Ep. 172: Top 10 Most Downloaded Episodes of 2022 – Part 2

Come on in, sit back and relax. You’re listening to episode 172 of the WealthTech Today podcast and I’m your host, Craig Iskowitz, the founder of Ezra Group Consulting.  The content of this podcast is designed to share thought-provoking industry analysis, best practices, in-depth discussions, and lively conversations all around wealth management technology.

This is the last episode of the year, so it must be our Best of 2022 episode!  We ran the numbers to find the top ten most downloaded podcasts from this year.  We’re thankful for all of you for spending so much time listening! And that includes everyone around the world as we have people downloading from over a dozen countries such as Canada, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore!

Our crack podcast team pulled a clip from each episode and I recorded a short intro to each.  If you enjoy these clips, I’d recommend going back and listening to the full episodes. There’s a ton of terrific content there!

  1. Ep. 138: Orion Buys Redtail with Kristen Schmidt
  2. Ep. 141: The Anatomy of 401(k) Trading with Dave Goldman, Pontera
  3. Ep. 127: $1 Million Worth of Advice from Kevin Adams, Edward Jones
  4. Ep. 134: The Anatomy of a Healthy Client Data Infrastructure with Don McHenry, ByAllAccounts
  5. Ep. 154: Embracing External Trends in the TAMP Space with Daniel Needham, Morningstar
  6. Ep. 139: The Connective Tissue Between Processes and Technology, with Matt Reiner, Benjamin
  7. Ep. 157: Don’t Go Broke! Tips for Keeping Tech Vendors in Line with Jason Albino, Grove Point Financial
  8. Ep. 129: Garbage In, Garbage Out – Getting Your Client Data in Good Order with John Mackowiak, Advyzon
  9. Ep. 140: Automating Advisor Workflows with Anand Sheth, Pulse360
  10. Ep. 126: The 3 Biggest Pain Points of Platform Consolidation with Molly Weiss, Envestnet
If you are an executive at an enterprise wealth management firm and you’re having issues with one of your software platforms, you need to call Ezra Group — our consulting team has decades of experience with all aspects of wealth management technology, data and operations — whether you’re looking to optimize an existing system, revamp it, integrate it or replace it entirely, Ezra Group is the first call you should make. We help firms exactly like yours make the right decisions regarding their technology for smooth front-to-back office operations. go to ezragroupllc.com for more information.
I’m going to squeeze in a quick housekeeping note before we start:
  • Be sure to subscribe to Wealthtech Today wherever you listen to podcasts, so you don’t miss future episodes. The outlets where this podcast is distributed has grown over the years and now includes not just  Apple Podcasts, but also Amazon Music, Audible.com, and Spotify.
  • Now let’s kick this thing off!

Ep. 139: The Connective Tissue Between Processes and Technology, with Matt Reiner, Benjamin

Our next clip comes from Ep. 139: The Connective Tissue Between Processes and Technology, with Matt Reiner, Co-Founder & CEO of Benjamin which was published in April.  benjamin is a workflow automation engine that looks to connect wealth manager technologies together to eliminate manual tasks. Their goal is to free up more time for financial advisors and their teams to more productive tasks.  Here Matt is talking about building out their product and industry trends.

Craig: You said that your system guides everything from account funding plus scheduling the onboarding. Now you’re getting into more analytics and further leveraging the reporting mentioned, notified about accounts that hadn’t had a meeting in a while with cash balances over a certain amount. That’s a whole different value added.

Matt: Yeah, that’s just kind of a natural progression of where our software is. We’ve been building the software on the guidance of our clients of learning what they’re doing. You know, we come from one RIA but we do things one way and other RIAs do things slightly different and we’ve continued to evolve the platform. And it’s just a natural progression,. We’ve get the foundation of being able to execute on tasks and everything that we execute on, which we can dive into is all based on how a human works. We made it very intuitive.

Matt: And so once we got that working and we were able to execute on those simple things like a task is due in the CRM, go to x, inside of somewhere else or a meeting is coming up in the calendar, go do x and y in the CRM and via text message. That’s the foundation of the connective tissue or what the category is called a business support system. That’s the foundation. The next layer up is saying, Okay, well, now we have all this data, so can we do some analysis on this data to then go and take action on that information?

Matt: So step two is let’s start doing reporting and delivering it to the advisor based on these different data points, and the different reporting and then the next step is taking action on that data. So all the contacts that come in that have more than $15,000 in cash, and haven’t been met with in six months, maybe one advisor wants benjamin to go start the scheduled meeting workflow for them, and he’ll go and start and schedule the meeting proactively. Maybe he wants to get approval on meetings from them or create a task inside the CRM to schedule and the advisor can go in and determine whether he really or she really wants those meetings scheduled. Or it can go and create a task for the trader for all of those contacts for all those accounts to get some money put to work in those accounts.

