Last spring, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of advisors about how they handle client records in their office. I wouldn’t say I was shocked to learn that for many, a paper filing system that includes meeting notes, documentation and paper applications was their current method. The problem nowadays with this outdated method goes beyond a lack of efficiency and really points to the potential risk it holds to an advisor’s business. Additionally, these old methods also don’t lend themselves to supporting a strong succession plan, attracting new customers or simply managing current client relationships because of the lack of visibility. Even with cost effective, easy to implement tools such as a cloud-based SaaS Solution some advisors are still apprehensive about a potential change. For this reason, I wanted to discuss my top 3 reasons why I believe moving to a cloud-based solution is a strong decision for your business and how to get started.
1. The Flexibility of Centralized Data Storage
A cloud-based service provides advisors with the flexibility they need for their business. Most advisors are constantly moving around from an office to client homes and even a home office. A cloud-based SaaS solution means that your data is accessible to you any place, anytime, from any computer. With a paper based system an advisor’s documents can only be accessible where they are stored, meaning that you either need to be in that location or haul a mess of documents around with you.
2. A Data Recovery Contingency Plan
Data recovery typically is one benefit of a cloud-based system that I feel is regularly overlooked. Data recovery is the insurance your business needs in case of an unexpected event like a fire. I recently read an article in Investment News that talked about an advisor whose leased office space was consumed in a fire. He stated that because all his records were stored in the cloud, it not only saved all his files but ultimately kept him from going out of business. Additionally, consider if you were to store your data in one centralized location like a laptop and your laptop was stolen. All the data contained on it would now be lost.
3. Automatic Updates
Lastly, regular software updates are important to ensure bugs in the software are addressed and security of the software is maintained against new threats. SaaS solution providers should routinely do maintenance and security checks themselves, freeing up user’s time for other tasks. For an advisor, this means you don’t have to wait while your computer updates to the latest version, or run in to compatibility issues due to your computer’s hardware because the software is web based.
Ultimately, moving to a cloud-based solution provides an advisor with the benefit of being able to work with more flexibility, but also ensures that their data is protected. However, I can understand the move to a web based solution can be a bit intimidating. If you are interested in moving to a cloud-based solution, but are unsure of the implications it can have on your business, I recommend the following steps.
1.Determine what you require
Start by creating a list of what requirements you are looking for in a system. If you have the option to consult others, do so. Other advisors who have a system are a valuable resource to exploit, especially if you haven’t used a system before. Don’t forget if you have an assistant to include them in the process as they too will have valuable input, as they most likely will be heavy users of the any system you implement.
2. Assess your current process
I recommend assessing your current process to find a system that closely aligns with that process, not completely reworking your process to fit the system. Trying to implement a completely new method can leave you frustrated and ultimate render any tool you pick useless.
3. Do your research
Next, create a list of potential suiters. It sounds obvious, but Google is the first place I always begin my research for any new platform. Begin by finding a few different platforms that fit your requirements. Other great resources that should be utilized for research are industry associations like For Advisors Only, publications such as Investment Executive and of course your MGA.
4. Get to know the applications you are interested in
Most providers of Cloud based solutions will offer demos and support materials for their product. Start by reviewing materials provided on their website before committing to a demo of any system.
5. Compare platforms
Naturally, part of the research you do will lead you to compare the functionality of each system. Don’t get caught up in all the bells and whistles. Just because a system has extensive functionality doesn’t mean it will provide you the best value. In some cases too much functionality can have you in the weeds and struggling to make good use of the tool.
6. Make a decision
You’ve gathered ample research and have hopefully weeded out the systems that don’t meet your requirements. Select the platform that best suits your needs and enjoy the benefits that come with new technology!