When it comes to advisor technology, selecting a product is only the beginning. The real challenge comes in implementation and adoption.
As Linda Ding, the director of strategic marketing for Laserfiche, has pointed out, most of the time, implementations are unsuccessful. According to an IDC study, a quarter of technology projects fail outright, while 20 percent don't provide the expected return on investment.
As a response, Laserfiche, which creates enterprise content management technology for wealth management firms, has developed a five-step process called “the road to a billion dollar firm.”
At least one firm says it works. Trisha Qualy, the director of wealth management at AdvisorNet Financial, says her firm went from managing about $100 million in client assets in 2011 to $1.3 billion today, thanks in large party to Laserfiche’s ECM products and implementation plan.
Qualy says her division of AdvisorNet Financial is an RIA aggregator or consolidator that handles paperwork for dozens of advisors around the country across several custodians. The firm uses a number of technology solutions, but she says Laserfiche was key to scaling up.
“We were looking for a workflow-based solution that could move paperwork in our digital filing cabinet efficiently and without much hassle,” Qualy told WealthManagement.com. While advisors had to index clients individually on a form-by-form basis, now they can just scan it and have it sent digitally to the home office. Within a few hours, everything is organized digitally on Laserfiche.
“Laserfiche for us is really that staff person – a paraplanner or client services associate – someone close to the paperwork process,” Qualy said. “The value proposition is that rather than [advisors] having to do it on their own, we do it for them across custodians.”
When AdvisorNet started using Laserfiche in 2011, it was growing at a rate of $50 million to $100 million per year. In 2015, the firm added $150 million in assets and 6,500 new forms ranging from account aggregation, custodial paperwork and financial planning documents.
Growth tripled in 2016, and Qualy said they were able to handle all of it without adding any additional staff thanks to Laserfiche.
Some of that growth came from recruiting advisors to AdvisorNet’s platform, and Qualy said Laserfiche has been helpful there as well.
“The fact that we have a cloud based document management system is really, really attractive,” she said, adding that many advisors either still rely on paper, or have disorganized digital documents.
The digitized document management process has also aided AdvisorNet in compliance and reduced advisor errors. In the future, AdvisorNet is looking to integrate Docusign to create an entirely paperless account opening process for advisors.
Qualy believes aggregators like her firm will become an increasingly attractive destination for independent RIAs under the fiduciary rule.
“Investment advisors that were used to DIYing compliance or not worrying too much about operations took note of [new regulations] and decided they wanted to partner with a professionally managed firm,” Qualy said, adding that the advisors the firm partners with are not looking to design the technology themselves. “When an advisor is looking for a partner, they want technology that will make the practice more efficient.”