Matt: So that is now starting to create this really augmented arm that yes, you can do that today but it takes time. I always read I always relate where we are in automation in this industry to the concept of bill pay in the past, so if you think about online bill pay, if you think about before online bill pay how we wrote checks and paid bills was we would get the bill in the mail we would open our checkbook, write the check, address an envelope, stamp it and walk into our mailbox. The big innovation in bill pay before online bill pay was they put the pre addressed envelope in the bill for you. So they eliminated one step. You’d write the check, you’d put it in the pre addressed envelope, you stamp it you take it to your mailbox. That didn’t take that much time, that was one or two minutes of time.

Matt: But then online bill pay came and went online bill pay came, there’s a lot of questions, how are they going to know how much to send, how do they know who to send it to, etc? How’s the service provider going to know it’s from me? And there’s three groups of people, the one group that was all in, the early adopters as we call it in the technology world. Then you had the other group that was fearful, not fearful because I would never use it just fearful because this is so new. And then you had this other group that was pushing back and saying that task only takes me one or two minutes I can already do it. Why would I ever want to use online bill pay?

Matt: And as we now know, the majority of Americans use online bill pay to some extent. And those one to two minutes that it was taking them is filled with something else more productive, more enjoyable, whatever it may be. But when I use that example, I use that because I think that automation in our industry is at the early stages of online bill pay where instead of people worrisome about how are you doing that? Or I can do that already in my system, why do I need someone else to do it? Well, the reason is because our value add as individuals or humans in a wealth management firm is to build and deepen relationships and talking to people. And if we’re not doing that, and we’re doing other things that are keeping us from that we only have a limited amount of time. We need more time to do what we’re great at. And what we are great at in this industry is building relationships. And that’s something that I don’t believe technology will ever be able to do. So what we’re trying to do is basically build bill pay but instead of connecting service providers and banks is we’re connecting processes and technologies and instead of paying bills, we’re executing on tasks. And that’s what we’re focused on right now.

Craig: The technology is trying to take over relationships, all the algorithms of social media trying to tell us who to talk to, we’re slowly getting there.

Matt: I I think that technology will continue to push the envelope there. And it’s telling us who to talk to it but I don’t know and maybe in 10 years, 15 years, I’m a big proponent of technology. I’m a big proponent of virtual reality and how I think it can influence our industry in a very positive and meaningful way. And so I’m not one of those old school people I am very cutting edge on that side. But the one thing that I still haven’t seen and we could come back 10-15 years and say I was wrong and that’s fine, I just don’t believe that technology can get the EQ level that is needed to walk someone off the edge when they’re about to sell their entire portfolio because of everything that’s going on in the Middle East or geopolitically. Or that the pandemic hits and they don’t they think everything’s gonna blow up.

Matt: There is a personal relationship bond that is created that is just the human brain having that human to human relationship that can’t be taken over by technology. Technology will allow us to do that better in my mind, be able to tell us who we need to talk to, who of our clients are sending emails with negative sentiment that we should probably call instead of email back. Some people that we should look to go in and finding as our prospects because they meet the criteria of all of our other clients. I think that a lot of that technology makes sense. But having that conversation with a client and helping them understand why they shouldn’t buy the house today and maybe wait a year and building that bond. I think that that’s just going to be better, more well received even to millennials, by a human.

Craig: Let’s talk about industry trends. What are some of the trends you’re seeing around the challenges that firms are running into, how are they struggling and older companies?

Matt: I think that there’s a trend happening in the space right now with this generational shift of wealth but just generational shift of ownership and leadership in wealth management firms. RIAs have been around for a while, one of our RIAs has been around for 25 years. But a few years ago, we went from gen one to gen two, and how gen one built the firm is very different than how gen two does. And gen one came in as an entrepreneur sales individual to help grow the firm because they were going from zero nothing to try to make something and they made something and along the way, they wore a ton of different hats.

Matt: They were basically the advisor, the operations, compliance, the front desk person, everybody and that’s just the way it was. Nothing was documented. Nothing was kind of put into place. And that is different. And they were kind of the rainmaker, but now they brought up this whole gen two that was basically just servicing everything that they were bringing in. And that’s a challenge because now what’s happening is you’re going from gen one who is the rainmaker, who had the entrepreneurial mindset of growing the firm that way to gen two, which was the servicer. But now the servicer has to become a rainmaker and you have to figure out how to continue to instill the same client experience in the same processes and these firms are struggling with documenting them.

Matt: I always think back to the book, The E-Myth Revisited, the franchise model, the ability to plug and play people in that do it the same way every time so that client experience is consistent. And we are about to see a huge shift in generational wealth, which yes, everybody talks about, well, now you’re going to have to serve millennials, but the thing that they’re not talking about is that there’s going to be more people with wealth than there are today. You think about a family that you’re serving today as a wealth manager that has $3 million, but they have two kids. Now that goes from a relationship that’s one for $3 million to two that two families at two different needs and demands that each have a million and a half and your revenue hasn’t changed but now you need to serve more people. And that becomes a challenge.

