Our Vision conference is a can’t-miss annual meetup for broker-dealers and other players in the wealth management industry, and this was an exciting year for Broker-Dealers. It’s also an opportunity for us to catch up with our clients, and to see how Docupace is transforming the way they digitize operations. This year’s event was no exception.
We kicked off Vision in grand fashion with a welcome reception for our guests and attendees that was sponsored by Ebix. The following morning, our attendees were welcomed by Docupace CEO Mark Tapling. Mark took us through some pretty amazing customer stats — in the last year, our clients processed 6,049,885 total work items using our platform. There were 21,496,743 digital forms processed, and over 2.7 billion electronic objects were placed in compliant storage. Not a bad year!
In all, we heard from more than a dozen speakers from across the wealth management industry and beyond.
Feel like you missed something at the conference? There’s no way we could condense everything we learned and discussed into one blog post, but here are some key speeches and our favorite takeaways from this year’s event:
Tech, singularity, and the future
Our keynote presenter, Bill Bachrach, took us on a journey into the future with his presentation on the Singularity, a hypothesized event where artificial intelligence eclipses human intellectual capacity, thus radically changing civilization. Sounds scary? Bill doesn’t think so. In fact, he argues that we should use this event as an opportunity to question our beliefs and how we interpret the truth.
According to Bill, the financial services industry should start planning for the Singularity now. Because we don’t know how events will unfold, nor do we know how AI growth and development will play out, he advocates for a flexible, variable, and balanced approach. He also recommends finding ways to think differently, rather than fighting back against automation.
Most importantly, Mark says that broker-dealers start having conversations with clients about future prospects now. Planning for outcomes can prevent future miscalculations — for example, human beings may outlive their financial planning thanks to life-extending technologies.
The value of human connections
There’s more to wealth management than profits. Vanderbilt Financial Group’s CEO Steve Distante presented a powerful argument for Impact Investing, an investment strategy that achieves financial return while creating a broader positive social impact.
Impact Investing is more than just a buzzword, it’s an opportunity for the wealth services industry to give back to the community and offer leadership in a positive way. At a key point, Steve shared The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to illustrate the task at hand, and asked the audience “do you want to be an impactful leader? Then have a purpose — passion leads to purpose!”
The value of human connection came up elsewhere at the conference, too. Richard Thoeny, VP of Product Strategy for Docupace, connected the importance of having a product roadmap to a heartwarming story about his 7-year-old self, his neighbor, a bat, a treehouse, and a wrist rocket. This first attempt at roadmapping, he says, also taught him the importance of planning for flexibility.
While walking the audience through our product roadmap, Richard’s message was clear to our attendees: “we need a roadmap and the ability to adjust when things aren’t going to go as planned.” That view has influenced the way he approaches challenges.
In the day to day trenches of running a successful broker-dealer firm, it can be easy to lose focus on what matters.
Josh Sundquist, a motivational speaker and paralympian, took the stage and shared personal stories from his life journey. At the age of 9, Josh was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. He beat the cancer, but lost his left leg in the process. That setback didn’t prevent him from doing what he wanted to in life, like skiing on the Team USA squad and inspiring thousands of people.
He brought that enthusiasm for achieving great things to the Vision stage, where he talked about his One More Thing, One More Time (or “1MT1MT”) philosophy on life.
Part of this ethos is combating disappointment with persistence: “In life, there is no three strikes and you’re out rule. Do you allow yourself to be a person who strikes out or can you take as many strikes as you need to?”
Our take away from his lively and inspiring speech? “Keep swinging!”
Partnering for success
Our customer showcases and breakout sessions are part of what makes Vision a can’t-miss event. We love hearing how Docupace’s software has allowed clients to streamline onboarding, improve compliance, and create a seamless advisor experience.
This year we heard from a number of clients who had great experiences with Docupace. One standout speech came from Randy Epright, EVP and Chief Information Officer with Athene, who touted Docupace’s ability to improve enterprise agility. Docupace’s implementation approach improved Althene’s business architecture, helped manage continuous testing, and more.
Randy attributed his successful relationship with Docupace to our organizational intimacy, empathy, honesty. Randy shared that since going live, he’s had overwhelming positive feedback – even some literal tears of joy!
From evolving trends to new technology, there’s a lot to be excited about in the wealth management industry. Our 2019 Vision event was a great kickoff for the year to come.
