The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a wave of change for the financial services sector, namely accelerating the industry’s ongoing shift to digital. Firms are showing they’re willing to invest in technology that improves practice management efficiency and overall workflow. Nearly three-quarters of advisors surveyed by leading financial industry publisher Arizent said their firms were investing in technology to support the digital workforce. Further, July research published by InvestmentNews found that firms spent 3.7% of revenue on technology, an increase from 2018.
But with more resources behind this technological shift, the question remains: are RIAs investing in the right kind of technology?
One area that’s ripe for technological intervention is billing and compensation. It’s a familiar story for RIA firms: typical billing and compensation activities are time consuming and costly, often requiring a dedicated team member and absorbing days of their time each month. Data from a 2019 survey by Kitces Research of how advisors spend their time showed an average time-spend of 4.2 hours per week on administrative tasks like these.
How AdvisorBOB Can Help
AdvisorBOB (Book of Business) is one of Great Valley Advisor’s core proprietary technology offerings and it offers a complete billing and compensation solution for RIAs. It allows firms to track commissions and expenses in real time and gives advisors immediate access to their personalized portal. It saves time and money, promotes efficiency across the firm and boosts transparency with advisors – factors of increased importance as RIAs adjust to the “new normal.”
Since its launch in 2017, AdvisorBOB has processed and paid out over $85 million in override advisory fees. In that time, users have come to rely on several core features. Here are the top four features that our RIA clients love:
- Administrative view with live stats – As soon as users log in, the AdvisorBOB dashboard delivers quick insights into the full practice, including live stats on how the team is progressing toward production goals for the month.
- Complete payout transparency – The AdvisorBOB dashboard includes an in-depth look at payout figures, the sum of adjusted payouts and the sum of net payouts for a designated pay cycle, as well as the net sum difference between the current cycle and previous quarters.
- Customized reports – AdvisorBOB’s reporting feature provides the option of preparing customized and comprehensive reports on a variety of plan, commission and fee aspects. Examples include: quick analysis of commissions for designated pay cycles, line-items and adjustments by pay cycle, advisor fees by representative identification, account class or vendor, profitability of financial plans, net payout and levelized direct deposit for each advisor.
- Detailed financial plans overviews – Within the advisor portal, advisors have a complete view of their plans and clients, allowing them full visibility into how clients are billed (one-time fee or recurring charges). Advisors are given a historic and forward-looking view on all billing aspects, including whether plans are currently active and what is due to be paid in the future. They can set up payment preferences directly in the dashboard with check, credit card and ACH transfer options.
The Bottom Line
As RIAs embrace a move toward a more digital practice, they should be looking for tech solutions that actually solve their practice management challenges and not just a blanketed, one-size-fits-all solution. AdvisorBOB is a single-source technology solution for advisors, providing an in-depth, easy-to-navigate, transparent and — most importantly — a customizable view into their revenue streams. It was designed to streamline an important, yet time-consuming aspect of the advisor’s business and allow more time for the advisor to focus on working with clients.
AdvisorBOB is not affiliated with or endorsed by LPL Financial or Great Valley Advisor Group.
The coronavirus pandemic prompted a sudden and widespread shift to a remote workforce, and groups that traditionally conducted all business in person had to quickly adjust to a new virtual environment. Financial advisors rose to the occasion and maintained normal business practices amid the changes.
As the pandemic took hold in the spring, Arizent, the parent company of financial services publications like Financial Planning, surveyed 300 financial services professionals about the shift to digital, and many reported greater use of technology. Two-thirds of respondents were increasing use of video conferencing tools to communicate with clients and nearly 75% indicated their firms were investing more in technology to support the remote team.
While advisors were generally able to adjust to the digital workspace, many are eager to return to the office and resume in-person meetings with clients and colleagues, and many firms are well underway in creating plans to bring staff back. A May 2020 CNBC survey of its Global CFO Council found the vast majority (75%) of its North American members were working remotely at the time but expected a shift back to offices by September. Thirty-four percent of respondents noted less than a quarter of the workforce would be remote come fall.
However, as threats of the coronavirus still loom, returning to the office is a complicated — and potentially costly — task, with expectations of cleanliness and safety higher than ever before. There are steps you can take to protect your team — whether you lead a group of three or 30 — and safely bring them back to the office. Here are some tips:
- Assess your current office setup. Before bringing any staff into the building, it’s important to assess the current facilities and equipment and identify potential hazards. The open office setup that previously facilitated collaboration and team bonding now presents a health risk, and the shared coffee pot where you discussed the latest Wall Street news has likely become a bygone of the pre-coronavirus era. Consider adding plexiglass dividers and removing previously shared kitchen items to make the office safer.