Matt: So in order for us to be able to serve more families, we have to become more operationally efficient. And to get more operationally efficient, we have to have documented processes and standardizations. And we’re also going to have to have automation and so this trend is causing firms to really break. And I think that that’s why there’s that trend in M&A because they can’t necessarily grow. They don’t have the infrastructure, the foundation, and they need scale to be able to offer more services to more clients and they need more infrastructure. Which some of these M&A firms these aggregators and some of the PE firms already have built that allow them to plug and play.

Matt: I think that that trend is going to continue to happen for firms that aren’t able to make that leap from gen one to gen two and operationalize their business. I think that that trend, I talked to a lot of private equity people as well, and I think it’s still very early because people are going to start to see the strain that it puts on their people and somewhat of the stagnation in their growth because they’re struggling to keep the consistent client experience without that infrastructure and the loss of that entrepreneur who is the rainmaker.

Ep. 157: Don’t Go Broke! How to Keep Vendors in Line with Jason Albino, Grove Point Financial

Our next clip is from Ep. 157: Don’t Go Broke! How to Keep Vendors in Line with Jason Albino, Chief Compliance Officer at Grove Point Financial a broker-dealer headquartered in Rockville, Maryland. This episode was originally published back in September.  In this clip, Jason is sharing tips about vetting software vendors, a task that we are experts at here at Ezra Group.

Tips for Vetting Software Vendors

Craig: In many firms, the assistants use the technology much more than the advisors do when it’s more important that it works for them than for the advisors. So, finishing up this topic of criteria for buying decisions. Can you talk about doing your homework and vetting how much of that do you do and how important is it?

Jason: It’s critically important, right. So, again, it’s not a committee approach. It’s not death by committee. But we do have a part of the process is sort of getting that committee, getting everything out on the table. So in that committee is where all of that vetting happens, you gather information on what vendors are out there and whether or not there are two vendors out there or a hundred vendors out there that may have a solution for you. You obviously have to start somewhere, so you get down to your few vendors and then you figure out well is is what functionality do we really need? Again, keeping your eyes on the ball of what is our actual goal that we’re trying to achieve with this technology. And then once you identify that and what your resources are both human and financially, then you can really get into the decision making part of it. And at that point, generally we’ll take that back with the executive team and figure out depending on what area it might be, might want sitting on a few demos or whatever it is, but then we start to bring that back to the executive team and come to final decision making on on what the right course of action is.

Craig: Excellent. So moving to the next topic when we’re when you’re picking software, you could break it down into two different categories. One is upgrading an existing platform or application and just replacing it, another one is new. So you’re bringing in a new application in an area you may have never had before. Can you talk about the difference between those two categories?

Jason: I tend to be a buy versus build type of person. So we are frequently approached by current vendors to sort of take a look at their latest release. Maybe they’ve got three releases a year, maybe they’ve got more maybe they’ve got annual releases, but you really have to work into your process just a way to to assess whether or not in any given quarter or any given semi annual basis. Are you going to sort of accept or pursue an upgrade through a system. You can go broke if you take every new fancy bell and whistle that a vendor sends your way onto an existing system. So we’ve got to have some rationality to that but you have to balance that with really the first thing I said and this is you don’t want to wait until it’s too late.

Jason: When a new release comes out we work that through our Technology Governance Committee and really assess whether or not it’s a) even worth bringing to it but if we do, whether or not we have the budget, the staff and the strategic sort of will to implement that. When it comes to really implementing a brand new technology that tends to be a bit more impactful. There are training needs that come out of that sort of thing because no one’s familiar with the system. There may be large upfront costs where even though there may be a lot of work and an upgrade generally they’re not going to be as expensive to do as it will be to really just install a system from scratch.

Jason: A new system is an unknown entity. You might decide that this is the best thing since sliced bread and then when it comes to actual you know, getting it in the door and getting it launched doesn’t do all the things that you want. And so you have to ask all the right questions with new technology questions that a lot of times with existing technology or upgrades are generally already answered. And I think it’s really riskier to implement new technology. Because again, it’s an unknown quantity and there were some surprises that can come out of it that generally you’re not going to see with an upgrade.

Jason: We’ve upgraded we have a system through a vendor called FIS, our our sort of supervision system and we do a lot of compliance work using that system as well. It’s very data intensive. We asked them to do some pretty big lifts and there’s a lot of work that goes into it. But we just are in the middle of an enhancement right now technically, it’s just an enhancement, but we hadn’t upgraded it for five or six years. And so it’s a major enhancement. That’s a six to nine month project. So there still may be a lot of work with an enhancement but there’s I still generally see it as a little less risk because at least you know what you’re dealing with as opposed to really bringing on a completely new technology.

Why You Need a Technology Governance Committee

Craig: So the committee has a lot of power. I think it’s important to have that squared recommendation. I know a lot of firms we work with don’t have that they there’s not a permanent committees word ad hoc and when they think they have a problem, then they get a committee together, but that committee isn’t used to meeting, they have to sort of get up to speed. They’ve been at work together so well. So having a standing Technology Governance Committee to both make decisions and monitor what you’ve got sounds like a great recommendation.

