Financial planning software…Who’s in the driver’s seat?

Deciding on new financial advice software is the perfect time to get strategic and review your business needs first.

In the financial planning business of today, there are many opportunities for change – none more significant than the changing of licensee. This impending change provides you the chance to re-evaluate how your business operates and to understand what it is you really need from your financial planning software. In 2019, we worked with over 700 people who were at a crossroads and trying to understand: “Do I configure and manage my own advice software or do I buy something off the shelf?”

While this is an important question, coming to the answer is not as complicated as you may think. If you sit back and understand the skills you have in your team you’ll be able to work out which camp you sit in when it comes to choosing your software.

Neither camp is right or wrong, it depends on the needs of your business and those of your clients. So let’s take a closer look at the worlds of provider-managed and self-managed software.

Provider-managed software

Provider-managed software gives you access to a suite of advice templates, workflow processes and reports that can be used out of the box. As well as support and training from experts who will help drive your business both during and after the technology change. It’s much like a house and land package where the headache of building and choosing every design detail, wall colour, fitting and fixture are removed – all you need to worry about is packing your things and moving in.

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When you opt for provider-managed software, your provider will:

  • Give you access to best-practice templates across all advice areas.
  • Maintain content so it always uses the latest software features and complies with legislation as it changes.
  • Take care of your software administration so you can free up resources to allow your business to get on with the job of providing high-quality, compliant advice to your clients.

We regularly hear advisers say: “We feel most statements of advice are the same, they’re just a legal document. We are happy to use the best template available and just get on with business” and that is one of the main reasons why advice practices choose provider-managed software – everything is complete and ready to go.

Ask yourself this: Do I have people in my business with the necessary skills to drive the technology change in my business? Many don’t, and that’s the main reason why technology adoption can fail, and why provider-managed software may be the more appropriate software model to adopt.

Unlike self-managed software, the provider-managed option helps your practice by outsourcing the technical expertise to a technology partner. All site administration is undertaken by your partner – freeing up your staff to service clients and focus on more critical business activities. This site administration will generally include:

  • Managing the user admin login
  • User administration
  • Group administration
  • Managing assumption sets

Provider-managed software will give you access to a standard suite of templates and wizards including a fact find, SOA, record of advice and client review templates, as well as fee disclosure statements with automation via your revenue management software integration. You’ll still have the ability to build your own advice templates and workflows if you require a more customised approach.

Yes, self-managed software offers greater functionality through more complex customisation capabilities, however, this can pose a burden to IFAs and smaller practices with limited resources and knowledge to manage, maintain and support the use of the software.

Once you understand where your business is at, your resourcing and your needs, you’ll more easily know if ready to go, provider-managed software is the right option for you.

Self-managed software

Self-managed software simply means the advice software you need, configured to your requirements. You’ll have a high level of control over your customisation, along with the responsibility of managing and maintaining your software in-house.

Deciding on self-managed software doesn’t mean you’re out there, alone in the abyss of financial planning technology fending for yourself. We often hear our self-managed clients say things like “We chose to manage our own software because we wanted total control. We can build everything we want, exactly how we want it.” And that’s exactly it; self-managed software provides you with the freedom to configure the software to suit your business while having the support of your technology partner on hand, when and where you need it.

Self-managed software means you can customise your own interface, fields, templates and wizards, and have the ability to add and modify custom portfolio products.

While you will have access to this greater level of customisation, it is critical your business understands the software and site administration responsibilities that come with self-managing your software. In general, these include:

  • Managing the user admin login
  • User administration
  • Group administration
  • Building and maintaining workflow architecture
  • Developing, coding and maintaining templates
  • Portfolio and data feed administration
  • Managing assumption sets

Remember there is no blanket right or wrong when it comes to financial advice software, only what is the right fit for you and your business. Once you are clear on the outcomes you wish to achieve, you’ll more easily decide if self-managed software is the best choice.

So what’s the deal?

As with all software, there’s a balance between two key competing forces: standardisation and customisation. Regardless of which option you select, it’s critical that any technology changes you make are based on a clear business strategy. Any change that’s made without this grounding carries a higher degree of risk.

Once you’ve chosen the right software option for you, we help you succeed in running your practice by providing you with:

  • A thriving user community that provides a platform to share knowledge and tips with other wealth management and financial planning software users. This is underpinned by the support of our product, development and support teams.
  • Training is offered to suit every role across a financial planning practice and includes points towards CPD accreditation. Helping your users get the most out of their advice software.
  • Monthly webinars provide a deep dive into specific software modules, functionality and business processes; how technology can help solve the inefficiencies created by regulation; and help you improve your client engagement.

At Iress we have a dedicated team that supports both mid-sized to larger licensees, as well as a dedicated team that supports independently licensed and boutique dealer groups. Our teams provide strategic thinking for advice businesses with a focus on regular meetings to ensure we continue to understand and support our clients’ current and future business models.

To hear more about best practice guidance around technology for IFAs, you can listen to this episode of the The ifa Show podcast with James Mitchell and Kelli Willmer.

Kelli Willmer, manager – practice solutions, Iress

Financial planning software…Who’s in the driver’s seat?
Kelli Willmer
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