‘Evolution, not a revolution’: Best practice for digitising advice practices


New tech can help increase efficiencies and free up your time – as well as your support team’s – so you can then spend more time with clients. However, to get the most out of your tech investment, it’s important to manage the process. Here are three steps which can help you achieve a successful digital tech implementation.

Step 1: Set out your digital roadmap

Doing research is the first part of this process. At the outset, talk to several vendors about what they offer, and get a feel for the software and apps used by other practices that are similar to yours. If you have good relationships with other firms, talk to their leaders about the tech they use. It’s wise to ask about what they wish they had done differently when they implemented new digital tools.

Also, consider what’s coming up. It’s likely AI will soon be a big part of the tech that advisers use in their practices. So, explore how this innovation is likely to change the way you work in the future, to prepare your practice for it.

When you embark on a tech implementation, be very clear about what you want to achieve
in the short, medium and long term. Think through your technology priorities and objectives. These might include switching from paper-based to electronic documents to create efficiencies. Your goal might be to find new clients to grow the business, which may mean prioritising CRM capabilities. You might be looking for tools to automate the onboarding and engagement with clients or implementation of the financial advice process. Whatever your goals are, make sure you identify them clearly, so you can evaluate the success of the project down the track.

It’s also important to evaluate the technology you are already using in your practice – such
as platforms – and the flexibility for it to be integrated with any new software. To manage the process, you should appoint someone in the business who is responsible for guiding the project. That way, someone has accountability, and this will help to make sure everything stays on track.


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Step 2: Protect the perimeter with cyber tools

As recent high-profile cyberattacks have shown, cybercrime is growing and data backs this up. The Australian Cyber Security Centre received more than 76,000 cybercrime reports in the 2022 financial year, as stated in its Annual Cyber Threat Report. This means they were notified of a cybercrime every seven minutes, a 13 per cent rise versus the year before.

So, it’s never been more important to ensure your cybersecurity is gold standard. The key is to stop thieves getting into your network in the first place. This starts with investing in great firewalls to reduce the risk of criminals infiltrating your network. If they do get in, make sure you have the technology to stop them accessing the whole system.

Consider how you would stop criminals from breaking into your home. Even if they get in your front door, if all your other doors are locked, the only place they can access is your hallway. Of course, it’s common sense not to leave your valuables or your keys in the hallway. Rather, put your jewels in a safe and install an alarm. So, if intruders do get in, you will know they are there!

You can approach your cybersecurity the same way. The idea is to corral your important data beyond your digital front door so it’s harder to access.

It’s also essential to use data encryption. If criminals do manage to break the lock and get into the system, even if they access your files, they won’t be able to read them or access client information. Then, make sure that if they get into your system, they can’t get anything out. That gives you a level of comfort, knowing that your business and, most importantly, your clients are really protected.

It’s also important to ensure your practice and clients are phishing aware, as the easiest way around all the security is if someone convinces you to hand over the keys to your front door!

Step 3: Think through legacy issues

Your practice is likely to have existing software that will need to connect with any new software you introduce. It’s important to make sure any new tools can connect to the ones you already have. Talk through what you’re doing with all your software vendors to check whether everything is compatible.

This is also an opportunity to phase out paper-based comms as much as possible and switch to digital, but you need to bring your clients along on this journey. A good way to get their buy-in is to ask about their preferences. For instance, ask whether they prefer SMS or email communication, so they know you’re taking their needs into account.

Make sure there are points along this process where you stop and evaluate how the project is tracking against the objectives you set at the start. This gives you the chance to tweak your plan and get feedback from your staff about how the new tech is supporting their work and any changes they would like to see, to make their work easier.

Introducing new digital tools should be an evolution, not a revolution. The idea is to make it an ongoing part of practice management. That’s the best way to ensure the business has access to the latest tech, without overwhelming you, you staff and your clients along the way.

Richard Holmes, Chief Information Officer, BT
(This article was originally published in Professional Planner, 11 January 2023.)

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