By Andrew J. Evans

Ever watched the A&E television series Hoarders? It’s heartbreaking. People’s inability to stop accumulating things gradually takes over and ruins their lives. And I can’t help being reminded of that series when I talked to some advisors about their use of technology.

I get an inside look into the systems financial professionals use when they contemplate joining TAG Advisors. The way some of them have accumulated technology made for a confusing jumble of programs. 

Some identified a function that could be digitized and went searching for a software solution to handle it. Others are exposed to applications at conferences, got excited about the capabilities, and subscribed. Advisors who approach technology this way often find themselves with a crazy quilt work of programs. Office procedures are difficult to document and training new team members is a nightmare. Like the hoarders on the television program, the complexity and expense of all their technology strangles productivity and smothers profits.

This dilettante’s approach to technology may deprive you of the real benefits of a software suite. The promise of technology is more likely to be fulfilled by fully exploring all the capabilities of what you already have. Or, if you need to make a change, exploring all the possibilities of a single application before loading more onto the stack.

“If you’re constantly changing your stuff, you never get really good or efficient at it and that’s the whole point to the technology in the first place, is to get efficient” says Michael D’Andrea, Founder of D’Andrea Financial. Or, as fintech expert Joel Bruckenstein, CFP®, commented “we have to stop referring to advisors who can use 10% of the capabilities of their software as ‘power users.’”

Case in point: workflows. Do you have technology that can automatically assign tasks to staff members for routine processes? After hearing about how automation can streamline your operation you may be tempted to go out and look for software that can do it.

But if you have Redtail you already have that capability, although many advisors don’t leverage it. Dan Girard, Managing Partner of G9 Financial, discovered he can use workflows to streamline his account opening process. When a client wants to open an account, for example, he completes an investment process form and creates a task for his assistant Michelle based on a template. “I choose ‘Michelle Process Investment IPF in your Action Folder’. Click that, and it pre-populates, and I save it and I’m done. Takes all of six seconds, if that.” The template task initiates a workflow that will set up the activities the assistant needs to complete. “And now Michelle knows that she’s got a ticket in her Action Folder she’s got to work on. That has been an extremely efficient process for us.”

Dan found a technology solution he needed right inside his CRM system. No additional fees. No worries about how to integrate it into his existing system (if it was even possible).

Not utilizing technology to the fullest creates problems. It wastes money, time, and creates practice management confusion. Being a technology hoarder, feeling like you need to accumulate more and more, creates the same problems as those people on the TV show. You can end up with a confusing system, an overwhelmed staff, and lower profit. What’s a better way?

First, stop. Overcome that urge to chase the shiny new object. Before you get anything new, try these steps.

What do you need? Start by reviewing your processes. What kinds of tasks come up frequently? What takes a lot of staff attention? What would save the most time or effort if it could be automated? Every software investment should be tied to an OKR (Objective and Key Result) for your business. You may be attracted to a new technology because what it does is cool. Make sure it moves you toward your goals.

What technology do you have? It’s a lot easier to do new things with technology your staff is already familiar with. What capabilities does your existing software have that you are not using? Explore the help function, tutorials from the vendor, invest some time with tech support. Better yet, have someone on your staff champion the effort and let them call tech support so you can spend time with clients.

What does your broker-dealer offer? If you find that you need something your current software does not provide, explore what you can get from your partners. They may offer some applications without charge or as part of a basic technology fee. They may have negotiated discounts you can qualify for. They may have built integrations with home office technology. If you have to add an application to your technology stack, it may be easier and less expensive to focus on preferred providers.

When we transition financial professionals to TAG Advisors, we review their use of technology to make sure the move goes smoothly. Sometimes I get flashbacks to the crowded and disorganized rooms of that TV show. Don’t be a hoarder. Make your software work for you.