Jason: And like I said, there’s nothing wrong with larger organizations, and certainly there’s some wonderful things to technology, but a lot of times the loudest voice in the room ends up winning out. And sometimes that’s what’s best for the company and sometimes it’s not. This way with that transparency and with that sort of open discussion I think there’s there’s more clarity and more sense of buy in at the end of that process to have everyone sort of involved and aware of what’s going on.

Craig: Can you give us a little insight into how you the Grove Point Tech Governance Committee, how do you monitor ROI of your current tech, what are some of the statistics or metrics you use? When it around ROI for free current infrastructure?

Jason: Well particularly for infrastructure, right, in the independent broker dealer world, our registered representatives and our investment advisor reps are our clients. So our need to service their businesses and make sure that we are processing their business and doing so in a timely and effective way, those are thankfully things that lend themselves pretty nicely to metrics. So we’ll just take a look at our software and figure out how long are items sitting in queue? The phone records, if they’re calling in how long are they on hold? If they’re submitting pieces of business, what are the workflows that we’ve got established for piece of business working its way through the organization, are we paperless? Do we have functionality that allows us to be e-signature? All of those things we can take a look at to see how effective we are and whether or not there are opportunities to become more effective in those systems.

Jason: We just implemented, it’s been a couple of years now actually where we were working with the vendor Docupace. We we really built a front end that our financial professionals can engage with in the submission of new business that that tries to streamline that business submission process and includes workflows. And we saw such an increase in our efficiencies and we can do that through tracking and taking a look at queues and pulling these reports out of there. So those are the things that we’re discussing.

Jason: Obviously when we implement the Docupace, there was plenty of discussion around project around the project, how was the project going? What sort of enhancements would we be pursuing? But now that it’s more entrenched in our business for the last couple of years, the conversation is has shifted slightly in those governance meetings to how is it performing and are there additional enhancements we need to make to sort of take it to the next level? What is the feedback that we’re hearing from the fee from the field so that we can discuss those in those governance meetings and again, use that as the basis for decision making in the next quarter in the next year and over the next five years.

Ep. 129: Garbage In, Garbage Out – Get Your Data in Good Order with John Mackowiak, Advyzon

Ask Your Vendors About Their Off Boarding Files

This next clip came from Ep. 129: Garbage In, Garbage Out – Get Your Data in Good Order with John Mackowiak, Advyzon and was published back in February.  In this clip, John talks about the difficulties in consolidating multiple systems when one or more are installed locally.

Craig: So back to best practices. We mentioned checking your data is in good order, giving a very complex example, consolidating from multiple systems. What about saving data locally? Is there any recommendations you have around that?

John: Yeah, so your legacy systems, there’s still a ton a ton of firms using Portfolio Center as an example. That’s a local install. There are some other legacy systems out there. Everything’s cloud based now, so there’s really two big best practices, one on the front end, any potential engagement, ask about what is your off-boarding file look like? You know, we’ve all got multi year contracts at this point, I want to leave in three years. What do you provide me on the back end? I’d asked that question. I’d get the answer in writing.

John: Make sure that you have everything buttoned up there and you understand the implications. Usually, when you’re shopping, you’re shopping two or three different providers. Ask them all the same question. Get the answer, see who will explain it. to you in detail. Because we all have the same challenge when migrating, Vendor A produces and off-boarding file the new vendor, Vendor B, they have to figure out how to work with it.Vendor A is not going to help them. So standard off-boarding file it needs to be translated into the new system. You need to be able to get the full history and you need to have a smooth process. So understanding what that looks like on the back end is important.

John: Secondly, and maybe even more important in the instance that the Vendor B cannot work with Vendor A’s data or will not work with Vendor A’s data, most firms do have the ability to directly download their source data. Source data is going to be your custodial files. It’s like buying an insurance policy on on your performance history almost. Save your files. Every vendor is working with the same source data. Worst case, you won’t work with this off-boarding file., there’s a limitation on the off-boarding file, whatever it may be. We can always go back and reload the custodial files so long as you save them. You have to do that yourself. You cannot rely on the custodians, they all have different timeframes, different policies around data retention. So I would just say set up an automated process. Save the files locally, you don’t need to do anything with them. But in the event you need them you have them.

John: It’s also really important that there are no gaps in that data. So the process needs to be daily. And you need to have an appropriate check in place. However frequently to ensure that there’s no disruptions, you can usually go back at least a few weeks or a few months. To grab historical data, but you could be cut off at some point. So it’s just important to make sure you don’t have any gaps in the data or else you have a an issue.

Craig: So firms should talk to their IT staff about creating a script, some sort of simple automated process to pull the custodial files and save them off.

John: Potentially the IT staff needs to be involved, depending on the custodian it could be just a few clicks to set up the automated daily download process and just map it to a particular folder doesn’t have to be overly complex.

Craig: And nowadays even our cloud storage is so cheap everyone with OneDrive and Dropbox, I know OneDrive gives out a terabyte free forever user. So that’s more than the space.

John: They do. These are not huge file sets and storage is free or cheap and just from a best practices perspective, it’s something that I recommend all the time.