Filling out paperwork is always a hassle. Writing the same information again and again, trying to understand opaque instructions, making sure you’ve got form 2056-AB and not 2065-BA — it’s enough to drive anyone a little crazy.
In wealth management, those problems are magnified. Paperwork issues can negatively affect the client experience, frustrate advisors, and increase workloads in the home office.
The stakes are high — forms with mistakes often send you back to the start of the process, extending timelines, increasing frustration, and taking a bite out of bottom lines.
While the forms themselves likely won’t disappear from the wealth management industry anytime soon, there are alternatives to the tedious, time-consuming processes of gathering the correct ones and filling them out. Pre-populated form technology can make broker-dealers, RIAs, and their advisors more efficient, productive, and profitable.
Pull the right forms for the job.
Which forms does an advisor need to pull in order to open an account for their client?
It seems like a straightforward question, but when you consider the hundreds of different types of accounts and their variations, it becomes a whole lot more complicated.
Many broker-dealers expect their advisors to be experts that instantly know which forms are required for which accounts. However, with thousands of forms to choose from, that expectation isn’t always reasonable. The result is mistakes and NIGO submissions.
A technology provider like Docupace with an industry-specific forms library can help alleviate these issues. After asking the advisor a few simple questions (Which brokerage are you using? Which state are you in? What type of account are you opening? etc.), the system uses intelligent form bundling to automatically pull the correct forms for the job, every time.
Fill out forms automatically.
One of the most frustrating things about paperwork is filling in the same information over and over.
For financial advisors, this can be especially tiresome — especially if their clients’ information already exists within a CRM or other system specifically designed to streamline the process. Copying over their name, address, income, etc. is unnecessary work that prevents them from doing the more important parts of their job, like actually talking to their clients.
Docupace integrates with popular financial services CRMs like Salesforce and Redtail to make manually copying client information into forms a thing of the past. Their API even makes it possible to link up any proprietary database with their forms processing technology.
The forms Docupace pulls are automatically populated with client information taken straight from the CRM, improving the advisor experience and helping them become more productive.
As an advisor fills out a form in the Docupace Platform, repeated fields are identified throughout the form bundle and automatically copied — no more entering the same information over and over again. The result is rapid completion of forms that would have otherwise eaten up valuable time.
Check compliance in real-time.
Unlike printed forms or simple PDFs, pre-populated forms within a platform like Docupace can be checked for SEC and FINRA compliance as they’re being filled out.
Docupace uses an advanced validation engine to check forms against SEC and FINRA rules as they’re being completed, alerting the user of any missing or incorrect information prior to submission.
Instead of sending in forms only to hear back weeks later that a mistake was made or a field was missing, advisors can correct errors in real time and dramatically reduce NIGO submissions.
Get documents signed fast.
One of the greatest advantages of pre-populated forms is the ability to add esignature capabilities.
Reliance on wet-ink signatures mean an abundance of printing, scanning, faxing, and mailing, all of which take time, cost money, and increase the risk of errors. And when errors occur, the printing, scanning, faxing, and mailing has to start all over again. It’s a vicious circle.
Many investors, especially the growing segment of millennials, balk at the idea of having to sign a document in person or print, sign, and scan. This amount of work for a signature seems antiquated compared to the streamlined systems they use in their day-to-day lives.
Pre-populated forms that are integrated with esignature tools like DocuSign and Signix solve these issues by enabling clients to sign their documents securely online. That means fewer errors, faster turnaround, and improved satisfaction for everyone.
Docupace provides pre-populated form workflows for many different lines of business with many different firms. For everything else, there’s Dynamic Starting Point — Docupace’s low-code experience builder.
With Dynamic Starting Point, broker-dealers can use a simple set of tools to create their own question-and-answer based workflows (think TurboTax). Virtually any account type, process, form, or database can be incorporated into Dynamic Starting Point to simplify the paperwork experience and eliminate the possibility of errors.
Across the U.S., financial advisors are getting older. According to Cerulli Associates, 35% of current advisors will retire in the next 10 years, leaving approximately $6 trillion in assets under management to the next generation, which poses an unique question to managers, “how to recruit advisors and attract top talent from a younger pool of applicants?”
