During the course of this year I've been giving a lot of thought to technology. Our own experiences of technology within Informed Choice have meant I have sat through hours of presentations, read various books on the subject and had conversations with stacks of IFA practitioners who have all had very mixed experiences.
The result of this is the creation of a list of five simple rules that I now apply whenever I will consider technology for my practice. I hope that you find this list useful and I would love to hear your thoughts. There is always room for improvement when it comes to these things. After all, I'm an expert financial adviser, not an expert technology adviser!
Rule number one is consider process first and then technology. One of the most useful books I've read this year is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. After reading this book I realised that running a business is about documenting every process and then setting to work on continually improving them. When IFAs buy CRM software or implement wrap within their business they are doing things the wrong way round. Process should come first, then (if necessary) technology.
A CRM system is only any use within an IFA business if you have identified a particular process where efficiencies could be achieved through the use of technology.
Doing things the other way round, by choosing the CRM software or wrap platform first, is akin to business suicide. If it doesn't kill off your business it will almost certainly stunt your potential for growth. Many IFAs get confused between process and technology. The two are very different and it is important not to think that implementing technology is the same as implementing processes.
Rule number two is stick to your knitting. As an IFA, the last thing you should be doing is fixing technology problems, researching the best systems or attending lengthy training sessions on how to use a particular system. This is not your core competency so outsource it.
Find someone who already has the prerequisite knowledge and experience required to deal efficiently with the technology needs of your business and pay them to take the problem off your desk. If you can earn more advising clients than it costs to outsource all technology-related issues then you have made the right choice. If you can't manage this, then ask yourself whether you might be better offering a technology service than a financial advice proposition.
Rule number three is that the most useful bits of technology are probably already installed on your PC. Assuming that you are a user of the MS Office suite of products - and a large proportion are these days - then you already own most of the tools you need to drive greater efficiency into your business.
Before spending money and your valuable time on whizz-bang CRM systems, you might want to spend some time looking at the programmes you already have installed. MS Outlook, for example, is one the most powerful CRM systems around. Ask yourself honestly what proportion of the functionality of MS Outlook you have already got to grips with?
It can manage your client, provider and professional connection contacts as efficiently as any other system I've seen, but right this moment you are probably under utilising it. Why consider buying a state of the art CRM system when you don't even use the software you have already paid for?
Rule number four is that technology should be your slave, not your master. If you have to change the way you do things to fit in with the requirements of a particular piece of technology then somewhere along the line the slave and master relationship has been mixed up.
You should design the processes and then, if necessary, find the technology that fits. If you can be very clear about the way your business works then you stand a far greater chance of finding the right bit of technology to compliment what you do.
My final rule is keep things simple. Nobody benefits from an overly complex technology 'solution', especially not your clients. The implementation and ongoing use of a technology system must not distract you from what you should be doing on a day-to-day basis - advising clients on how to build, manage and protect their wealth. If you find technology becoming a distraction then you need to simplify it. Strip out this sort of complexity from your life and go back to basics.
Martin Bamford is director of Informed Choice.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the company he represents.IFAonline
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