Craig: Excellent. And as you mentioned, you don’t want to wait because each custodian has different timeframes that they allow you to go back where Schwab might be two years and Fidelity might only be 90 days. So if you forget your past 90 days, you’re not going to get those files.

John: Correct. Correct. So it’s always a good idea, I don’t know that any approach is right or wrong and custodial end but the firm should take responsibility for their own data. Direct business is another one DST. I’d say most firms have DST in place, and for that data, they don’t have any history that they save. You start it up and connect the sources into DST and you need to start saving that.

Craig: So save you DST files as well.

John: Any source data that you want to get into a system potentially in the future make sure that you have the source data. With Advyzon and all our contemporaries we’re all doing the data management for our users. We certainly are saving it. We provide an off-boarding file, but users should always take that into their own hands because at the end of the day, it’s their performance history that they’ve worked hard to achieve.

Craig: So one of the best practices you mentioned was sending your most complicated, complex client and you said don’t take shortcuts. Can you give me an example of a shortcut you’ve seen someone take that caused them problems?

John: I would say if you automate too much for onboarding or put it in the users’ hands I mean, on the surface, CRM migration seems like a pretty straightforward thing. Last name is last name. Having done our migration of our sales and marketing database myself, I know that there’s a lot more involved there. There’s customizations, so leave yourself enough time to to get that done. I don’t think these things can be fully automated. So that’s why our team on the front end of these we ask, give us something that you think is going to cause an issue let us look into it and address it appropriately on the front end, rather than trying to pass off the project as delivered and then spend time going back and forth when you’re expecting to be using the system. So the automation is a double edged sword.

Craig: That’s for sure, we’ve seen that as well. Another best practice you had mentioned earlier was contract terms, know your contract terms. Why is that important?

John: A few things. One is you could see an auto renewal of a contract. We don’t do that in most cases. I just personally think a heads up is appropriate on a contract renewal. If you’re going to hold someone to a contract, give them a heads up, if they do want to make a change. Not everyone shares my opinion on that.

John: I think if firms know my contract is up in July of 2022, and there’s some reason to shop around even if it’s just staying current with the different technology offerings out there. We’re all evolving quickly, which is great for the industry, but I think there’s potential that there’s some really cool stuff going on that just doesn’t get looked at. So if you know your contract terms, you can say, every year I’m going to take a look 6 months out from my contract and then 12 months out from my contract renewal, that way if I do want to make a change, I have time to evaluate, the vendor has time to do their migration process. Those could vary on how long they take. So you leave some time there. And then you have a really smooth process comfortable, no fire drill and getting the new system implemented. So it all starts with knowing the contract.

John: You asked about horror stories earlier, my contract is up in for four months and I have to give a 90 day notice to my current vendor. If that need is urgent and not an option, you do end up working on a compressed timeframe and have a bit of a fire drill to get things implemented. So pretty easily avoidable if you know your contractors.

Craig: You don’t want to do that. Trust me. We’ve seen enough conversions of firms of all different sizes.

John: We’ve been through it and you know you do what you can to accommodate but sometimes you just can’t, in a one month timeframe get everybody’s data moved over.

Craig: We what we found is even with the largest broker dealers, they underestimate the complexity and the amount of time it takes for a conversion. It always costs more than they think, i it always takes longer than they think, and they always cut it too close. You’d mentioned the the size of the firm is very important. Maybe for our firm, it’s under a billion in AUM six months or less, could be doable. But over a billion you’re talking 9 to 12 or if you’re 5 billion or more, it’s even longer because of the complexities, the different types of data you have, you might have multiple custodial files, you might have more advisors and more staff that need to be trained. So it’s never going to be as easy as they think.

John: Absolutely. The training piece is important to take into account too, that’s something that we do well with but ultimately you have to have to buy in the engagement from from your client on that to bring the advisors and ensure that they do get trained appropriately before the incumbent systems cut off.

Craig: And the problem we see is that you’ll get a contract, and no one charges list price when you get a contract, so they may have a list price of X dollars and your contract says X minus 20%, X minus 50%. Well, once that contract’s up, you revert to the list price. So if you don’t get it done in time, and you go over the end of the contract, you are now in a bonus period for the vendor, so they’re not charging you full rack rate and you’re paying the other vendor, you’re paying two vendors now. So that’s another problem

John: That depends on the vendor. I don’t believe in that sort of thing. So we don’t have that.

Craig: Well you guys are nice, but a lot of vendors don’t do that.

John: If you play nice in the sandbox, yes, you’ll get burned a time or two. But in the long run, it’s going to work out to your benefit. You’re going to have happy clients. I don’t believe in these types of negotiations where one person wins and the other loses. So that sort of stuff doesn’t need to be there.

Craig: Glad to hear that. But again, just warning to firms large and small, don’t time it where you’re going to cut over the last day of the contract. It’s never a good idea.

John: The more time you give yourself the more relaxed the whole process is at the end of the day.

