Challenge and Opportunity
BY CHIP KISPERT
BEACON STRATEGIES, LLC
Happy Thanksgiving! Wow! 2020 has been a tough year. Yet, using my favorite phrase as a benchmark, change is constant, and the wealth firm business model as we have known it will forever be different than ten short months ago.
When normal, as we know it, gives way, the narrative changes. As many of you know, my work travel schedule takes me to exciting places 40 plus weeks a year. This year, that number is five weeks, and all in January and February. So, being at home has allowed the Beacon team the gift, the opportunity to think, be creative, plan, and start building out our next-gen business model – and start its rollout. Yesterday, we rolled out our first phase of execution. With a captivating user experience, an automated platform supports our roundtables, and soon our content interaction with many of you. Does this life-work experience sound familiar to you? Because relevance is relying more and more on digital-first.
As recently as this past February (2020), the phrase “digital transformation” was mythological and meant a hundred different things to a hundred people. Now, being digital is coming with the next sentence measuring how digital is impacting a wealth firm’s future relevance. Today, new ways to digitally interact with advisors and customers are front and center, the process from an investor to execution, protect investor customers, and so much more. I believe we have only seen the tip of the spear when it comes to the digital innovation that will come out of this pandemic.
For many of you, we are one of your tour guides to what is new and how to do things better within the enterprise wealth space. We are excited because we also are embracing many of the changes that impact the relevance barometer. So, look for more versatility in how we communicate, share ideas, and help you be in the “know” when it comes to enterprise wealth management. Stay tuned! ♦
Musing from the Beacon Team
BY BEACON STAFF
Sales and Marketing in a Pandemic
So much of our lives have been upended for most of 2020. What we used to take for granted, like family gatherings, restaurants, sporting events, theater, concerts and so much more, has been disrupted. For financial advisors, it has meant changing in fundamental ways how they reach out to clients and, more importantly, how they grow their current client base. Many advisors have had to develop skills in a variety of areas, including:
- Developing an on-line presence – While it may seem that the last thing the world needs is another blog or podcast, some of the most prominent advisors have decided to focus on extending their brand using technology to new customers. Referrals can be tough in an age where people are just seeing less of each other, so it has been interesting to see some of the best advisors helping client navigate financial challenges through technology. The topics I have seen in this area run the gamut, but include obvious ones like retirement planning and not so obvious ones like financial planning for families with special needs children.
- Develop your Zoom skills – It can be disconcerting to look at yourself through a video camera on a Zoom call. Given that this may be the first time a prospective client sees you, are you taking care to look your best? This may extend, believe it or not, to the books you have in your bookcase. I was on a Zoom call recently and called out that someone had an interesting book behind them, which happened to be somewhat politically charged. You wouldn’t want to turn off a prospective client based on something as innocuous as the books on your bookshelf.
- Digital marketing campaigns – Firms like Snappy Kraken and others work with advisors to develop multi-channel digital marketing campaigns. Whether it is e-mail, on-line advertising or social media, advisors can get their word and brand out in what can be a cluttered environment for investors. ♦
BY BEACON STAFF
Why Implementing a Sales Process is Important?
You may remember the vintage electric football game where you painstakingly setup the players and then flipped on the power to watch bedlam ensue. If you were lucky, your ball carrier would erratically move around the board and hopefully into the endzone before going out of bounds. The result was usually lots of effort with little return.
Now stop and ask yourself, “Is our sales team operating like that old electric football game…lots of effort with few wins?” If you answered “yes” to the above question, then your firm is likely in need of a review of its current process.
Repeatable Success. Start by looking at what you consider to be one of your firm’s best Clients and breakdown the steps that went into winning their business. Five to seven steps are recommended. Each step should have demonstrable progress towards closing the sale and be weighted towards the goal.
Veteran sales team members as well as new hires will come up to speed more quickly and produce more sales. In fact, according to a study conducted by ACT CRM, firms that implemented a standardized sales process were found to have 18% greater revenue growth than those that did not.
Measure Before Managing. Benchmarking your Salespeople with key performance indicators (KPIs) becomes much easier with an established sales process. Reviewing KPIs allows you to help them succeed by identifying what is working and which areas need attention.
Resources. Beacon Strategies can help your firm implement and track a dynamic sales process. Contact us today to learn more about this and other valuable services we offer. ♦
BY BEACON STAFF
Trends in Vendor Management
More firms are relying on their vendors to process, store and manage client data. Having a robust Vendor Risk Management Program is essential to the success of your company. Recent discussions with Wealth Managers and Third-Party Vendors show current trends in how to better your firm’s relationships with vendors and improve their performance.
Here are a few takeaways we’ve heard from firms:
- 68% of business leaders feel their vendor risks are increasing – cybersecurity, operational, financial, reputational, legal, regulatory, and more.
- Despite their security protocols and due diligence, most firms remain exposed to risk.
- Protecting the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of your Clients is mission critical.
- Only 5% of companies’ folders are properly protected, on average.
- An incident reporting protocol and remediation plan must be established and tested annually.
- Mission Critical and Critical Third-Party Vendors must be constantly evaluated with continuous improvement in assessments, not a one and done only when contracts are signed.
