Small insurance and financial
planning service practices often
struggle when making technology
decisions. Exclusive and independent
producers would rather focus on
client relationships than spend time
contemplating hardware, software
and communication needs. Spending
time on technology implementation
and utilization can appear counterintuitive
to agents. Satisfying client
needs is a source of emotional enjoyment
and financial fulfillment, while
the word "technology" can invoke an
image of pouring hard-earned dollars
out the door.
Making the wrong technology decisions
can be expensive and confusing.
Purchasing new computers too frequently,
adopting the wrong software systems
or even upgrading to the latest and
greatest gadget can cause disruption. But
planning, monitoring and implementing
technology decisions can increase office
effectiveness and efficiency.
Financial advisors and other investment
professionals are surrounded by
software and hardware.
Phones, computers, data storage, client
tracking, and projection tools and
presentation programs have become
integral tools for the financial service
Technology plans address both the
software and hardware needs of a
financial advisor's practice. This article
focuses on developing a written plan to
help monitor and develop technology
for the small business financial service
Developing a Technology Plan
Writing a technology plan is a simple
process. The plan outlines who makes
decisions, frequency of decision making,
couldbe a one-page executive overview or
manage time, budget resources
and stay abreast of industry changes in a
plan does not require consultants or
is to answer the following questions:
Who will make
In family offices and small
businesses, the key decisionmakers
are generally also the primary
client contacts. These individuals have
time constraints, work in ways that suit
their personalities and may be unaware
of new technological advances. Consider
working in a committee setting
with other members of the practice.
Administrative team members can add
their knowledge to decisions.
Attending regional and national
conventions is a convenient way to
learn about new software. Financial
planning software vendors are always
interested in talking with successful
advisors. Consider assigning an individual
or small group to the technology
exhibits at a convention. For the
relatively small cost of conference
attendance, they can quickly become
familiar with a wide range of software,
hardware and technology options.
Network with other successful
advisors and ask what tools they are
using in their practices. Invite them
to attend technology committee
meetings in your firm or develop a
committee with one or two homeoffice
employees. They can help guide
decisions with an eye to compliance.
How often will decisions
about technology be made?
should generally be made either annually
or on a six-month basis. Initially,
meetings may be held more frequently
to discuss integration and training
of essential employees. After putting
a system in place, meeting more
frequently can create a culture of
adoption and adaptation. Installing
new systems and programs is time
consuming and distracts financial advisors from
more profitable and efficient tasks. Dedicate time
to technology meetings and try to keep client and
product discussions outside of the conference room.
How much will be spent
A well-constructed technology plan
can save money as well as increase efficiency.
Budget a percentage of revenue toward spending.
The amount is generally a function of home-office
support. Truly independent agents will spend a
larger portion of their revenue on technology and
should consider spending needs when developing
their budgets. Limiting the amount spent annually
on technology makes some decisions easier. If the
technology budget is exhausted by the end of the
year, new computers will have to wait.
Are new technologies in
Consider compliance issues with every
decision. Advances in hardware and software
occur well before state and federal recordkeeping
and regulation requirements come into existence.
The ability to scan and electronically store client
information has existed for more than a decade
but has only recently been addressed in legislation.
Talk with home-office compliance teams before
making changes in software, hardware or communications
systems. Generally speaking, e-mail
and text messages should be used only to schedule
appointments and are not appropriate forums for
formal or informal client communications.
How will new tools affect clients?
Evaluate the impact of technology changes
and acquisitions on clients. A technology
plan should keep in stride with other firm goals.
For example, producers wanting to spend more
time away from the office might benefit from
a sophisticated personal communication device
that houses client contact information and
integrates with contact management software.
Agents who spend most of their time in the office
may not want to carry a cell phone at all.
Financial professionals growing their businesses
should make technology decisions
with the possibility of adding future clients in
mind, while advisors maximizing efficiency
may focus on time-saving strategies. Remember
that most clients initially resist change. When
implementing a change, consider its effect on
Will the change help them understand your
products and services better? Will it save time and
energy? Carefully weigh any potential difficulty for
the client against the increase in productivity for
How will the firm implement
changes and new acquisitions?
Determine who is responsible for the
installation of new software and training employees
on its use. Vendors will generally assist in
product installation but may be a poor choice for
training. Home office teams are generally available
to provide systems support. Hiring a private
consultant may be an effective way to install
hardware and software systems and prevent
Conclusion and Discussion
The hardware and software universe has
many options, and spending time to consider
new things will generally pay off in the end by
increasing efficiency. Consider the impact of new
technology on your firm and clients. If changes
save the client time and money, they will generally
save agents time and energy as well.
Written technology plans are powerful tools.
Spending two or three hours sketching out a
document and plan of attack today can save a
small business hundreds of hours and thousands
of dollars tomorrow.