Mike Marini – To say this pandemic hasn’t been easy on businesses could be the understatement of the year.
While our software company has been much less impacted than other businesses that need in-person, on-site staff, the show must go on. We must fortify, adapt, and enforce our business continuity plan to fit the new “normal” way of working for our staff and our customers.
Our company response has been guided by a comprehensive business continuity plan which contains a Pandemic Annex that anticipates multiple potentially disruptive scenarios during a pandemic.
In consultation with Massachusetts health providers, local town officials, and the Commonwealth’s mandates, we’ve adapted our business continuity plan for this current health crisis. And while it wasn’t easy, the Advisor360° business continuity plan lets people and our clients know: our #1 priority is to reduce the health and safety risks to everyone, while at the same time continuing the day-to-day operations of our business.
If you have a plan in place that could be improved, or your company’s looking for the essential focus areas to address, here’s how we’ve faced head-on this unprecedented business upheaval:
1) To build a comprehensive business continuity plan, it starts with the right team.
That’s never been more vital. Prior to this pandemic, Advisor360° had already established a Crisis Management team. This team works with a cross-functional task force of senior executives and subject matter experts to lead the official company response to the pandemic every step of the way—and pivot when necessary.
2) While this couldn’t be predicted, your company must always be in forward-thinking, “what if” mode.
We were one of the first companies in our area to transform to a 100% all-remote workforce (not an easy task for a 450+ people organization). Advisor360° has heavily invested in technology that supports an extended work from home scenario.
3) Weathering the storm is easier when you’ve got infrastructure already in place.
While it wasn’t always smooth sailing, going 100% remote at the early days of the pandemic was easier because of the industry we’re in, our technology, and our allocated resources. Thankfully, as a technology company that builds productivity tools within a SaaS platform, going remote wasn’t a giant overhaul for us. But if you’re not a technology company—you can think like a technology company.
4) Health, safety, and updates.
The safety and health of our entire staff is paramount. Abiding by the state’s health and safety requirements, we transitioned from our corporate office to a working from home scenario that seems so far to be working for most staffers. How?
Throughout this pandemic, we have maintained consistent lines of communication through intranet updates and All Hands videoconferencing. We also take the pulse of working from home, with regular employee surveys to hear what’s working, what’s not, and gauge sentiment. These lines of communication are critical to ease employees’ concerns and peace of mind.
We have created official policies and procedures for anyone who wishes to return. For those staffers who do come into our office, the little things are the big things: individual creamers, one-way signs, conference room limits, and healthy protocol posters indispensably enforce our business continuity stance. (We also notify partners and customers, through our traditional means of communication, should any new developments affect them).
5) Implement strategies to set your company up for success.
The strategies Advisor360° has implemented include (but are not limited to):
Thanks to this business continuity plan, Advisor360°’s operations have not been negatively affected by COVID-19.
Mike Marini is Manager of Business Continuity, Enterprise Services and Support at Advisor360°, where he ensures that critical and day-to-day business operations at Advisor360° continue safely and uninterrupted.
Jed Maczuba – Data is the lifeblood of the wealth management business.
It guides decision making at all levels of the financial advisory process: from prospecting, to planning and research, to trade modeling and execution, to servicing and support. Yet despite the importance of data, many financial advisors struggle with integrating data-based decision making into their advisory practice.
As Rich Napolitano, CEO, and Darren Tedesco, President, discussed in previous blogs, Advisor360° provides a truly holistic platform—from the user experience to the underlying data and processes that support it. But how does this really work?
Rather than solving the problem through an overlay technological solution that connects an amalgamation of separate and unique platforms “after the fact,” our platform is constructed using a unified data platform at its foundation. Advisors, broker-dealers/roll-up RIAs, and investors all share a common and connected view of the entire book of business.
This is what most software companies strive for, but rarely achieve.
Advisor360°: Wrangling data
Mastering data is tough.
McKinsey & Company conducted a survey of thousands of executives about how their companies use and organize data for artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. The result? Only 8% of firms engage in core practices that support widespread adoption.