- Determine who will come back and when. It’s not feasible or safe to bring your entire staff back at one time. Who returns and when will be unique to your firm and your team’s specific circumstances. In many cases, testing protocols with firm leadership is a smart place to start. A mid-April Deloitte survey of financial services institutions found that return-to-work plans would largely be based on job functions (64%) and/or geography (60%) or a combination of these two factors.
- Establish new office rules and be clear in relaying them to your team. Follow CDC and local guidelines when designing your office regulations, particularly when it comes to mask wearing, hand washing, temperature checks (including frequency and temperature thresholds) and other sanitation measures. There should also be strict requirements related to how team members report possible exposures and self-quarantine periods. Establishing these rules and ensuring everyone is on the same page will allow for much easier enforcement. The CDC has dedicated an entire section of its site to recommendations, tips and guidelines for businesses that can help guide your plan.
- Designate one room for meetings and clean it often. Frequent and thorough cleanings will be essential to keeping your team safe, especially in high-traffic areas. Designating a single space — ideally one of your larger conference rooms — for collaboration will make this process a bit easier.
- Provide cleaning supplies, sanitizer and personal protective equipment. Be sure to have masks on hand for yourself, your team members and any office visitors. These, as well as plenty of hand sanitizer and surface-sanitizing wipes and sprays, should be placed in prominent locations and vigilantly used by all personnel.
Bringing your team into the office is an important first step toward eventually welcoming clients back to the office. While in-home meetings are discouraged at present, there are some clients who will be eager to meet face-to-face with their team, and these in-person meetings will be necessary in some cases. There are several special considerations when bringing outside visitors into the office:
- Ensure client appointments are scheduled in advance and limited to a set amount of time. Clients must be discouraged from stopping in unannounced. When they are scheduled to come in, meetings should have a set duration to mitigate overall risk. Further, clients should not bring anyone else with them.
- Encourage social distancing. Whenever possible, work to maintain social distancing standards by meeting in a larger space — or better yet, outside. Encourage all visitors to wear masks during the meeting.
- Alert other office mates of visitors. Whenever someone is on the premises, it’s important to alert all other team members at the office — especially if you are in a shared space.
- Inform your client of office protocols in advance of the meeting. Share the firmwide rules and regulations and be clear on your expectations for their cooperation. Greet clients outside and bring them directly to the meeting space to begin promptly.
- Clean up immediately. Following the meeting, ensure the meeting space is thoroughly cleaned, with all hard surfaces, door knobs and chairs wiped down with a CDC-approved disinfectant.
For most financial advisors, operating in an entirely remote scenario isn’t feasible over the long term. As businesses adjust to the new normal, establishing rules and following protocols are essential to maintaining a safe environment for all.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The opinions expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of LPL Financial.
GVA’s CIO, Lee R. Johnson, Jr., CFA , shares his views on the stock market and overall economy. We hope you find it informative.
As I write this from my home in Chester Springs, PA, I thought I would share a few thoughts unrelated to work, the stock market or the economy. There is plenty of that in the pages that follow.
First, I want to extend my warmest wishes to everyone out there and my hope that you are all safe and healthy. The top priority right now is your health and the well-being of you and your family. That is the most important thing.
Second, I urge you to stay positive because I firmly believe the human spirit always prevails. For me, I think back to a 100-mile bike ride I did last year to Ocean City, NJ. It was a beautiful day and the group I rode with went through Philadelphia and crossed the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. As I began my ascent up the bridge, I passed a few people and then the path opened up in front of me. The sky emerged and served as my view the whole way up. It was such an invigorating blue no matter where I looked. Even the sound of the passing cars went silent. At the top of the bridge, I stopped and looked around and could see for miles. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the view was spectacular. I looked back at the city and thought “well I just rode through all that confusion and commotion and made it up here safe and sound and now it’s so nice and calm”. There were no limits as I stood there. I compared it to what I do on a daily basis working in the stock market. Where there is constant uncertainty and constant commotion. I thought “this is just like the market…if you stay the course, think positive and stay focused, you will find yourself in a better place and much better off for it”. This is how I am thinking right now. I am simply riding my bike up that bridge and thinking of that clear blue sky in front of me because I know there will be clarity on the other side.
Finally, as we all stay at home, think of all the good that brings. Think about the extra time you get to spend with your family, your kids, your pet, your significant other and/or your extended family. Think how you’ve had extra down time in the house to relax and unwind. Think how you’ve been able to reconnect with friends and family in different ways – perhaps through a “Zoom” meeting. Now you may be feeling separation anxiety as you adjust from your normal routine. And you may be doing things outside of your comfort zone. Like working from home or home schooling your kids. But think of it this way: is it really that bad? Or would you rather be in a hospital bed with a ventilator as your only hope for survival? Not me that’s for sure. And I’m sure not you either. So let’s all be mindful of that and focus on the good and think positive here. Because it’s my belief the rest will work itself out in time. Now, let’s get on to the markets and the economy.