If you’re like most advisory firms, you may be looking at adding a new technology solution to your firm’s tech stack this year.
When new tech is on the menu, advisors primarily give two reasons for adding their new solution: They want the scale to serve more clients, or they want to reduce the amount of manual work their team is doing.
Whether your firm is looking at a new CRM, changing your portfolio accounting platform, or adopting that brand-new analytics software your CEO saw at a recent conference, you first have to onboard your technology before you can fully realize its benefits.
What Financial Advisors Need to Know About Technology Implementation
You Need to Know Your Data
If you’re changing technology systems, you need to know your data before you begin a conversion from one platform to another. The first part of that is to ensure that your data is as clean as possible before it’s moved into your new platform.
For a CRM conversion, this could mean you need to ensure each household record has an address associated with it, or that you don’t have duplicate records. For portfolio accounting, you may need to make sure account positions are reconciled to what your custodian is reporting before transactions are copied over.
Even if you aren’t converting from one system to another, a firm understanding of your data is still relevant. If you aren’t using a CRM now but want to use one, it’s likely you have that client information you need stored somewhere.
Whether your client information is stored in spreadsheets or in paper folders, knowing what you’re getting into before beginning an implementation will help set your expectations for how quickly and cleanly the entire project will unfold.
Assigning Leadership Roles is Key
A tech implementation can be a large undertaking, and the commitment and involvement of your team will be crucial to your short- and long-term success.
Before you begin, figure out who within your firm will lead the effort.
There’s an old saying in football that “If you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.” The same is true for a tech implementation. If you want to be successful, identify an individual who is ultimately responsible for onboarding the new tech.
Leaving it up to a group effort leaves too much room for error and finger-pointing.
Over the long-term, you also need to ensure your team is committed to using your new technology. Making the implementation fun can help. For instance, try dividing your employees into teams and tracking their use of the app.
The team with the best adoption may win some kind of prize at the end of your onboarding. Be creative for the best results.
Prepare for the Unexpected
If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that implementing new technology will result in something unexpected.
However well you plan, there can be outside forces that affect your implementation timeline and cause you to adjust your team’s responsibilities.
Whether it’s a data issue discovered by your new tech vendor that you were unaware of or an employee leaving your firm, you need to give yourself room for error.
Getting your new tech onboarded as quickly as possible is the goal, but it’s equally as important to allow for some fluctuation in your timeline without impeding the overall functioning of your firm.
Partner with Technology Firms Who Have a Proven Process
As part of your due diligence process, interview your possible technology vendors about their implementation process.
Your new technology system is a partner in your firm’s success, and a detailed process for onboarding your team should give you confidence that you’re making the right decision.
At Orion, we guide new firms through a four-step process of Discovery, Diagnostic, Delivery, and Data Conversion.
When you need new technology, you deserve a technology partner as invested in your success as you are.
0780-OAS-8/1/2019Audits Happen. Here’s What You Need to Know.
How likely is it that your advisory firm will be audited?
According to the SEC’s Office of Inspections and Examinations, it’s most likely than almost any point in the past decade.
In 2018, 17% of SEC-registered investment advisers were audited, and overall the OCIE increased its coverage by 10% over the prior year. Not only that, but the number is expected to rise according to the OCIE’s report on their 2019 exam expectations.
Exams are a routine part of being a financial advisor, and with the right amount of preparation and the right tools, your firm can treat them as a routine activity instead of a fearful event.
Most Common SEC Exam Deficiencies
When the SEC examines advisors, they use analytics to keep a record of who’s doing what so they can identify trends…kind of like how you can use business intelligence in Orion to identify trends within your own firm’s data.
Of the common deficiencies it regularly sees, the SEC has identified these infractions as some of the most common:
- Compliance rule
- Advisers Act
- Custody rule
- Books and records rule
- Code of Ethics rule (trade monitoring)
It may surprise you to find the Code of Ethics rule on this list. While the rule itself may seem relatively transparent, compliance with Rule 204A-1 has brought about challenges for many firms.
What’s Required of Each Advisory Firm
When the SEC’s OCIE outlined its expectations for this year, they were also kind enough to identify what they want to see out of RIA firms. If your firm’s deficient, you can’t say you weren’t warned.
Compliance with Rule 204A-1 is nothing new, though, so having a solid process in place to oversee the conduct of employees within your firm shouldn’t be new either.
If you do need a guide on what’s required of your firm, you can begin by understanding these four elements.
- Standard of conduct and compliance with laws, rules, and regulations
Your firm needs to maintain a standard of conduct that each employee reads and understands that is in line with applicable laws.
- Personal securities trading oversight
If you have employees trading securities—or invested assets in general—you need to know about it.
- Compliance certification and recordkeeping
Keep your records clean and accessible, because you’re going to need to get at them when you have an examiner in the office.
- Written policies for consequences for failure to comply and reporting certain conduct
Prevention is the best medicine, but if someone does run afoul of your firm’s established guidelines you also need a written process of how you’ll respond.
While the requirements for an effective Code of Ethics are relatively clear, the solutions for complying are anything but, and that’s why it’s crucial for advisors to have a technology solution they trust that can help them consolidate their many compliance requirements.
How Inform Can Help
Your firm can plan for deficiencies with preparation and team training, but you can also guard against compliance snafus with technology that helps you automate your workload.
Monitor employee trade activity automatically
Compare employee trade activity against firm-wide trade activity with access to 1000+ custodians. And—in an area where other compliance solutions fall short—Inform makes it simple to perform frontrunning reviews. Access the information already stored inside of Orion to automate front running reviews for firm-wide trading analysis, creating an invaluable time-saving process.
Beyond trade activity monitoring, Inform can also be your home base for these, and other, compliance-related activities:
- Maintain and distribute affirmations, certifications, and disclosures related to the Code of Ethics
- Track approvals and rejections of gifts, outside business activities, and more
- Keep results for easy record keeping and future access for the SEC and state regulators
Want to see how you can easily keep track of all this information and stay ahead of possible red flags on your next SEC examination?
*Inform is available at an additional cost to Orion clients or as a standalone personal securities trading tool for any advisory firm to use.