Thriving on Tech: An Interview with Advisors Mike Ptaszenski, CFP® and Steve Erfle, CFP®

At “Practically Speaking,®” we’ve been writing a lot about incorporating technology into advisory practices. Hopefully, you have seen the interview by Raef Lee with Bill Winterberg from FPPad.com on Building Technology into the Trust Equation, and even had time to download our newest whitepaper, Finding Your Inner Techno-Advisor.

MikeSteve-500x300Today, we are going to do something different. Instead of sharing our thoughts and experiences around advisor technology, I interviewed two advisors who are walking the walk. Mike Ptaszenski, CFP® and Steve Erfle, CFP® are the co-founders of Thrive Wealth Management in Audubon, PA. Over the last week, I sent a series of questions to Mike and Steve, asking them about their experiences. The Q&A is below. I hope you enjoy.

JDA: How do you incorporate technology to communicate with/service your clients?
Technology is everything. We often talk about how lucky we are to be growing a practice at a time when there is a proliferation of technology and tools available to manage and enhance the client experience (especially related to communication). The trick is not getting overwhelmed or distracted by everything that’s available.

From the onset of a new prospect or client relationship, we use Citrix® ShareFile to gather the information needed to build a plan. We introduce this as a “family vault,” and the folder is organized by financial planning discipline (investments, insurance, estate, income tax, retirement), as well as other areas of interest, such as budgets, mortgage statements, social security, etc. The vault is used to manage communication with clients on an ongoing basis, too. It’s a great way to securely share sensitive information and store important data.

Our preferred planning software is MoneyGuideProTM. We use it to co-build plans with our clients. This approach strengthens the communication between our clients and us, but perhaps more importantly, between the clients themselves. It also increases the level of engagement and gets clients excited about coming in to find out, “How are we doing?” and “Are we on the right path?” While investments are important, we find this approach puts the focus back on planning, which we would argue is the most important.

JDA: You two left an established firm to start Thrive Wealth Management. What differences did you see in client reaction from the old firm to your new one?
Outside of a few family and friend accounts, we brought very few clients from our previous firm (due to non-competes). However, in the 23 months we’ve been in business, our AUM is approaching $85 million and we attribute much of that success to our messaging and the client experience.

As planners, we want to do more than just manage our client’s money. We are serious about planning and want to offer REAL advice that creates value for our clients. We think a lot of the bigger firms are more interested in creating value for themselves (or shareholders/investors), often at the expense of the client. For us, it’s as simple as, “if we do right by our clients, we will do well ourselves.” This philosophy has struck a chord with many folks and it serves as a beacon as we continue to grow the firm.

JDA: What is your go-to technology (platform, app, software or device)?
We have a few pieces of “go-to technology” that serve as the backbone of our firm. They are all integrated to some degree and enhance not only the business operations, but also the client experience.

The technology includes:
Redtail as our CRM. This is the core of our technology platform; without it, our business would be chaotic. All of the other technology we use integrates directly with Redtail
• ShareFile as our client vault
• MoneyGuidePro for planning
SEI Wealth PlatformSM for custody and portfolio management

JDA: What types of services/technology are you looking at for future use?
While we understand the importance of building processes, the true key is to document them. This is a major component of building enterprise value. To help us continue down this path of building a scalable business model that holds true to our founding principles, we started utilizing workflows that are built into the CRM. Workflow is a major enhancement to what we have already been doing, and it allows us to ensure the integrity of our processes as we add more team members and clients.

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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