Tackling the pernicious challenge of convincing teams and companies to adopt new technologies, CTOs in a roundtable held in 2022 WealthManagement.com The Industry Awards recommend finding “forward-thinking” advisors to evangelize change.
Panelists also highlighted how their roles involved marketing and selling newly adopted technologies within their companies. Tuppy Russo, head of private wealth infrastructure at AllianceBernstein, said up to half of her workload is focused on marketing and communicating value to team members. Alyssa Phillips, COO of HCR Wealth Management, highlighted the benefits of finding technology advocates in your company’s advisor pool.
“How do you organize your message to certain groups of people so that you can integrate them? Because you have to have some level of organic excitement around new technology,” Phillips said. “Finding the first users who are going to jump in and get going is extremely important.”
The discussion, held at the InterContinental Hotel in New York last week and moderated by Nexus Strategy President Tim Welsh, touched on a variety of hot topics in space, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and technological integration difficulties.
Discussing technology budget allocations, Greg Gates, managing director and chief technology and information officer at LPL, said the company has made “significant investments” in its underlying data capabilities, including reducing the paper, creating better workflows and strengthening portfolio accounting.
Phillips said HCR had been looking for ways to bring the systems together, including combining its portfolio management and trading/rebalancing software, which were separate when Phillips first arrived. Meanwhile, Russo said she sees the need for more efficient management of private alts and said she wants the company to incorporate it into its standard service model.
“We’ve all had stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual fund vehicles that are quite mature in how they operate,” she said. “The private alts space is a newer area, and there’s a lot of different manual processing, and there’s a lot of different ways we need to extract the data to provide customers with a holistic view.”
For Phillips, the addition of gamification and concurrency boosted HCR’s low-tech adoption rate by 12.5% upon arrival. Phillips said she knew that adopting technology solutions for administrative and customer services would be considered extra work. So she started with advisors, illustrating the value of the new tools and how they would generate more business (and by extension, higher commissions).
Next, Phillips attached points to the amount of activity per team member in the CRM system, which generated a buzz around the office that caught the attention of customer services and operations staff, who began to ask Phillips for help. In total, the process took the team to 100% adoption in 18 months, according to Phillips, with the only expense being a price of an Amazon gift card of $25 per quarter.
“That, and bragging rights,” she joked. “Obviously those who are priceless.”
When preparing for cybersecurity threats, CTOs had all improved their own sophistication (and resource allocations) to deal with increasingly sophisticated threats.
“We have to go out front. We not only have to know the types of threats, but make sure our team is aware and make sure they’re constantly trained,” Phillips said. “It’s always changing, and it’s not just ‘I’m stuck in another country, send me money’ anymore.”
For Gates, cyber protections had to go further and do more than before. Where before a traditional company was usually responsible for protecting the home office, LPL now had to work with everything related to the business of the company, offering “essentially free consulting services” for third-party providers, as well as independent advisors and their practices.
The company also saw an opportunity to offer high-end services at a low price, as LPL offers the advantage of scale that some smaller companies using its platform cannot, according to Gates.
“From a safe space, we find ourselves expanding into the ecosystem more than we did before,” he said.