A study from Michael Kitces found that while financial advisors work for an average of 43 hours per week, only 36% of that time is spent building client relationships or engaging in business development and meeting with prospective clients or centers of influence. Instead, advisors must spend the bulk of their time on non-client-facing work such as building financial plans and reports.
From data gathering to plan presentation, the study found that the average financial plan takes an advisor more than 15 hours to produce. While the majority of advisors report using stand-alone financial planning software, most use other tools in tandem, suggesting that the systems they’re using are not really integrated.
Disjointed Workflows Lead to Lower Productivity
This lack of integration is a problem. Having to constantly switch between systems and applications makes completing even the simplest tasks excessively time-consuming. Advisors typically switch between seven and eight different applications and systems every day, and these nonintegrated tools don’t give advisors a holistic, centralized view of each client.
The choppy workflow that results from having to constantly open new windows and applications can seriously hurt advisor productivity. With so many systems to learn, user IDs and passwords to memorize, and interfaces to navigate, advisors and their support staff must spend a lot of time training new hires and learning the ins and outs of each system; time they could be spending with clients, prospective clients and centers of influence.
Troubleshooting for all these different systems is also a time suck. When an issue arises within several different platforms at once, advisors can lose many hours on the phone with various tech support reps at several different companies trying to resolve the problem. This issue is compounded by the lackluster data processing and integration found in many of the applications advisors use every day.
For True Integration, Data Is Key
In the advisory business, data is currency. The best integration must come from a foundation of unified data; gathering all the information advisors need to best help their clients succeed and bringing important details to the front.
Fragmented access to essential data presents complications for advisors as they navigate their clients’ elaborate financial lives. Ideally, a truly integrated wealth management platform should be able to give advisors a full picture of an entire household by synthesizing important data to make managing life events such as marriage or retirement, complex tax situations, and estate planning needs easier for the advisor and more beneficial for the client.
Most technologies do not provide a unified solution with clean and simple data aggregation capabilities, so advisors often spend more time fussing with tech than working directly with their clients.
Productivity Is Essential for Growth and Scale
The truth is, systems that offer advisors only a piece of the puzzle are actively hurting the bottom line of the practices they claim to serve. A truly integrated platform must include data aggregation, CRM, performance reporting, financial planning, trading, model management, rebalancing, operations, workflow, analytics and document imaging all in one user-friendly place. These systems exist, and research shows they are effective.
Take this data from Commonwealth Financial Network, which shows that its advisors, who use an integrated platform, are 20–30% more productive than their industry peers. This is not only good news for the advisors themselves, who gain back hours of their lives, but also for their practices. When advisors have more time to focus on client service and business development, their businesses and revenues grow.
Integration Is the Future of Finance
The wealth management industry has, for the past few decades, been experiencing a shift away from the Wall Street brokerage model, which was once the only option for investors. Today, new technology has opened the door to IBDs, insurance companies, banks, and rollup and independent RIAs, giving investors more options than ever.
The resulting competition is fierce. Enterprise firms looking to get ahead in the race would do well to consider the impact of individual advisor productivity. When advisors have access to truly integrated systems, they don’t have to waste precious time trying to make sense of disparate processes. Giving advisors improved, integrated tools to work with could spell the difference between success and failure in a crowded market—ultimately deepening their essential client relationships.
Richard Napolitano is CEO of Advisor360°, an integrated wealth management platform for advisors, investors, broker/dealers and rollup RIAs.