Williams Financial Group
Williams Financial Group, based in Dallas, Texas, is one of the fastest growing Broker-Dealers in the country (recently named to the Financial Planning shortlist of 50). One of their most compelling differentiators: the high-touch, extremely responsive service that they provide to each of their 300+ Representatives. As they grew, that service became more of a challenge – and, unwilling to compromise, WFG thought their only choice might be to increase home office staffing levels, at a high dollar cost.
Williams Financial Group had a partial workflow solution. The home office/back office had employed a solution to help streamline workflow – but it was very segmented, not web-based, and did not extend to the field. Taking the system to the field would have been extremely expensive – due to costs in buying new software and hardware. Thus, as business increased, delays became inevitable:
The standard: paper documentation and “wet signatures” on applications taken in the field
- Physical paper copies were then manually transmitted to the home office, resulting in processing delays and increasing expenses for overnight mail and delivery services.
- Any mistake, at any level, by any party, resulted in delays – from a forgotten signature to a missing date or other seemingly innocuous piece of information.
The solution had to be a more efficient way to process the firm’s growing business. WFG’s preference was to invest in a technology solution that would grow as the firm grows. They began a rigorous process of researching and comparing software and solutions providers, and settled on the Docupace model.
Docupace was, in fact, one of the last companies that WFG took the time to review. WFG had explored the possibility of expanding the services offered by their current provider, and had reviewed several other options as well, but found them expensive and largely unworkable for two main reasons: they took a horizontal approach to the challenge, and used local resellers that didn’t know the business at all. Docupace offered a cloud-based solution with no upfront charges for new hardware; the easily integrated model worked with existing hardware and software that Williams’ Reps were familiar with. WFG was able to pay on a per-user basis, instead of committing to a hefty resource spend and then rolling out a solution that Reps might find difficult to use. And the solution was built expressly for financial services.
“We didn’t have to take the time to explain our business and our needs,” said Alan McCauley, VP of Technology. “The Docupace solution was built for financial services companies like ours, so the methodology and the process are an exact fit – we didn’t feel that they were trying to force a round peg in a square hole, to make a one-size-fits-all program try to adapt.
“After the first demo, we were sold on the Docupace solution.” One of the main points in Docupace’s favor: their extensive experience rolling out B-D specific solutions. Quite simply, they knew the challenges and the business.”
WFG followed a two-step rollout process: deploying the Docupace solution to automate the back office, then rolling it out to the field. The home office spent two months learning and preparing for the field-wide rollout of the Docupace solution. They put their own legacy paperwork online, and got as close to “paperless” as they could (certain types of business still mandated paper files). WFG took a methodical approach – there was significant time invested in learning the system and preparing for the overall rollout, and they didn’t rely on a “big bang”, all-at-once deployment. After the home office felt prepared, the system was rolled out field-wide – first to several pilot offices, and then to all (the system is mandated at Williams Financial Group) through training by the Regional Management team.
Throughout the process, the team from Docupace was on hand to answer questions and assist in the implementation. “The Docupace team went above and beyond our expectations,” confirmed Gwen Rogers, VP of Client Services. “Any questions were answered immediately and they made a significant contribution in helping us rollout the solution within the 120 day window we had hoped for.”
Within four months, the entire field was using the Docupace solution. Reaction from the field was extremely positive. The Docupace solution is a part of every field office, and Representatives are taking advantage at various levels. Some have leveraged the tool to workflow-enable their own offices, beyond their interactions with the home office; others are taking small steps in that direction. But without exception, the speed and efficiency of business have been vastly improved.
The delays caused by paper processing and overnight mail, which had seemed almost an unavoidable annoyance, have been virtually eliminated. Certain business can go directly to NFS, WFG’s clearing firm. Through the Docupace solution, the NIGO resolution process has been cut down by at least a day; the operations group is no longer taking the labor-intensive step of having to contact and reach Reps and assistants for simple issues. Instead, through the automated process, an email is sent out to the field; by prioritizing those communications, the field quickly handles NIGO issues and the business is more efficiently on its way.
With secure access controlled through a dynamic entitlement system, compliance and supervision have been simplified. The Docupace file-cabinet system offers increased access to the right people in the field, eliminating the time spent searching for paper.
Other specific successes:
- New accounts are opened at least one day faster, and with documents scanned in the field, by the field, there is far greater accountability and virtually no lost documentation.
- An “MVP” setting, with entitlement driven by the home office, allows Williams to hand-select top producers who qualify for expedited service.
- Accountability is vastly improved; turnaround times are trackable, and OSJs can offer valid timetables for workflow and work processing.
- A recent FINRA audit was virtually pain-free; instead of searching through stacks of paper after waiting for hard-copy files and boxes to be delivered, staff quickly accessed and retrieved every requested document online.
THE NEXT STEPS
The team at Williams Financial Group eagerly anticipates the next phase of the rollout – Starting Point, a suite of integrated smart forms. They will no longer be paying for an outside forms solution – Starting Point offers cloud-based access to every form they use to transact business, including their own proprietary forms. And because of the integrated functionality, the forms are largely pre-populated with data.
Gwen imagines that NIGO business, as a result, will be virtually eliminated – because a missing signature or date will be caught even before the business is electronically transmitted. Integration with SalesForce is eagerly anticipated, as well — the firm will likely move away from their intranet site, as all important information and tools (from CRM, to forms, to workflow) will be housed within the cloud-based Docupace solution. The cost savings are tremendous, but even better – the level of service has vastly improved. And Williams has been able to allocate HR spend as they prefer: on resources to help Reps grow their business.
Williams has continued to grow as well; they have added an additional 45 Reps, or 15% growth, without having to hire additional staff – because of efficiencies realized through the Docupace solution. They predict their growth will continue and really see no impediments – they also view the Docupace workflow solution as a significant recruiting advantage.
True straight-through processing – starting the process in the field with secure electronic signatures and the ability to virtually plug a document into the approval system – is both a huge benefit for WFG’s existing field, and an attractive proposition for new recruits. They have seen several significant recruiting “wins” as a result of the integration of the Docupace solution, and they consider themselves extremely pleased with the overall result.
Docupace has allowed WFG to continue to grow – profitably and efficiently – while providing the top-tier service they pride themselves on.