This year's Technology Tools for Today ("T3") Conference, put on by Virtual Office News in February, offered advisors guidance on how to use technology to deal with the economic crisis.

As we all know, the current economy has multiple affects on advisors' practices.  Since the majority of independent advisors charge clients asset-based fees, and those asset values are down considerably, advisors' revenues have dropped commensurately.  But the fun doesn't stop there. With slashed revenues comes the need to cut all but the most essential of costs, including staff. Hence, employees are nervous and their performance may be compromised as they worry about job security.  And last but not least, clients are fearful their asset values won't recover and fearful their advisor may not have things under control.

What are advisors to do?  Although it may not be obvious-it represents yet another expense rather than a no-cost solution-they should look to technology to solve or lessen many of their current problems.  At least, that's what Joel Bruckenstein and Dave Drucker, co-chairs of the Tech Tools Conference, would say.

"We've been telling advisors for years to reduce their dependence on payroll employees and substitute for them both outsource partners and technology solutions," explains Drucker.  "The whole point is to take advantage of the efficiencies and reduced costs available when manual processes are automated and when tasks that must be done by a human can be outsourced to one with greater expertise and a lower cost structure than the advisor can construct in-house."

So, to discover what technologies can be most effective in helping advisors through this current crisis, I spoke to five of this year's top Tech Tools Conference sponsors to see what they've brought to market to assist advisors during this difficult time.

The first question we posed was: "What are the biggest challenges facing advisors today and how are you addressing those issues through technology?"  

Brian Davis, business development manager for Scottrade Advisor Services, answered, "Given the current market and economic environment, advisors' biggest challenge and primary focus should be on managing client relationships.  Leveraging technology, advisors can improve many of their day-to-day processes, and in turn allocate more time for client relationships."

And when one thinks of the technology behind client relationship management, one should think CRM.  Too many advisors still use basic CRMs that function like Rolodexes-their only purpose being to hold clients' and associates' contact information.  Failing to use all of your CRM's features -or failing to use a CRM robust enough to have advanced features-is to ignore the potential of your CRM to help you provide superior client service, including regular "touches," workflow tracking and document archiving for improved client satisfaction through faster response times.

Scottrade Advisor Services helps by negotiating preferred pricing on best-of-breed technology providers, not only in the area of CRM solutions, but portfolio management systems and financial planning applications, as well.  "In fact," said Davis, "we recently acquired Portfolio Director, a portfolio management system for small- and medium-sized advisory firms seeking an affordable portfolio management option."  The preferred pricing Scottrade offers on CRM and other solutions not only addresses the need to maintain solid client relationships during this period, but also the need to cut costs.

Another route to efficiencies and costs savings, say the T3 sponsors, is the use of integrated systems. Ed O'Brien, senior vice president for Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, said, "The benefits of integrated technology systems are clear: Integration can help eliminate the need to re-key information, so if you enter a client's information into a relationship management application, it would pre-populate other applications, like financial planning software, for example. This saves time and reduces errors."

First « 1 2 3 » Next