm goes about its daily business of serving clients, but it can be a powerful aspect if you define it at the outset, instead of just letting it evolve. How often do you want to touch clients? What do you want to be doing at each touchpoint? How do you want clients to describe their experience in working with you? What three words would best capture what it is like to be a client of yours? Be illustrative in defining this so that someone else can actually picture or imagine what it feels like, or looks like to be a client of your firm.

(4)    What is the firm’s mission for this year? What do you want to accomplish in addition to serving clients well and finding new revenue? Do you want to be a market leader? Do you want to be known among the competition in a certain way? Do you want to raise the firm’s profile and be more engaged in PR (public relations) and media relations? Think outside of just the business development goals to broader, market-oriented goals

Thinking about these qualitative aspects takes time. It can be a great exercise to have other members of your firm join you in identifying these aspects and defining them. Even if you have only one other person in the firm, bring that person into the planning process. Most importantly if you take the time to think about any of these qualitative pieces, take the time to write them down. Use them as your guideposts for next year to help you navigate where you want to go.

Good luck for much success in 2013.

Selling for the Non-sales Professional Beverly D. Flaxington

Selling is a fact of life if you want to grow your business. Some financial advisors look at “sales” with negativity. You do not pursue a CFP, or a CFA or any other financially oriented credential, because you want to be a salesperson! In fact, in many cases the core skills necessary to be successful as a financial professional are in opposition to those needed for professional sales.
There are ways to learn how to sell successfully even if you are a non-sales professional. Once you learn how to think about selling, and how to incorporate it into your daily activities, you might even find you enjoy it.

Here are five keys tips for any non-sales professional:

(1) Define your goals. Yes, it sounds basic but this is the first important step – and the one most often overlooked. An advisor might say “I want to grow!” but they haven’t defined what success really looks like to them. Grow in what area? Client referrals? New prospecting opportunities? Through alliances? What about specific products and services? It’s important to define goals very specifically and write them down.

(2) Have a plan. This one also seems pretty basic, doesn’t it? Financial advisors create plans for their clients, so they must have plans for their own selling objectives, right? Unfortunately it’s a rare situation to find an advisor with a clear selling plan – who will do the selling, what are their individual goals, what compensation is associated with selling, how will the sales effort integrate with client service and investing, how will the efforts be measured, etc., are all necessary questions to be asked … and answered.

(3) Selling is an extension of meeting needs. Instead of thinking of sales as “pushing” something, think of it as offering a solution to a problem, or meeting an unmet need. The best salespeople are those that are passionate about what they sell, but realize that what they sell isn’t for everyone. Instead of thinking “sales”, think “understanding other people”. How can you learn more about someone so you can truly offer a solution? What kind of needs do you best meet? What problems do you solve? Change your thinking on the process to make it less about pushing and more about filling – an unmet need.

(4) Learn to qualify! Even the best salespeople struggle with this area. Not everyone is a good prospect. Do not spend too much of your valuable time with people who will simply never buy. Learn to ask probing questions such as “Why are you interested now instead of six months ago, or six months from now?” “What would success look like to you in 2 years if everything was going well with our relationship?” “What obstacles might you face in making a decision?” The more you question, the more you learn.

(5) Be yourself – but learn to adapt. In the end, the buyer is buying you – after all, you are your services in the financial advisory arena. You want to be genuine and show the real you. At the same time, understand that most people listen best and understand others when they have similar communication styles. Become an observer – watch the style of someone you are speaking to and modify to meet their approach. People buy from people they like, and we like people who are like us!
Incorporating any one, or more, of these five tips will start you on the path to being a successful selling professional.