Craig: Give yourself some slippage. Cool, soo we did best practices. We some really great advice there. What about firms now wealth management firms now that we’ve all got client data, we’ve all got data we have to manage. What are some things that you would ask a firm to like in during your discovery process that you would ask to understand, are they really managing their data?

John: Really three things our sales team, we averaged 13-14 years of experience. Some of this can just kind of be based on experience some of the things that we hear in the evaluation phase. Once we move it into our Client Onboarding team they have also been doing this for a long time. They ask more direct questions, of course. So it is going to be very straightforward, Have you been diligently reconciling your custodial data and your reporting system, yes or no?

John: Secondly, CRM like I said earlier, they usually are going to have a good idea if they have some sort of outstanding cleanup project that maybe they’ve put off. And the bigger thing when we look at these migrations that we ask is, have you migrated systems previously? Who handled it? How did they handle it? We have a good idea on others processes if it kind of aligns with how we see things so we can try to get out in front of any potential issues that we would see upon delivery, just knowing did you migrate, who handle it? Did you do it yourself? Did you have a consultant working on? Was it staff? Are they still on board? Did the vendor do most of it?

John: None of these projects are perfect is an important thing to remember. So while they can be very smooth, if you give yourself enough time and really know what you’re getting into, a good question to ask is you’ve migrated okay, what problems are surfaced? And that’ll help us dig in on the front end of this again, these kind of kickoff calls on these projects go a long way to making sure that the experience is a good one for a new client.

Craig: Why do you ask that question, Have you migrated a system in the past? Why is it important?

John: Different vendors handle things differently. The automations I talked about earlier, those have been in play. Some systems going from Vendor A to Vendor B, that was a brand new project for Vendor B. And maybe they handle it better now but five years ago, it was brand new to them. So we have a pretty good sense of where things stood at any given point in time. Some of those questions can help us, maybe we need to pull a different report to validate the data, as an example, then we might on a standard migration. So we get into a lot of specific situations, we want to provide a smooth experience and ensure that the data is clean on the other side.

Craig: So when you ask them about migrating systems, you said did you do it yourself or was it a consultant why? Why does that matter whether they did it themselves or they outsourced it?

John: Yeah, it’s a great question. A consultant typically, you’re you’re a consultant, you get paid for this sort of thing.

Craig: Don’t badmouth consultants man. Know your audience.

John: I’m promoting consultants is what I’m doing.

Craig: Read the room.

John: It’s not a bad thing to have someone with the data expertise working on your behalf. Advisors are doing relationship management, portfolio management, many of them are managing their business, managing staff so the ins and outs of data if you can involve an expert, huge plus. So big plug for consultants working on this stuff to ensure a good process. If they did themselves is not necessarily a bad thing because a consultant is not going to know their client base as well as they do so there’s duplicates, the example with with my family. An advisor is gonna know that off the top of their head, you’re going to need to ask. There are pluses and minuses to it, I think we do get a good sense of those that are really tech savvy and those that aren’t and that’s okay. We’re here to help. But people that are really tech savvy, it’s probably going to be a smoother migration process if they handled everything on their own.

Craig: That all makes sense. Working with many other vendors as you guys do, do you hve any advice for other vendors that would help reduce complexity increase the consistency of data and lower the overall cost of managing client data?

John: Really three things I would point to there. One is go above and beyond where you can do it on the front end. It’s gonna serve you well in the long run. The worst thing you can have is people questioning their data after it’s been migrated, they no longer have access to the system, or they don’t have confidence so they have to keep extending their income and provider. Not everybody’s super flexible about that. So we’ll go above and beyond on the front end, asking those questions ensuring the right fit, ensuring that it’s going to be a smooth process to the extent we can begin.

Craig: The front end of the implementation process, not the front end of your system.

John: Correct. It starts with the valuation, not just implementation. So asking good questions during the sales process is a starting point. We don’t have to take any and all comers if they’re not the right fit. So we want to ensure it’s going to be a great experience. The implementation process, the onboarding process, we’re going above and beyond there to ensure that data integrity, you don’t want to lose the confidence of a firm on the front end because then you get a lot of questions down the road. You could see the client just decide I’m going to extend my incumbent until I’m comfortable here. So definitely want to take the extra time to ensure that everyone is comfortable on the front end.

John: Data manipulation I talked about earlier. You want to have some guardrails there, you have to be flexible, but the guard rails on security types being appropriate for the transaction types have those two tightly tied together is an example of being able to limit it. Everybody has manual accounts that they need to enter and manage. But being able to say okay, a stock holding has a very different set of transactions than private equity, limited partnership, accounting, so need to be able to do both and keep them siloed. And then automation I mentioned it’s a double edged sword. Automate where possible but have the error checking the monitoring flags that pop up to try to surface potential issues that you manually look into.

Craig: John, you have answered all of my questions in stellar fashion. I really appreciate it. Where can people find more information about Advyzon?

