How to Get Started Creating (or improving) your Advisor Workflows

By Cynthia Stephens, VP of Marketing, ByAllAccounts on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

During February SEI, Redtail Technology, ActiFi, and MoneyGuidePro announced an advisor workflow partnership.  Workflows from a CRM system, a financial planning tool, and a custodial platform have been fully integrated with one another.  Workflow, according to MoneyGuidePro’s Kevin Hughes, is a hot topic.  After all, who among us doesn’t want to improve operational efficiency and spend more time on the higher-value-add activities?

The topic of “workflow” is often loosely defined, which can lead to uncertainty and difficulty knowing how to get started addressing it.  Moreover, if you inherited systemized workflows from a predecessor you may not have the luxury of creating a brand new process that will work for how the business is configured today in order to profitably serve clients.  Kevin told me that a key to addressing this broad topic is to divide “workflow” into specific workflow.

See also: The Rise of Automated Workflows in Financial Advisory Practices by Fox Financial Planning Network

Workflow example #1: Updating financial plans  

When it comes to how to get started creating (or improving) a specific workflow one piece of advice is to make a list of the steps that you consistently repeat, assess how long each step takes you, and determine where you are getting “stuck” or have some inefficiency.

For instance, “When you prepare for a meeting with a client, you’ll typically contact the client, schedule the meeting, prepare reports, and update his/her financial plan,” says Kevin. “Updating a financial plan used to be a big step that required manual updating of assets.”  Kevin tells me that the idea is to take a significant step like that and cut it down.  What if you could open your client’s financial plan and see that everything was already up to date?  

Obviously in this example, using automated data aggregation is a way to eliminate manual entry of assets and spend less time on that single step.  Our partnership with MoneyGuidePro makes this possible with by allowing MoneyGuidePro to seamlessly deliver institutional-class data directly to its clients.

Workflow example #2: Preparing performance reports using data/reports from multiple systems

There are clearly more complex types of workflows that you’ll have, too, which may increasingly involve multiple systems.  For example, let’s say you use Redtail Technology (Redtail) as your CRM, MoneyGuidePro as your financial planning tool and Orion Advisor Services for billing and performance reporting.  Traditionally, thinking about how to create or improve a workflow has been challenging when you use multiple “best of breed” systems. 

There are generally two dimensions you want to be cognizant of when looking at ways to improve efficiency for any step within a workflow:

  1. Creating efficient data movement;

  2. Developing seamless sharing of reports and other information from system to system.

If you are a regular reader of our blog or educational materials you already know that we believe the ability to choose any platform or investment vehicle is a fundamental requirement for advisory firms and their account holders. Changing platforms shouldn’t be hindered or motivated by connectivity concerns. Any and all platforms should have access to any and all data.

“Let’s say that you want to take a quarterly update from within Redtail and also the performance report powered with outside assets and other data from Orion Advisor Services”, Kevin says.  He adds that “Advisors can now access multiple reports seamlessly from within Redtail, such as performance reports from Orion Advisor Services and the financial plan from MoneyGuidePro.”

What’s happening behind the scene is that when you access MoneyGuidePro from within Redtail, MoneyGuidePro is automatically updating the asset data that you need in real-time. 

I realize that this specific set of systems may not apply to your individual situation.  My point in mentioning the example is this:  I think it is critical for you to answer one question -- how do I quickly and efficiently get all the data and reports needed in order to provide exceptional client service and great advice?  After all I suspect that your overarching business goal is to profitably serve clients.

See also: Turning Big Data into a Dashboard for Investment Managers by Andrew Peddar

Workflow example #3: Proposal Generation

There’s a third, futuristic example of advisor workflow that Kevin told me about.  It’s an exciting sneak peak at work that is in development with SEI that was announced at the T3 Technology Tools for Today 2014 conference in February. 

“What MoneyGuidePro is doing with SEI is integrating the components in the financial plan with SEI’s proposal generation platform,” Kevin says.  “We want the advisor to click a button so they can go from the plan implementation to the product proposal in SEI and passing the data necessary to save the advisor time.  This data will be risk information, target allocation recommended in the plan and the asset detail for the proposal.”

Kevin told me that often proposal systems don’t always spell out specific products within a financial plan.  Consider this: in MoneyGuidePro you have brought in held-away assets using data aggregation.  Eventually you’d like to see those assets rolled-over under your direct management.  In the future MoneyGuidePro will show you there is $250,000 in assets, including held-away, and SEI will determine product selection that you can recommend to a client/potential client.  

There is no single workflow solution that is right for everyone. As these examples indicate, getting a clear list of the activities you repeat for a single workflow (e.g., preparing reports for a client meeting) is a great way to start thinking about what you would like to change.  Try something, test it, measure it and then make continual improvements.

Kevin Hughes is on the business development team and manages 3rd party integrations at MoneyGuidePro ( Cynthia Stephens is the Vice President of Marketing for ByAllAccounts, a Morningstar company that provides innovative data aggregation technology for financial applications. Read other blogs by Cynthia

You may also be interested in:

How to Pass a Regulatory Exam (Whitepaper)

Read these blogs on advisor workflows:

5 Steps for Simplifying the Movement of Data Through Your Organization

Top 5 Reasons Advisors Should Use Workflows 

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