Magazine article The CPA Journal

Best of Breed PFP Technology: Eficiently Delivering Services to Clients

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Best of Breed PFP Technology: Eficiently Delivering Services to Clients

Article excerpt

Great technology can provide opportunities for partners in a personal financial planning (PFP) practice, practice leaders, and their staff to enjoy more freedom around when, where, and how often they work. Implementing the right combination of technology offerings makes it possible to make these changes happen in a relatively short period of time.

Begin with Core Technology

A flexible workplace necessitates appropriate hardware and software, including mobile options. Businesses need several core technological components: a robust laptop computer, a large desktop monitor, and a best-in-class smartphone that can access chosen software applications without having to log onto a computer. A portable, secure mobile hot spot device (for accessing the Internet while working remotely) is also needed.

This author recommends a laptop over a desktop computer. This is because a laptop selves as a mobile main computer that can be plugged into any desktop or portable monitor. A combination of a laptop plus a large desktop monitor creates a very effective dud-screen work environment.

Work in the Cloud

The financial services industry has traditionally utilized software that operates "on premise," meaning it has to be installed and run on an individual computer. This model has many drawbacks, but the three biggest are: 1) the user can only access data by logging onto that computer, 2) the user is responsible for downloading updates from the software provider, and 3) the user lacks access to integration with other industry software that can improve efficiency and workflow.

The solution is to develop a technology plan that enables professionals to work in a cloud computing environment. The cloud environment is online, so users can access all of their data over a secure Internet connection. In addition, software providers take care of any updates and ensure that appropriate security protocols are in place. By working in the cloud, users can choose a customized suite of technologies that integrate together, so the time it takes to complete both back-office and clientfacing tasks is greatly reduced. Firms can also give clients access to special, exclusive software features, such as an interactive client portal where they (and their advisor) can view all of their financial accoimts in one place.

Online Meetings

Part of being able to work anywhere, or with clients outside of the local area, is being able to conduct meetings online with screen-sharing capabilities. Software applications like GoToMeeting or Join.Me make this easy to do. These programs offer the ability to conduct video meetings. In some cases, even clients local to the financial planner's area may opt to meet this way, in order to cut out travel time or be able to meet when each spouse of the household is at a different location.

CRM: A Business Hub

A Client Relationship Manager (CRM) is the first software application that a firm needs for its technology upgrade. A CRM houses all of the importent information about clients in one place. A client record can be called up within seconds, for example, when a staff member needs to quickly answer a question from a dient. A best-in-dass CRM will enable most of a firm's other software solutions to be tied together through its integration capabilities. …

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