John: Anyone that’s curious about Advyzon, our website, we’ve got a ton of information there. There is a clear link to click to request a demo that’s going to connect you with the appropriate salesperson. We strongly prefer to do all of these evaluations one on one. So if you’re curious, the website’s a good starting point. The Michael Kitces tech study that was released a week or two ago, we scored very well in those categories of CRM and reporting. So definitely getting a little bit of recognition there. But once you’ve done a little bit of homework, the best way to connect with us is just through the website, do the demo. Even if you’ve only got half an hour to get introduced to Advyzon it’s a good starting point. You’ll make the decision if you want to proceed further.

Ep. 140: Automating Advisor Workflows with Anand Sheth, Pulse360

Our next clip was pulled from Ep. 140: Automating Advisor Workflows with Anand Sheth, founder & CEO of Pulse360, which is a fantastic application for automating the prep, execution and follow-up of client meetings. Anand is going to talk about the efficiency gains from automating the delivery of tasks in an advisor’s CRM.

Craig: Another thing I like about how you’ve designed the product is it creates a separation between the different roles at an RIA. So the advisors tend to spend more time and Pulse360 where their staff wants them spending more time in the CRM. How does that improve efficiency?

Anand: So when I was in the field, and we used to use the CRM to put everything in, it made it harder for the advisors to get mentally prepared for a client meeting, let’s say it’s coming up, because now they’re jumping into the CRM and reading perhaps some operational notes that really doesn’t have an impact on what they need to be looking for. Now advisors have a separate method of using Pulse to email out the clients and it’s actual advice that they’re delivering to the client. So it’s very, very relevant. It’s not necessarily operational things. Let’s say an ACAT failed and we’re resubmitting the paperwork. That’s not as critical as this client has a goal or wants money for vacations or what have you, right. So advisors ended up using Pulse because of that reason, but because of our integration, we send all the notes back into the CRM. So CRM still hold all of that data. So the operational team, they’re processing tasks, calendaring, workflows, all of that they can have a full context still, because they can read all the notes that are generated in Pulse.

Craig: Exactly. So it gives everyone access to everything, but it’s just so much easier to generate that information in Pulse360 and send it to the CRM rather than vice versa. Another thing I wanted to mention was, you have a content library, a collections library, you call it have all these auto created agendas for meetings. Can you talk about that and how that is going to benefit advisors who are using Pulse360?

Anand: I know advisors, I’ve worked with them for two decades now. I myself was one. We always want to write things our own way. However, when you take a step back and look at the world of financial advice, I like to use the analogy of a soup. The soup can have various different ingredients. But if we’re all making the same thing, we all have the same ingredients right? We can we know about Roth conversions as a recommendations, life insurance model changes, aggressive versus conservative. Our tool set of the ingredients is is the same across all advisors. It’s how we mix it together for every client, that’s where it’s different.

Anand: So that was kind of the idea is like, Look, our advice and recommendations. If we added into the library and bring a content library up, that becomes an asset for the advisor. It can use the advisors own way of saying things and then the rest of the team can now start typing in or using the existing content and just personalizing and customizing where you need to. I mean, let’s you know, looking at an example of a Roth conversion, I always say to advisors, how many different ways can you recommend a Roth conversion? Why are we typing that from scratch every time? That’s just an enormous waste of time and mental energy. That, hey, type it up once, get it just right, get the wording right. Save it for posterity and reuse it across different clients and just change out what needs to change out.

Craig: Which is way better than saving a Word doc because then you’ve got to go and open it up report to a certain replace, make sure you did it all right. Whereas Pulse360 builds it dynamically each time and as always correct.

Anand: And you mentioned scalability, so this is a classic example of scalability right here. So when I was in the field, I would write these follow ups and then my advisor would come in and change it up. That was actually the why the original idea came across of building this is because I spent my time writing it up and then he changed it up because I didn’t say things in his way. Well now, advisors can put their words in and now you get scale because you can now tell your team or junior folks to actually at least draft the first version of your follow up email, and you don’t have to spend time writing that that’s another version of a scale for your practice.

Craig: Absolutely. Okay, so we’re running out of time. I want to get one more question in. Another great use case for Pulse360 is automating the annual client review. Can you talk about how it works and what’s so great about it?

Anand: I understand the value that all the advisors are delivering to the clients, client advisors understand that. But clients, as I mentioned at the beginning of the show, tend to forget what we’re doing. So what we’ve done is to say, look, if you’re able to generate an annual summary for all the work that you’ve done, throughout the year, in less than 10 seconds, that will be hugely valuable for you as well as to your clients that you can send them an email saying, hey, client, great working with you, thanks for your trust. Here’s everything that we’ve worked together to help achieve whatever the different goals may be for them. So it’s, I think, a fundamental and a critical component for financial advisor practice. Naturally, it takes a year’s worth of work that you do within Pulse360 to be able to generate that for you. But you could do it for any timeframe. You can even go back through time if you needed to. That’s how we’ve built the whole platform.

Craig: And that’s the key I wanted to bring out that it’s going to pull all the data you need from many previous meetings into that client annual review automatically. So once you set it up that way, you automatically get the last 3, 4, however many meetings you want to bring in. You don’t have to do it manually. No more copying and pasting and when searching, where’d I put that meeting note? How do I get to it? It just does it automatically?