- Costs of protection include the avoidance of costs from the risk from hackers, fines from regulators and client retention.
Firms need well-defined plans to mitigate risks. A “Do it Yourself” approach can lull your firm into a false sense of security. The good news is there are tools, templates, and processes available to accelerate a robust vendor management program.
From the Vendor’s point of view, they are struggling with how to handle the multiple Request for Proposals and how to move from being just another vendor to a true Business Partner. Their challenges are:
- Determining if the RFP is valid or just a fishing expedition.
- Proactive Service to clients for reporting is the new normal.
- How to be a true Business Partner that proactively provides continuous improvement in assessments.
If you have issues, challenges, or simply want to improve your Vendor Risk Management Program, reach out to us to discuss how we can help mitigate those risks. ♦
Flash Innovation Lab
Companies Moving the Innovation Needle
One of Beacon’s missions is to become fluent with innovative technology and service providers who offer enterprise wealth companies, and their advisors with new solutions. In this edition of the Beacon Flash, we are highlighting two companies that we see helping to change the “we have a problem” narrative at enterprise wealth firms.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) today is like the internet was in the 90’s. Although many people thought the internet was interesting or novel back then, they were unable to grasp the revolutionary scope at which it would grow and become an integral part of our lives over the last 30 years. For financial service firms, AI is in that same infancy stage. In February, while at FSI, Lincoln Investments spoke about how they were exploiting AI– helping with data and servicing needs. Since that meeting, I have been curiously exploring what AI can do for enterprise wealth firms. My takeaway is that AI can do a great deal. Let’s start with data. AI, and specifically robotic process automation, can read handwritten and digitized PDFs and convert the content into usable downstream data. Beyond that, I ask, can it be the new application interface? We are seeing firms whose vendors are asking for six figures for their APIs using robotics to move essential data between core enterprise wealth firm systems.
As AI becomes more mainstream, these fees are lowering dramatically with a significant ROI. A firm leading the AI charge, and especially robotics is Kovack Securities. Their President, Chris Mills, sees the value, and believes that AI allows his organization to do more, a lot more with less. The AI firm that Kovack is working with is CANOAI.
Their CEO, Jason Salmani sees the work that they are doing with enterprise wealth firms today only being the tip of the spear. He shared that next of the horizon is a total digitization of administrative and back office duties, freeing up human resources to accomplish more business critical work, focusing not on the mundane but on customer satisfaction, growth, and client experience. By leveraging the wide range of AI tools available, what was once thought to be impossible, such as handwriting recognition and understanding email context is now well within the scope of what AI can do. There is no telling what AI will be capable of tomorrow. Not only are yesterday’s impossibilities readily available today but as they grow they are becoming significantly more affordable, removing the barrier of access for smaller firms. Visit CANO AI.
Here at Beacon, we will be closely following the evolution of AI closely. But our main take-a-way is that CANOAI is helping enterprise wealth firms visualize realize how they can us AI to do more with less, bridging the visualization gap by years. ♦
Automating Product Guardrails
Since the original rumblings of DOL and, more recently, Best Interest, wealth management firms have struggled with proactively managing and monitoring their product shelves. The balancing of multi-custodial relationships and direct business has limited the ability of enterprise wealth firms to create a robust product management function, leaving them with product shelf anarchy. Independent firms have struggled with managing the plethora of selling agreements surrounding their mutual fund, ETF, insurance, and alternative product partner relationships. A few years back during DOL some IBDs were so fearful they were going to cut their product offerings to a shadow of the number of fund families and available products that their Financial Professionals could access and sell to their investor customers. Indeed, many firms have reduced their offerings, but are still struggling with the administration of their partner relationships as they confront greater operating risk and revenue compression. Fast forward to today, InvestorCOM supplies a product shelf framework that goes by the moniker ShelfMonitor that is designed to help enterprise wealth customers proactively manage their product shelf and monitor how the myriad of products on the shelf change over time.
InvestorCOM has another neat solution, tagged as PeerCompare, which is populated with multiple data sources, empowering Financial Professionals to compare like product choices, or reasonably available alternatives (Care Obligation), in an intuitive and consistent manner across the enterprise. Importantly, the available choices are interconnected to the products made available (and managed via ShelfMonitor) on the firm’s shelf.
After a recent demonstration with InvestorCOM, the Beacon team asked when the mics were off, “where was this product prior to DOL.” Another comment was “this really creates cooperation between Financial Professionals and compliance.”
With a changing of the political guard here in the US, the pendulum may be swinging back to a more structured regulatory environment. InvestorCOM’s CEO, David Reeve is not concerned, stating that their “compliance platform was designed to conform to more stringent regulatory requirements” should that be required. Reeve added that their solution “is highly intuitive and incredibly fast to implement. In just two weeks, we can get wealth management firms up and running on both ShelfMonitor and PeerCompare.”
No one has effectively solved the product shelf need in the past for those that support direct business with their brokerage. InvestorCOM can solve many of the gaps that we saw raise their heads during DOL. If you are going to where the puck is going, you may want to take a look at InvestorCOM. ♦