Top Ten Takeaways from April’s TechRetreat

January 5, 2018

  1. Most firms are moving forward with their plans to establish a best interest standard of care regardless of the outcome of the DOL rule change. These changes have most often included modifications to their compensation structure and product shelf, improved capabilities to document advisor recommendations and standard of care training.  There has been a universal experience of reduced annuity product sales and increased fee-based AUM that firms anticipate will continue.


  1. There is a revival in recruitment activity and retention initiatives. Top advisors are looking for firms that can provide answers and solutions for successfully operating under a best interest standard with narrowed product shelves. Matching practice strengths to firm focus and capabilities is the win-win formula for both recruitment and retention.


  1. Firms are using technology as a critical differentiator in branding/positioning. This is an extension of DOL – related technology investments combined with prior technology investments particularly in information-on-demand, interactive digital cybersecurity and better desktop integration of advice and portfolio management tools. Now that many firms have gone through the financial pain and time commitment of integrating new technologies, they are ready to show it off.


  1. Adoption of advisor digital solutions has advanced considerably. The use of on-demand video for training and product introduction, intranet (private) discussion groups and chatrooms and other digital solutions is becoming prevalent. As a best practice, technology can and should deliver problem solutions on demand, in application context, with the ability for peer-to-peer discussion—going beyond the traditional usage in training/product introductions/corporate communications.


  1. Interactive digital solutions for customers are rapidly becoming available. Going beyond providing account information and supporting service requests, these solutions provide advisors an opportunity to meet “how and when the customer wants.”  Firms with established digital communication strategies are experiencing a 50-50 mix between physical, face-to-face customer meetings and a variety of remote digital alternatives.


  1. The utilization of “bot” technologies—Robot Process Automation—is accelerating in the retail side of the business. “Bots” automatically validate and self-correct data within business process workflows; these technologies are already commonplace within global banking and institutional B-D operations.  Enhanced data quality results in greater process speed, accuracy and efficiency. The goal is eliminating manual intervention.


  1. Cybersecurity is a continuous, multi-faceted process – not a project. Firms utilize a number of different technologies, approaches and policies based on business model to safeguard PII. Despite the multitude of encryption, intrusion and other safeguards, the security of advisor devices is still the most critical element.  More firms are moving towards centralized purchasing / provisioning models with incentives (e.g., extended purchase terms, longer warrantees) to ensure device integrity.


  1. Data availability has joined data quality as a bedrock issue. Better quality data needs are driven by processes including straight-through processing, customer information on demand, business intelligence/analysis and surveillance automaton. But quality data is just the first step; ensuring that this data is readily available for consumption is equally important.


  1. Regulatory organizations (SEC, FINRA, State) are increasing their information requests both during and between examination cycles. The complexity and granularity of the requests is also increasing, including more “show your work” demands.  Firms are looking at greater automation of their surveillance processes and turning to their solution vendors who provide data aggregation, compensation and on-boarding support to help satisfy these requirements.


  1. Driving adoption of advisor platform enhancements has become a sophisticated process.  New feature expense and the need to achieve critical mass of adopters to assure changes of behavior and return on investment have made adoption success critical.  Feature introduction has become a complete marketing program. Recruiting/utilizing top performers as influencers/evangelists, advisor and sales assistant user groups a full selection of introductory and training on demand videos as well as on-screen contextual help are all part of driving adoption.