Anand: Correct.

Craig: Which is going to be another huge time saver, because advisors need to meet with every client every year. If you have 150 clients, that’s 150 hours or more saved using Pulse360.

Ep. 126: The 3 Biggest Pain Points of Platform Consolidation with Molly Weiss, Envestnet

And our final clip from our top 10 most downloaded episodes of the WealthTech Today podcast is Ep. 126: The 3 Biggest Pain Points of Platform Consolidation with Molly Weiss, Head of Product for Wealth Platforms for Envestnet.  This episode was published way back in January.  Here Molly is sharing some of the challenges she has run into when consolidating multiple platforms.

Craig: So we’re happy that the 49ers beat the Cowboys. That’s a good thing. In New Jersey we’re all happy, half of New Jersey is Giants fans, they’re happy, the other half are Eagles fans, they’re happy. So good job 49ers. We can talk football all day, but we’re gonna skip that and we’re gonna move on to platform consolidation. That’s the theme for January, that’s why we brought you on, your leadership in the industry and your experience and your work we’ve always admired so let’s just dive right into it. Can you share with us some of the pain points of some of the challenges that you’ve run into with platform consolidations in your experience?

Molly: I’ve been a part of many, Envestnet helps support both RIAs and broker dealers through platform consolidations and the industry has been so acquisitive that there have been a lot of new acquisition that we’ve been a part of in the last you know, few years and definitely in the last year. The the pain points, it always seems to center around what the advisors experiences and what’s most disruptive to the advisor and what I think advisors find most disruptive is anything that affects their billing or the way that clients see the fee schedules or the billing that they might be presented with, that is often a major pain point. And often sort of the back office processes get disrupted even though ultimately the goal from consolidation is usually to streamline service, to streamline back office processes. I think the the bumpiness of getting there sometimes is really disruptive to the advisor. So those are some of the pain points that we’ve seen in the past.

Craig: We’ve seen the same thing. We work with broker dealers and who are doing acquisitions and need help consolidating as well as working with PE firms that are investing and then they’re rolling up, or they’re bringing firms together. Acquisitions is the biggest driver of these platform consolidations because you know, the firm’s all want to get to growing again, faster, and the multiple platforms are in their way. So what are some of the best practices you’d recommend, if you were talking to a room of broker dealer CTOs and CIOs, what are some of the best practices you’d recommend for getting the platform consolidations running as smoothly as possible?

Molly: I mean, obviously, planning is is key. So it really all does start with planning and having a really thoughtful strategy. I definitely recommend understanding things like the way that the advisors are using programs on the platform and looking for ways to simplify the options that are available to them. We see the UMA being leveraged a lot more heavily than in the past so that it reduces the complexity of the configuration and implementation of technology to support advisors’ investment solutions, or the investments that they’re proposing to clients. So really looking for ways to simplify the choices that the advisor has to make, thoughtful planning around that. And then I mentioned billing before, understanding all of the ways that advisors are configured and sometimes that’s the biggest undertaking of the whole process of doing platform consolidation. It’s just going through and understanding all of the flavors that have been implemented on the multiple platforms over time. And I definitely recommend focusing on something like billing and fee schedules to get that process really well understood, and then a good strategy for how you bring that together into something cohesive and then roll it out to your advisors. Those are two places where we really, you can I think reap the benefit of strategic planning ahead of time.

Craig: Billing is huge, we’re doing a billing project right now, and what’s funny is that as you as you mentioned, they need to investigate all the different ways they’re billing. Most firms don’t know because it’s hidden away, firms that have been in business for 20 years or more, they have so many different billing options, so many different tiers and levels and ways they do things, one offs, and edge cases, exceptions, everything’s an exception. We’ve been doing billing projects since 2009 was our first billing project and the level of complexity is tremendous. As you mentioned, understanding all the ways advisors collect fees, we do a current state assessment, we go and look at all interview the accounting people and the ops people, and all the different groups that are involved and we start finding stuff. We’re doing all these workflows, and asking, “Did you know they do this”? Did they do that, did you know they take checks? They do all these different things, so it’s you hit the nail on the head there.

Molly: So your comment there about interviewing advisors and and understanding how they run their practices, I think that one can’t be underestimated because they just feel so often that there’s an assumption about the way advisors are using technology to facilitate their client engagement or to run their practices. And we’re not always right in the way that we’re making those assumptions. Spending time really understanding those practices and when we tend to group things based on how much AUM an advisor might have or what their specific investment preferences are for clients, but I think ultimately, it’s really getting a better sense of how they’re using platform technology to manage their business so that you handle those edge cases and you create streamline processes for that new consolidated platform that you’re trying to roll out.

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The Wealth Tech Today blog is published by Craig Iskowitz, founder and CEO of Ezra Group, a boutique consulting firm that caters to banks, broker-dealers, RIA’s, asset managers and the leading vendors in the surrounding #fintech space. He can be reached at craig@ezragroupllc.com

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