(Dow Jones) Technology has been blamed for reducing human interaction--why call when you can text? But financial advisers say it helps them keep in closer touch with clients.
Bringing applications in-house and outsourcing administrative functions frees up time for advisers to spend with investors and creates room for growth.
"You always need to evaluate how you're doing things," says Jeremy Paul, president of wealth management firm RLP Capital Inc. in New York City. With his firm growing, it began examining business practices, from technology to investment strategies and portfolio construction last year.
To facilitate communication among employees and clients, RLP Capital began electronically storing paperwork, including tax returns, trust and estate planning documents and client meeting notes, Paul says. It also consolidated most of its client contact and account details in one system. Now employees can readily access that data, even from outside the office.
The firm has also given clients the option of storing documents, including passports and driver's licenses, in an online vault. Before doing this, Paul met individually with certain clients to demonstrate the technology and security features and gauge their interest.
Jeff Schweon, chief operating officer and general counsel of Williams Jones Investment Management in New York, says his firm changed its portfolio-management system in 2006, and hired a chief technology officer in the middle of the conversion.
"That's the backbone of everything," Schweon says of the system, noting that it has helped the firm streamline functions such as billing, reporting, trading and account reconciliation.
Integrated within the portfolio-management software are records of client activities, such as meetings, telephone calls and wire requests, along with client contacts including lawyers and accountants. Account statements and other documents also are stored there, and the firm is enhancing its Web site to permit clients to log in and view them, according to Schweon.
"It's the access and responsiveness our clients want," he says.
Tyrone Phillippi, president at LifePlan Financial Group Inc., outside Dayton, Ohio, says his firm has been outsourcing its portfolio reporting to Orion Advisor Services for the past several years. Information Orion collects each night from custodians and 401(k) retirement plan providers gives LifePlan clients the ability to check their account balances daily on the Web, he says.
Orion has also helped automate the quarterly billing process and reduced to 15 days from 45 days the amount of time it takes to send out account reports.
"We have greater capacity to meet with more clients," Phillippi says. "We knew to get to the next level where we wanted to grow, we needed to stop spending all of our time reporting on the past and help our clients focus on the present and the future."
Outfitting relationship managers with iPhones has also given them access to email, calendars and the client database when they're out of the office.
Phillippi says he and colleagues met with Orion's technology department to learn about their security procedures before signing on as clients. The advisory firm has also taken steps to safeguard sensitive client data on laptops and iPhones, Phillippi says.
Copyright (c) 2010, Dow Jones. For more information about Dow Jones' services for advisors, please click here.