Bill Winterberg Talks Technology

By Amy McIIwain, President, Financial Social Media on Thursday, March 31st, 2011

What do you feel is the biggest obstacle that Financial Advisors are facing when making the shift online?

I think that advisors’ biggest obstacle is really trying to narrow down all of the options that are available.  It’s really easy to get caught up in the number of providers that are in the market making online  solutions and technology solutions, and advisors get caught up in trying to learn everything that they can about the details.

I often advise my clients, who are typically owners and managers of advisory firms, that they really need to scope out what they want to accomplish online first, and then use that information to identify the vendors and other professionals that can implement that vision, and implement the online presence that the advisors want to create.

What tools, or piece of technology, do you think most Financial Advisors are missing out on today?

Right now I think the biggest tool that advisors are missing out on is the benefit of adopting electronic document management and really implementing a paperless office environment. The ability to have powerful search and nearly instantaneous access to an advisor’s volume of records, be it on clients or internal business records is a gigantic boost for the firm’s productivity. I would really like to see more and more firms go electronic and get rid of their filing cabinets and really jump in aggressively to an electronic environment.

What do you feel is preventing Financial Advisors from going the route of a paperless office?

I think that there are two primary reasons.  One is cost and the other is the overwhelming fear and perception of what it takes to leave a paper based environment and go to a paperless, or at least to a significantly reduced paper environment. To implement an electronic environment properly, particularly, getting an environment that meets compliance and regulatory requirements, does require a pretty significant investment. For a larger firm with over ten employees, they are looking at a five-figure investment, but that investment will result in having a very robust and compliant document management system. It certainly is a lot of money to pay up front, but I feel the firm will make that money back many times over two or three years as the firm uses the electronic system because of the productivity gains they receive from reduced search time for documents, and also better turn around time for compliance requests. By going paperless, they are saving so much of their staff’s time, enabling them to focus on client service, rather than trying to maintain their paper-based records. 

The second factor is that advisors are very concerned with the amount of people power it takes to capture all of their historical records and move them into an electronic system.  For the right firm, they don’t need to capture every historical document they have in their office. They could use a day-forward approach and just scan and capture electronically from one day forward, so only when they need to go into historical records do they electronically capture a client’s folder.  At that point when the file is retrieved, they can capture it and move it into their paperless system.  This way, they don’t necessarily need to feel overwhelmed by needing to capture hundreds of thousands of existing records and the many months and many hours that it would require to move it all into an electronic system.
What would be the benefit of going paperless for the client?  Is it something they are looking for today?

I do believe more and more that the next generation of wealth management and financial planning clients are really going to expect a paperless environment in the advisor that they choose. Wealth management clients that will be fantastic clients in their 50′s and 60′s, are in their 30′s and 40′s now, and they’re so proficient with their mobile devices and use them prolifically. For that generation, it seems silly to fill out paper work by hand, and to submit paper based forms to their advisor.  They can do so much online and so much with their mobile devices today, that the perception is that they almost take a step backwards, back to a paper-based environment, just so they can get quality financial planning advice and wealth management services.  I think that generation is going to be attracted by firms that are paperless and use electronic collaboration tools with advisors when seeking financial advice.

Bill Winterberg is a Certified Financial Planner Certificant, Principal of, and the technology Columnist for Morningstar Advisor.

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