The financial services industry is facing a monumental shift in business operations and profitability. Spurred by a confluence of factors stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak, advisors are addressing unprecedented challenges while continuing to service client needs. For some advisors, their roles have evolved, including becoming their own chief technology officers overnight.

With the current uncertainty, it is important for advisors to prioritize the implementation of digital tools. Strategic technology applications and infrastructure will help maintain client communications and access to data remotely while staying compliant with regulations and cybersecurity requirements. Document management, workflow automation, and reporting tools are examples of technology that enables advisors to reinforce trust with their clients, keep financial information safe and continue to deliver the same level of service clients have become accustomed to.

Digital records management for continued business growth and client retention
According to a recent Financial Planning Association survey of financial planners, more than half (54 percent) of respondents said technology helps them form better connections with clients. Yet, those same respondents were unable to come up with specific examples of how they are integrating technology into their practice.

Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Over the last few weeks, privacy, data protection, and identity theft are of increasing concern for organizations, especially among those serving the financial services industry. At the same time, impending compliance regulations have increased pressure on organizations to implement structured and standardized records management programs. Now more than ever, it is important to address these pressing issues with a systematic approach to records management. With the help of records management tools, firms can consistently deliver services and facilitate effective performance while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements.

Cloud storage helps firms to improve efficiency and security, as the industry continues to serve client demands and make sense of these unchartered waters. When working remotely, financial professionals need immediate access to data and applications. Despite the growing popularity of cloud storage in other industries, the financial services industry is still married to on-premises data centers. Crises can serve as a catalyst for these firms — which are now forced to migrate significant amounts of data to cloud storage at a moment’s notice. While this rapid transition can be stressful, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages, and firms save money while gaining greater elasticity, access, and, most importantly, enhanced business value.

While cybersecurity continues to be a concern irrespective of the current situation, over the years, technology providers have addressed these threats and advanced their platforms to help advisors work in secure ecosystems. The biggest threat to a practice’s security is still human interference, but the widespread adoption of multi-factor authentication mitigates advisors’ vulnerability. Additionally, firms should also follow internal protocols to ensure data and application security. For example, when using document management tools, firms should consider preserving their records’ integrity by following the “gold standard” for handling digital records, the Department of Defense 5015.2. Previously known as the Design Criteria Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Applications, this statute outlines clear record-keeping requirements.

Planning and analysis for effectiveness and productivity
The idea of using technology to enable working from home sounds compelling, but it could incur unexpected challenges. While technology tools might be the key to seamless business operations right now, if we don’t use these tools strategically, they can lead to unwanted glitches, inaccuracies — and, in our worst nightmares: data loss. In order to prevent such technological hazards, firms should first test these operations with a select few individuals. As we are already in the midst of a crisis today, firms might have missed the opportunity for a work from home test. Nonetheless, this crisis serves as a wake-up call for firms to consider these tests moving forward and be better prepared to handle emergencies in the future.
Work from home tests ensure that the company’s IT infrastructure can handle an entire team working remotely — while exposing and addressing potential flaws, mostly stemming from formerly paper-based operations. Work from home tests can be conducted over a period of one to two days and by selecting a sample of employees from different departments, ensuring that various tech solutions implemented across a variety of teams are all working correctly.

While it is important to implement these tools, it is equally crucial to analyze the efficiency of the tools regularly and continue updating the applications as needed. For example, firms can use workflow automation reporting tools to analyze their business operations and productivity. These tools can help trace specific assignments handled by individuals within a team and monitor their progress through transparent accountability — monitoring project statuses, project owners, and action items.

Over the years, firms like Shufro Rose, a registered investment advisor based out of New York City, have proactively implemented technology enhancements to support the evolving needs for operational and client experience efficiency. This proactive approach has prepared the firm to transition seamlessly into the business continuity mode and run their business as usual, even with team members working remotely. Additionally, according to Vibhaw Arya, Chief Operating Officer at the firm: “implementing a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities across the team has helped Shufro Rose to design processes and leverage its existing technology in an optimal way.”

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