The future of your firm depends on your ability to recruit a roster of excellent new advisors. Whether you’re focused on being the first broker-dealer for talented newcomers, or trying to attract advisors with established books of business, recruiting has to be an integral part of any wealth management firm’s growth strategy.
While payouts have always been, and will continue to be, the first thing advisors consider when choosing a broker-dealer, not every firm can afford to stake their future on offering the best rates.
To compete with firms offering similar payouts, recruiting professionals at broker-dealers must use the other tools in their toolbox, including:
- Quality of back-office service
- Company culture
- Business and marketing support
However, there’s one tool that’s becoming increasingly important to the next generation of advisors — and it’s a tool that often goes underutilized in recruiting: the tech stack.
How to Recruit Advisors: Technology gives you an edge over competitors.
As of 2017, the average advisory firm used 5.8 total software systems, according to a survey by InvestmentNews. These systems typically include CRMs, financial planning software, portfolio management software, account aggregation software, document management systems, and portfolio rebalancing tools.
Having almost six systems in place might seem like a lot compared to how wealth management firms operated five or ten years ago, but in the context of business at large, it’s really not that much.
Think about all of the capabilities not covered by those six most common software systems. Paperless client onboarding, esignatures, compliance and risk management, advisor transitions, client-facing portals and chat systems…if your firm offers any of these, you can call yourself above average.
If you’re offering relatively similar payouts and benefits as a competitor, having a few additional software capabilities that make life easier could be exactly what’s needed to swing an advisor to your side.
How to Recruit New Talent: Technology helps attract millennial investors.
The evergreen answer to “how do I recruit advisors?” is to give them the tools they need to succeed. As millennials are poised to become the largest adult segment by 2020, success for advisors increasingly involves having the ability to attract this audience.
Many analysts believe that technology is the key to getting these younger investors on board with wealth management. Old-fashioned processes that baby boomers perceive as normal, such as having to visit with an advisor in order to sign paperwork, can feel like an unnecessary chore to the generation that grew up with the internet.
To convince an advisor to join your firm, show them you offer software tools that they can use to attract a millennial audience, such as paperless onboarding software, esignature solutions, client-facing portals, secure chat, and mobile apps.
Technology simplifies advisor transitions.
When it comes to attracting great advisors away from other broker-dealers, the biggest hurdle is the transition. For advisors with considerable books of business, the process usually takes about three months, involves tedious paperwork, and is annoying to clients.
Unfortunately, SEC and FINRA regulations prevent you from helping with this process, so there’s nothing you can do, right?
Well, no. A third-party technology provider like Docupace can set up a system that enables advisors to transition their accounts paperlessly, reducing the time it takes to join a new firm to as little as 30 days. Because all client information is stored securely on a third-party server, the broker-dealer is shielded from seeing any information that would present a compliance risk.
The benefits of offering a service like this are huge. Take, for example, moments when many advisors are simultaneously looking for new broker-dealers, either due to the impending closure of their firm or an undesirable merger or acquisition. A top consideration for these advisors will be the speed at which they can get the transition process over with and go back to devoting their attention to clients.
If you and a competing broker-dealer offer similar payouts and benefits, but joining your firm takes less than one third as long as joining theirs, the choice is simpler.
The tech stack is an underutilized tool for advisor recruiting. Whether you’re recruiting college grads or established advisors, offering excellent software tools can help you turbo-charge your recruiting efforts. When considering how to recruit advisors, keep the following points in mind:
- The average firm only uses 5.8 software systems. This creates a massive opportunity for firms that offer additional capabilities.
- Attracting millennial clients depends on an advisor’s ability to accommodate their preferences for digital workflows. Give advisors the tools they need to make it happen.
- Advisor transitions are a huge hassle. If you can give advisors a way to simplify that process, you have a great shot at getting better talent on board.
Some analysts perceive the wealth management industry as slow to change. The bureaucracy of large corporations, combined with ever-increasing regulatory pressure, has put a damper on growth and adaptation. Therefore, wealth management hasn’t undergone the same kind of rapid evolution that industries like retail and media have experienced in recent years.
However, technology has been staging a quiet revolution in wealth management. Over the past two decades or so, paperless communication has fundamentally changed the way advisors, broker-dealers, RIAs, and clients interact with one another.
These changes have been significant, but there’s a long way to go. Forward-thinking investment firms will see the opportunity to leverage these trends in order to achieve greater efficiency and increase growth.