Q & A: One Advisor’s Experience with Workflows

Dec 8, 2015

It is a sad truth: advisors like to hear from other advisors more than they like to hear from us. Therefore, whenever we can persuade an advisor to share their experiences, we RKL_Peer00009jump on it. We recently conducted a webinar with Laurie Peer, CFA, CFP®, Vice President of Sterling Financial Advisors, LLC, who shared her experiences with workflow.

We were tight on time during the webinar and unable to answer questions. This post covers some of the questions that came to us online, and includes some additional information provided by SEI’s workflow product manager, Missy Pohlig.

Q: What’s the size of Laurie’s office? We have a smaller office (one admin, one advisor) and are curious if this is an advantage or disadvantage in terms of benefitting from workflows.

Some quick facts about Laurie’s firm:

  • Established in 1999 in Wyomissing, PA
  • Comprehensive wealth management firm, serving 350 clients with $350 million AUM (as of 10/31/15)
  • Eight-person team, including five advisors, primarily serving privately held businesses, with family owned and closely held entities

However, workflows are not just for larger teams like Laurie’s – this is a common misconception. We’ve seen firms of all sizes realize tangible benefits from workflow, even the 1 admin / 1 advisor type firms. In fact, you could argue workflows are even more crucial for firms with smaller teams:

  1. There is risk associated with managing more with fewer resources, such as if/when a team member is unavailable
  2. You have a need to be more efficient with fewer resources for growth purposes

That being said, SEI has seen that there is a threshold for how a big a team needs to be before they start seeing the real value in using workflow. We’ve seen workflow not carry as much value for solo-practitioners, or firms structured with multiple advisors with no support staff. Because they own every aspect of client service process, they end up completing every single step in the workflow. So rather than feeling like the workflow is streamlining the pass-off between parties, they end up feeling like completing each step just slows them down. However, if a solo-advisor really took the time to simplify his or her workflows to fewer steps, you could still reap all the benefits of workflow. It would just take time to overcome this initial learning and customize the workflows so they’re just right.

Q: What were the initial workflows you designed and implemented (i.e. client review, client onboarding, prospective client interviews)?

Because Laurie’s firm was in growth mode, she started first with her sales workflows (for managing prospects), then onboarding workflows (for managing new clients). I would recommend other firms take a similar approach, where you take a look across your business and determine where workflow would make the biggest impact.

To do this, ask yourself these few questions:

  • What phase is our firm in right now?
  • What activities are we most commonly engaging in?
  • What’s our biggest business priority?

In Laurie’s case, her firm was a relatively established firm working on efficiencies, but also growing steadily. So while they were spending a lot of their time servicing existing clients, they decided growth was the biggest business priority at the time. That doesn’t mean they never got to their client management and service request workflows (for managing existing clients); they just prioritized. You cannot implement all workflows at once – decide where you can add the most value, automate that part of your business, then move onto the next set of workflows. Over time, you’ll build your own workflow library and streamline processes across all different aspects of your business.

Q: Where can I find pre-built workflows (like the ones Laurie’s team used)?

Thankfully, because workflow has become such a hot topic in our industry, there has been a drive to bring this solution to advisors. Here’s a list of resources SEI suggest you turn to for workflow support:

  • Your custodian – Might have documented workflows you can download
  • Industry consultants (like ActiFi) – For experts to help you build your own processes
  • Your TAMP (like SEI) – Might have a pre-built workflow library and consulting

Q: How did Laurie know what CRM to choose before getting started with workflow?

Laurie happened to choose Redtail CRM, but every firm should take the appropriate measures to choose the right CRM for their firm. As we discussed during the webinar, CRMs have the ability to be more than just a contact management system – that is, if you approach it properly.

There are two common issues advisors face when approaching their firm’s CRM:

  1. Selection – Advisors rarely take a strategic approach to choosing a CRM based off of business needs. They don’t have a true methodology, other than maybe price and what other advisors are using – which means you could end up on a CRM that doesn’t meet your needs. For example, you buy a CRM that doesn’t have any workflow functionality, when implementing workflows was actually a key goal for your firm.
  2. Implementation – Too often, we see advisors spend all of their time and resources choosing the right CRM, but then spend very little time developing the processes and people behind it. You could have the most expensive and technologically advanced CRM, but if you don’t spend time on the adoption and implementation of the tool within your business, it is nothing more than a contact management system.

Q: Can you provide us with some resources for getting started with workflow?

As a takeaway, we put together this action plan that your team can use to implement workflows. The steps were created based on what we’ve seen work (and not work) with other advisors who have adopted workflow. You can look for more detail in our infographic or case study.
Workflowchart

The hardest part is just getting started. You’re never going to be a workflow expert, if you don’t start somewhere. Take this plan and act on it.

Make workflows your resolution for the 2016!

Workflow case study

SEI recently created a case study that describes Laurie’s experience with workflows. It covers why Sterling felt the need to spend the time implementing workflows, what the benefits are, and what she feels other advisors should know as they start the journey.

Download the case study now.

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Raef Lee

Raef Lee

Raef Lee is the technology contributor for Practically Speaking and also serves as a managing director for the SEI Advisor Network.

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