Re-making a wealth management firm with end-to-end automation and technology takes a significant investment of time and effort, but in the end, holds the promise to deliver an ideal user experience for employees and end clients.
“End-to-end automation is about creating the ideal experience, the holy grail, so to speak,” said Crystal Andrus, head of wealth management relationship and account management at JIFFY.ai. “However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. As a result, organizations will often look at things piecemeal. without really thinking about the big picture. Plus, it often feels easier to dip your toe in, than to cannonball off the ledge.”
But end-to-end automation is complex, said Andrus, partially because firms and staff tend to accept the difficulties their technology presents them and build their manual processes and workflows to “work around” technological shortcomings.
If wealth management firms instead think critically and long-term about their technology, they would have more success in creating efficiencies in their workflows. Thinking critically includes doing the work by talking to who is facilitating some of the time intensive and manual processes. They definitely have ideas about how to improve the process!
“Instead of moving between different platforms to get our work complete, we can marry all of our different pieces of technology together seamlessly,” said Andrus. “That results in a better experience, it eliminates manual processes and it allows resources to be reallocated for more meaningful endeavors.”
Firms should move towards an “autonomous enterprise,” in the words of JIFFY.ai CEO Babu Sidavasan. The autonomous enterprise is a vision of a wealth management firm connected by automation, where processes are intelligently initiated by technology that picks up cues from advisors, clients and others within a firm and then automatically offers the ability to act on those cues.
JIFFY.ai is an automation platform for businesses across several industries, but has focused on the slow, manual, and paper-heavy processes of the traditional wealth management industry.
“We want to think about how we can co-create that ideal world with wealth management firms,” said Andrus. “We can elevate those experiences for the advisor, the client and the home office, we can improve the experience for everyone.”
In a perfect world, firms have the time, resources and the right technology partners to engage in this next step of updating and automating their firms, said Andrus, but the reality is that outside of very large wirehouse and enterprise independent broker-dealer and RIA firms, most of the wealth management industry has been incapable of taking an end-to-end approach to remaking their technology.
But financial firms can still make incremental improvements in end-to-end automation by focusing first on small processes and pieces of their workflows that are particularly inefficient or ineffective.
“We all know that technology changes all the time, so any business is going to have to commit to a platform evolution, making changes over time.” said Andrus. “I think everyone wants to make sure they can offer best-of-breed to their clients.”
JIFFY.ai makes it easy for wealth management firms to automate, said Andrus, offering tools that allow businesses to build their own solutions.
“We’re talking about creating platforms that clients will want to go in and work with,” said Andrus. “How can a home office or wealth management organization’s IT department build that? It’s intimidating if you don’t have the right robust technological resources both from a staffing and financial perspective. We want to make it so solving problems with technology can be easy.”
With all this talk of automation, there will always be a role for a human financial advisor within the process, said Andrus.
Advisors have to be able to translate the recommendations that technology offers and hone those suggestions to move the client conversation forward. Advisors have to build a relationship with the client, a role that machines cannot fill.
“There are things that machines can’t do—they can’t hug you,” said Andrus. “They can’t give you a personalized answer for how you pay for a loved one’s healthcare expenses. They can’t tell you the best course of action to finance taking care of your parents or funding your children’s education. They can’t replace a person that understands your financial journey and the impact you want to have moving forward.”
But with the right front-end platform, clients and advisors can input information passively through natural conversations, and that information will flow automatically into a financial plan, through to account opening, then to funding the accounts, and then to allocating assets between and within accounts.
Too many organizations are stuck on what Andrus calls the first point, creating a platform that makes it easy for information to be entered or gathered and recorded, and then pushed through to all of a wealth management business’s other processes.
“As decisions are made, there’s no need for the advisor to go in and rebalance, there’s no need to go through the time-intensive account opening process, all of that can happen automatically behind the scenes,” said Andrus. “Advisors will spend their time understanding the client’s needs, understanding what the client wants, and they have more time to do that work because they’re not spending time filling out forms and account opening paperwork or going through 20 different annuity illustrations. For example, with the right technology, they’d be able to take three to the client because the technology deemed those three to be the best for the client’s situation.”
Thus, automation should increase the value of professional financial planning and financial advice, as all the found time will help advisors deliver more—and better—services to their clients.
An automated, streamlined back- and middle-office will also improve advisor recruiting and retention, said Andrus.
“The back and middle offices are the foundation and the unsung heroes of the client experience,” she said. “An advisor needs to know that their back and middle office is able to facilitate streamlined, efficient and error free processes to serve their clients, and integration can do that.
“The automation journey, I think many organizations think about it in piecemeal,” said Andrus. “Let’s automate these four processes, because it’s intimidating and they may not have the resources. I strongly believe that JIFFY.ai will solve for that by making it more efficient, cost-effective and easier end-to-end. That’s where we excel as an integrator.”