The implications are significant. Organizations are falling short of capturing the full value of data. If organizations can’t get this right, it’s not difficult to see who suffers: the advisors and the investors they serve.
Prior to my current role as CTO of Advisor360°, I spent over 20 years consulting for financial services clients. Different technologies, disparate databases, data quality issues, vast data volumes, organizational silos, and competing priorities all pose significant challenges to progress.
Challenges with data is the norm for most companies—and there isn’t an easy solution. From my own experience, it’s hardly a stretch to see that while firms have a positive feeling about data, the reality paints a very different picture.
Vast opportunities are being missed.
Advisor360°: Data as a strategic asset
Why do firms continue to try to solve this enigma? Done right, data provides advisors tremendous value in creating customized, individual experiences for their clients.
We see data as a tremendous value-creation tool for Advisor360° users, including:
Advisor360°’s Unified Data Fabric™: Householding
The heart of the solution is seamless aggregation of data across all types of data, across all sleeves of functionality. This approach ensures data is easily consumable so advisors can provide deep meaningful insight to their clients when it matters most. Advisor360° provides this.
The Advisor360° approach to this data synchronization is our Unified Data Fabric™.
As its name implies, it is the base data foundation upon which our platform is built. Regardless of how the data originates (from the hundreds of external data feeds that we ingest daily, to real-time integrations with third-party partners, or to the data generated by the platform itself), all data in the Advisor360° platform is unified, cleansed, and structured for how our clients need it. Our dedicated group of data operations professionals ensure only the highest quality data makes it into our platform.
This is what most software companies strive for, but rarely achieve.
Householding as a central construct. Fundamentally, Advisor360° and the Unified Data Fabric™ are built around the concept of a household: a “household-centric platform.” Householding refers to a group of accounts connected through a family relationship. It could be a single generation or multi-generational. The investor, his/her spouse, and their kids could be one household. If it’s multi-generational, parents’ accounts could also be included.
The point of householding is to bring a broader perspective into wealth management by looking at this larger entity a more holistic way and from every possible angle, so that goals are achieved, and decisions are made more accurately.
The advantage of our solution is that householding is native within the Advisor360° platform. We don’t treat individual investors separately within the platform and then connect them through a thin veneer. Even in 2020, many firms struggle with this disjointedness. We solved this a long time ago.
Householding supports the natural work behavior of advisors and broker-dealers. Across the industry, most advisor technology is fragmented across the advisory process and involves discrete activities. For example, an advisor may use one system for goal planning, then print out a report or export the data into their asset management system to perform trades, and then another for generating consolidated client statements.
A fragmented model becomes more complicated when dealing with clients as they experience life events, clients that have diverse types of accounts, or with complicated tax situations.
Since most technologies don’t provide a unified solution available that can cleanly aggregate data, advisors spend more time on the technology than with their clients. This isn’t the case with Advisor360°.
Householding in Advisor360° is not built on top of disconnected solutions. It does not attempt to solve the problem by linking together accounts after the fact.
Householding technology as an enabler is ready for scale. It’s not a pipe dream.
The End Game: Deeper Client Relationships
Advisors are responsible for more than just executing trades on behalf of their clients. They help them navigate the complex and complicated world of financial products. They use their knowledge and expertise to construct personalized financial plans that aim to offer customized, goal-based, and holistic advice to drive precise outcomes.
Advisor360°’s platform and the data fabric upon which it is built was first envisioned 20 years ago as a household-centric platform which permeates and crosses all software sleeves. While many firms tout their investments in data, in reality, their efforts are not returning the promise.
Now is the opportunity to spend less time stitching together disparate systems and processes and more time bringing value to the table.
In today’s turbulent time, there is no better way to build long-lasting and meaningful relationships.
Jed Maczuba is Chief Technology Officer at Advisor360°, overseeing global technology to ensure our long-term mission, vision, and objectives align with the technologies of our business partners and clients.