Must-Have Advisor Technology for 2012

By Cynthia Stephens, VP of Marketing on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Second in a series of advisor perspectives on marketing and technology

Just about every advisor wants to sign new clients, bring on more assets and, in general, grow the business.

But sooner or later, serving those added relationships requires either added investment in capacity — recruiting more talented people — or a more creative approach to technology.

With practically every firm in the industry competing for fresh talent, the recruiting approach can’t work for everyone.

As advisor Risley Sams has discovered since breaking away from the wirehouse in early 2009, technology is the key to exponential growth.

Let’s find out how he’s expanded his book of business by 65% over the last 2-1/2 years.

Selecting Technology for your Practice

When Sams was setting up his practice, he was coming out of Merrill Lynch and had no infrastructure in place. The firm had taken care of all his IT needs, so like a lot of breakaway advisors, he was starting from scratch.

“I cheated,” he says. “ I got help from a friend who left a wirehouse and had also set up his own practice.”

Since he needed everything, his friend gave him insight into pricing and leads on vendors.

At the time, Sams recalls not even knowing that he’d need a portfolio accounting system. He assumed his custodian — which turned out to be Schwab — would supply it for free.

For reporting, he picked Morningstar Office as a safe, secure platform.

Once the basics were in place, he was off and running. In 2012, he wants to double his AUM — and here, too, technology will make the difference.

What every advisor needs

Sams says a breakaway broker needs at least three major pieces to complete the platform.

1.) Good analytical software.

This software is critical to analyze portfolios. His also has a client portal to safely and securely distribute reporting to clients through the web.

2.) Account aggregation to see all clients’ held-away assets.

Some of Sams’ clients love the fact that they can use the client portal to see all of their assets in one place.

That’s a huge value add right there, he says. Merrill Lynch didn’t have that.

And really beyond that, Sams can look at his clients’ entire wealth picture, so he can find those held away assets and pipe up if they’re not being managed as effectively as they could be.

3.) Customer relationship management (CRM) software  is critical. 

The right CRM can help an advisor keep track of what matters to each client and keep all conversations on point.

“At the end of the day this is a trust-based business and clients ultimately want to know that you have what’s important to them in mind when you help them make their investment decisions,” he explains.

CRM is the key

That third piece is going to be essential as Sams expands his book.

“The CRM platform is critical for helping me grow my business,” he says.

“I want to view all of my clients’ account data in my CRM.  I am currently evaluating CRM technologies that integrate with my portfolio accounting system.”

Sams wants to use the CRM to track client and prospect information — which just about every system was built to do — but he’s especially interested in finding a platform that lets him categorize contacts and then set up a service system based upon those categories.

Essentially, this will let him segment his mailing list to generate leads based on interests, wealth level or any other criterion.

“All of my clients receive my monthly newsletter,” he explains.

“ In addition, I can send hot prospects a monthly piece.  At the same time I can send an article to people that I want to stay in touch with less often, twice a year.”

Sams’ tips for other advisors who want to break away — or just break out of their existing technological rut — are direct and to the point.

Think about how technology can scale your practice as you do a myriad of other things.

The more you can streamline account management, the more likely you’ll be successful and profitable.

If you need help, he says, ask your custodian for referrals.  And talk to other advisors using their platform.

“If you want to be successful, you’ve got to embrace technology,” he sums up.

Risley started RHS Financial after many years serving as a Financial Advisor in the several of the major brokerage houses before setting up his own practice. As an Independent Financial Advisor (RIA), he takes the time to understand each of his client’s life goals and build a customized wealth accumulation and distribution plan that fits their needs. Risley Sams is a Certified Financial Planner®. Risley holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California State University, Chico and an MBA in International Finance from Purdue University. He is an avid sailboat racer and an active member of the St. Francis Yacht Club and Staff Admiral of the San Francisco Bay Knarr Fleet. 

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