Key Takeaways from TradePMR’s Panel at the T3 Advisor Conference
The RIA technology landscape is evolving rapidly - it seems like there are new platforms popping up daily to support nearly every aspect of an RIA’s operations.
With no shortage of choices, how can RIAs determine which providers are going to offer the most value for their unique business? What characteristics should these advisors prioritize when evaluating prospective providers?
A recent report from RingCentral noted that the average person spends about 43 days of their life on hold. Additionally, when asked how customer service could be improved, 40 percent of consumers responded that they’d like for companies to “take care of my needs more quickly.”1
For anyone who has experienced the pain of the 45-minute hold queue, these numbers may not be a surprise.
It seems that technology providers across the board have prioritized automation in lieu of strong service. This is a factor RIAs should keep top-of-mind when looking for a new provider. RIAs don’t have time to waste waiting on hold all day – they should make sure they are finding providers that deliver a balance of technology and service for their firm.
So, what does that balance of service and technology look like?
Weighing the cost-benefit analysis of service and technology is time-consuming and cumbersome. Luckily, TradePMR hosted a panel at this year’s T3 Conference focusing on the intersections of technology and service. The panel featured two Fusion users - Marc Horner of Fairhaven Wealth Management and David Hohimer of Hohimer Wealth Management - as well as industry veteran John O’Connell of The Oasis Group. The panel was moderated by TradePMR’s Chief Operating Officer, Scott Victoria.
The group shared insights into service and technology and how RIAs can work to ensure their vendors will provide the support they need to grow their businesses. The panel covered a lot of ground, including three main tips for RIAs:
1. Evaluate a Provider’s Approach to Service During the Sales Process
Salespeople aim to provide the rosy-colored glass version of an offering. They will promise everything under the sun – but their portrayal rarely matches reality. The panel posed the question: when meeting with a prospective RIA custodial service provider, who joins the meetings from the provider’s team?
The first meetings probably start with just a salesperson. But after those initial conversations, when it’s time to start diving into the offering in more detail, who can answer the tough questions about service?
Marc Horner commented, “When somebody shows you who they are, believe them. TradePMR was the only firm that didn’t only bring a sales team to our meetings. We immediately got exposed to the people we would be interacting with on the front end and who we would live with throughout the engagement. We had to make a gut decision about who we believed would do what they said they would do.”
The panel pointed out that, regardless of the provider, RIAs will get quick responses when asking questions during the sales process. But what about once the firm signs on with the provider? How quickly can they expect updates from the service team working with their RIA day-in and day-out?
One way the panel recommended RIAs can get a better feel for a provider’s approach to service is by sending the provider’s support team an unprompted email to see how long it takes to respond.
On this point, John O’Connell noted, “In that honeymoon period of the sales cycle, you’d imagine them to get back to you right away. If they don’t, you have to consider, ‘if this is happening to me when I’m a prospect, what’s going to happen when I’m a client?’”
If RIAs are waiting days or weeks for a response to a quick email during the sales process, that could spell trouble for when they sign on with the provider.
2. Ask Referrals the Tough Questions
If a prospective technology provider shares referrals during the evaluation process, the panel recommended that RIAs take the time to connect with those referrals.
RIAs may be inclined to skip these conversations. After all, the provider will likely choose referrals that are big fans of their offering. So, how can RIAs get past the simple questions, “Do you like the provider?”
The group recommended that advisors ask more probing questions to dive in deeper. John O’Connell suggested that RIAs “ask referrals, ‘Hey, it’s technology, something is going to go sideways. Tell me about a time it went sideways and what they did for you?’”
RIAs can consider asking these referrals: "how quickly does the provider respond when you have a question?” Or, “when an issue arises, how long does it take to get someone on the phone who can help?”
Regardless of the provider, RIAs will encounter issues over the years. Finding the right provider can mean finding the provider that is there to help when things go wrong.
3. Know Your Needs Before You Buy
When launching an RIA or switching custodial service providers, advisors may be tempted to simultaneously add a whole slate of new technology platforms to support every aspect of their business.
This is precisely what David Hohimer’s firm did when they signed on with TradePMR. His firm tried to build out its whole tech stack immediately, rather than waiting to see what holes his firm truly needed to fill.
In reflecting on his firm’s experience, Hohimer noted, “We started buying every kind of tech stack out there, thinking it’s going to help us. Over the three-year history of the firm, we’ve started scaling back that tech… What’s wonderful about TradePMR is the tech stack initially really allows RIAs to jump off and do the job. My inexperience was not knowing that was a good foundation that we could add to over time.”
The panel recommended that advisors take the time to fully explore their new custodial service provider’s offerings and evaluate how those offerings fit into their business. RIAs may be surprised to find that those flashy technologies they considered adding may not be necessary at this stage in their business and could add an excess expense to their growing RIA.
Beyond evaluating existing technologies, spending time with the new provider before signing other tech contracts will allow an RIA to understand the provider’s product roadmap. The solutions the RIA is looking for could be right around the corner with their provider at no additional cost.
Those conversations with the provider’s team are also great for discussing the solutions an RIA may be missing. Some providers like TradePMR take this feedback from advisors and incorporate it into their product development. TradePMR looks to offer everything RIAs need within one consolidated platform by leveraging insights from real RIAs.
So, where do service and technology meet?
Based on the feedback from this panel, it seems like technology without service can create significant issues for a growing RIA. Finding an RIA custodial service provider like TradePMR committed to providing white-glove service behind advanced technology can be a key for these firms.
Outside this panel, the T3 Conference is also where host Joel Bruckenstein, president of Technology Tools for Today (T3), alongside Bob Veres, creator of Inside Information, releases the annual T3/Inside Information Advisor Software Survey. The 2022 report surveyed 4,495 financial advisors and listed TradePMR’s Fusion platform as the top-rated Custodial Platform and Online Portfolio Management tool by advisor satisfaction. This marked the third time in four years that TradePMR achieved the top rating among Custodial Platforms.2
If you’d be interested in learning more about TradePMR’s top-rated approach and how our talented support team could benefit your business, we should talk.
Marc Horner of Fairhaven Wealth Management, David Hohimer of Hohimer Wealth Management, John O’Connell of The Oasis Group and Joel Bruckenstein of T3 are not affiliated with TradePMR. Securities are offered through Trade-PMR, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC
1 How Long Hold Times Affect Your Customers’ Experience (And Your Bottom Line), RingCentral, 2021.
2 T3/Inside Information Survey, Joel Bruckenstein and Bob Veres, May 2022, sponsored by AssetBook, Holistiplan, Advyzon, Addepar, and Fidelity Investments, T3/Inside Information Advisor Software Survey, Joel Bruckenstein and Bob Veres, March 2021, sponsored by Salesforce, and 2019 Software Survey, Joel Bruckenstein and Bob Veres, January 2019, sponsored by Orion Advisor Services and Morningstar, Inc.