Bill Hunter is the senior vice president of sales at iPipeline, responsible for overseeing North American sales. In his two decades at iPipeline, Bill has built strong relationships with hundreds of key members of the insurance community, and he has driven the value of collaboration and straight-through processing technology as a game-changer for carriers, BGAs, IMOs and financial institutions. 

Russ Alan Prince: Approximately how many wealth management firms are still dealing in paper? Why are they slow to adopt going paperless?

Bill Hunter: Nearly every wealth management practice today deals with paper in some capacity. The vast majority have developed a hybrid approach on their way to becoming paperless, but very few firms can tout that they are fully digital. Without committing entirely to one process or the other, operating in a hybrid environment can actually be more expensive than dealing strictly in paper or by being completely paperless. The reality is that most firms still support paper for different elements of their business. Eliminating paper seems unimaginable to those firms, especially if it will impact an entire business channel. 

Prince: How can iPipeline help firms make the transition from paper to paperless?

Hunter: Each of iPipeline’s products is dedicated to helping a firm transact business without paper. We have been doing this for a while now, and we’re one of the first companies in the industry to focus on paperless technology to create a digital ecosystem. For clients to successfully switch to this mode of operating, simply having the technology is not enough. 

Our team works with each customer to fully understand the full potential array of technological solutions to meet their specific needs. Through dedicated training and support, we help customers leverage technology quickly and efficiently, enabling them to overcome any obstacles they may face along the way. 

Prince: What problems are created when wealth practices do not convert to paperless processes?

Hunter: Most people don’t realize it, but paper brings a myriad of expenses with it. For wealth management firms, one of the biggest problems we see with paper is the concept of “not in good order”—NIGO. Paper makes the process slower and significantly increases the chance of missing, inaccurate, or incorrect information. Correcting inaccuracies can become very expensive. 

When you think of every distributor in the chain, part of their job is mitigating NIGO and making sure your paper is accurate. As the end user, you don’t realize how an error you make is compounded or creates a problem downstream for everyone else in the process. Unknowingly, you are making it way more expensive for your Brokerage General Agency or your broker-dealer to do business because they're going to have to correct these errors and send them back to you. And depending on the type of business, they will also need to repopulate all that information. You may have to redo all the paperwork just because you had a couple of typos or errors. It's a cost that wealth management firms shouldn't have to bear because the technology is already there. The problem can already be solved by simply using the right technology to complete the process.

Prince: What technological advancements do wealth management firms need to consider in order to operate a successful practice in the future?

Hunter: When it comes to technological advancements, firms should really look at all the technology providers out there and not attempt to build their own system. If your core competency is wealth management, then you should be focusing on wealth management and not building a new platform. There are plenty of platform providers out there today to address every major need that exists in wealth management. Some firms may have one or more providers to address all their needs, but the technology is already out there. Philosophically, I'm very much a buy versus build person. 

This is especially true when it comes to accessing your data, which is a key focus in the industry. Going paperless enables firms to tap into a wealth of data from various technology solutions. This isn’t necessarily a technological advancement, but it is an evolution. Those with a much more developed data strategy will realize the impact in the way they handle future business. This includes exchanging data, normalizing data, and leveraging data to improve everything about the way your business functions. And this is the key reason that every provider you work with should be able to provide you with the appropriate data. 

The only way to reap the full benefits of this near-endless amount of data is to make the switch to a digital-first, paperless mode of operation. Doing so will allow you to become much more efficient and data-driven, and it will truly transform your business. 

Russ Alan Prince is the executive director of Private Wealth magazine and chief content officer for High-Net-Worth Genius. He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs and select professionals.