[The time has come to shift from talking about change to making it happen, especially when it comes to adding compliance technology to your firm. The pandemic highlighted the problem that a firm cannot move paper and disparate data fast enough to analyze and implement a competitive strategy, nor efficiently address ever-expanding regulatory oversight. The key is not just acknowledging technology for technology’s sake, but to determine specifically where and how it can strategically provide an encompassing solution to a vital business challenge.

Unfortunately, the problem in the world of technology is that many users find it hard to choose and implement the right technology in the most efficient and productive way. The problem stems from most professionals “not knowing what they don’t know” when it comes to technology. They do not know what the tech solution process entails, particularly how a technology can re-structure and automate an end-to-end business process. Technology should be a substantial timesaver, simplify complex processes and provide security for your business and clients. But the key to success is in how that technology is deployed.

To explore this further, we decided to check in with Institute member Mac Bartine, CEO of SmartRIA—a software as a service (SAAS) compliance and business management platform for RIAs—to learn from his experiences in working with thousands of RIAs across the country on implementing compliance technology solutions. His firm was also started by a financial advisor from the perspective of addressing a vital real-world business problem with a practical technology solution. We asked questions to help provide clarity on the critical issues behind implementing compliance technology for your organization.]

Bill Hortz: What do you see as the greatest challenges for advisory firms in implementing new technology?
Mac Bartine: One of the greatest challenges we regularly see with firms implementing modern technology is in trying to encourage employee adoption of new tools and systems. Many companies struggle to gain traction internally; of being able to turn the technologies into a solution that teams on the ground can actually adopt. Reports from the Harvard Business Review and Forbes Human Resources Council reinforce this point and suggest how the adoption of new software needs to happen with enthusiasm from leadership so that employees get on board.

There also should be a robust and frequent offering of training opportunities, learning modules and knowledge-based articles and videos for employees to embrace innovative technology in the way that is best for them. 

Hortz: Are there particular problems in how firms are implementing technology for compliance?
The most common problem we have observed with the implementation of compliance technology is not having data that is organized for compliance oversight and management. It’s crazy that people need to think about that, but they do. How your data is organized matters during oversight and especially matters at exam time.

If data organization is not your thing, that’s OK! It is not most people’s thing. But be prepared to do some data clean up when you adopt a good compliance system to help it to work optimally. Any reputable compliance software vendor will offer services to help you get your data in good order, as it is a very common problem.

Hortz: What do you feel are the top attributes of a highly effective compliance program? What are the goals for a firm’s compliance tech strategy?                                                                                                                                            
I have said this many times, but it is worth repeating to answer this question. Compliance is complicated, scary, time-consuming and expensive, and the compliance professional on your team cannot be the only person who is doing their part, or you are going to have an unpleasant exam. Based on this reality, your compliance solution must be easy for everyone to understand and use.

In the realm of RIA compliance, where the fiduciary standard must be constantly maintained and quickly provable in an exam, your compliance solution must be great at fiduciary oversight and management. Compliance after the fact is better than no compliance, but it is not ideal. You want software that is going to help you take a proactive stance towards your compliance obligations, so you catch issues before they become a problem.

Hortz: Can you share a few examples of how you are collaborating with firms to successfully implement compliance technology in their firms?
Bartine: Compliance software is a game changer for many firms. To drive success, we focus on a deep understanding of the issues each firm is trying to resolve. Most firms with established compliance programs already know how they want to run their program and can identify the problems they want to solve pretty quickly. This allows us to create a customized implementation plan that focuses on those areas first. Having those wins early on makes it much easier to continue integrating technology into compliance operations.

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