CMSF 2017 – A perspective from FinTech Alley

As a participant in the superannuation industry for many years, I was intrigued by the prospect of being an exhibitor rather than a delegate at CMSF 2017. The intrigue was heightened because we were participating in the inaugural FinTech Alley concept. It was also our first ever conference outing as a firm.

Fortunately, we have an awesome team so for me personally, getting to the conference was pretty simple. We were showing off PractiFI for Superannuation for the first time since introducing our new single page application user experience, so it’s fair to say there were a few sleepless nights for members of our technical team in the lead up to the event.

In the days since the conference, quite a few FinTech and RegTech firms have asked me for my view on whether the investment was worth it. Rather than making you read the whole post, let me address that up front – yes, it was definitely worth it.

At the risk of sounding effusively positive and cliched, without attending events like CMSF, we would never reach that breadth of audience with our brand. Yes, marketing of all types is useful and yes, mass marketing probably puts our logo in front of more faces. What other marketing channels can’t do as well as a live event, is engage with the individual making the enquiry. Even social media can’t deliver the same level of engagement, though the Millenials may disagree with me.

PractiFI is a business management and customer engagement platform, and attending CMSF 2017 was an excellent way for us to engage with our potential customers.

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One engagement aspect of the conference that worked well for us was the use of Poken. It’s a neat scanning tool that delivers the exhibitor the details of delegates who ‘tap’ at the stand or ‘shake’ with a member of your team. By engaging with you, they are transferred a copy of your preloaded marketing content – and you can have quite a lot across a broad range of file formats, including video. There are obvious time, cost and environmental benefits to this over old-school paper brochureware.

Delegates are incentivised to maximise Poken activity, so plenty swing by the stand initially for the Poken credits, but stay or come back for a longer chat at a more convenient time in the program. We gathered far more information through this process than expected which was a great surprise when we got back the office.

For us, it was also great to be able to circulate with potential integration partners as well as more established technology firms. Every day is a learning experience and we certainly took away plenty of tips for our next conference outing from the conferencing pros.

FinTech Alley itself was a series of small stands along one edge of the main trade hall. Gathered there were a slightly eclectic mix of firms, each looking to impress upon delegates the merits of their offering. In my time on our stand, I witnessed some of the camaraderie you expect from this group. Warm hand-offs between stands and even the upselling of one another’s benefits as delegates moved along.

There were, of course, the high-budget, large format stands of the major players too. My personal favourite was that of TAL. They managed to deploy masseuses to keep delegates fresh throughout the days and those manning the stand seemed to always be smiling.  

Full points to the Gold Coast Exhibition and Conference Centre staff and AIST organisers for catering. Food was great quality, plentiful and varied throughout. Drinks were generous and the evening sessions provided a great sampling of our company preferred beverage, red wine.

If there is one criticism, I’d say it was a shame not to be able to attend the plenary sessions. Most technology conferences broadcast these to TVs in the trade hall, so perhaps CMSF 2018 will introduce this feature too.

And a final suggestion on behalf of the FinTech Alley crew: perhaps a ten minute open mic session in the trade hall to ply our wares. After all, we love a soapbox.

PractiFI Demo: Merging Local & Cloud Data in PractiFI

Many regulated businesses in financial services face compliance considerations when it comes to taking full advantage of enterprise cloud technology.

Across insurance, retirement and financial advice, many companies have engaged proactively and successfully with regulators and implemented major cloud platforms at scale.

Others opt for a policy of storing personally identifiable customer information inside their firewall, which to date has severely limited their ability to exploit the benefits that enterprise cloud has to offer.

PractiFI’s Pinot Noir release changes all that.

With our new external data feature, you can seamlessly merge data from your internal databases into the PractiFI user experience. Leverage all of the customer engagement power of an industry cloud platform like PractiFI whilst keeping your core customer records within your corporate firewall.

Take a look (go HD and full screen).

Merge or aquire? Why #fintech is critical to achieving scale in financial services

It’s easy to become jaded by too much hype on any topic. But the ubiquitous discussion of “fintech” at the moment is entirely merited. Fintech has reached a tipping point. It’s become a critical component of success in financial services. Whether you’re selling financial products, providing financial advice, managing retirement and investment funds, or offering insurance, fintech has the power to make or break your business.

But it’s not just about beating or losing out to competition. In the volatile and predatory arena of financial services, success is often manifested in M&A transactions. Will you be forced to merge your business with another when the competition gets too hot? Or will you be in the ascendancy, dictating the terms of an acquisition? That distinction boils down to the simple matter of scale, and nothing is more critical to scale than fintech.

Whether you’re selling financial products, providing financial advice, managing retirement and investment funds, or offering insurance, fintech has the power to make or break your business.

Managing initial growth badly can kill a business in its early stages. But as the business grows, the challenges start to come thick and fast. First it’s hard to acquire talent, then you’re faced with motivating and training a team, building a reputation, selling and marketing hard and managing cashflow, all while competing and meeting customer expectations.

David Stephen is founder and CEO of Invest Blue, one of Australia’s premier AMP-affiliated advice practices. David says “as a multi-site business operating in a heavily regulated environment, our clients need us to have streamlined management and advice delivery processes.”

“We believe our clients should not have to pay for legacy systems and legislative obligations”.

David knows that the right technology platform is critical to managing the challenges of scale successfully.

The future winners in financial services have a scalable technology platform that can easily on-board new employees, add additional service offerings, manage rapid customer growth, automate workflows and integrate easily.  If you’re stuck with a complex and expensive upgrade or integration crisis at every turn, the path to growth is just so much harder.

Just last week, AZ Next Generation Advisory acquired Fortnum-aligned Priority Advice Group. PAG Managing Director Larry Fingleson told Financial Standard:

Our board and shareholders have chosen to partner with AZ NGA because we believe that the transaction … ensures that for at least the next 10 years the Priority Advisory Business is supported and secure as we build and develop solutions that are best of breed and enable and support our clients’ goals and aspirations.”

In other words, ‘we accepted this deal because we lack the infrastructure needed to scale ’. PAG was founded in 1987, so there’s a succession narrative here too. But it’s hard not to conclude that like many smaller financial services businesses, PAG’s options were limited by technology systems that don’t scale.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The secret is to invest in an industry cloud platform — and trust me, it’s inevitably cloud —  and worry about point solutions afterwards.

The future winners in financial services have a scalable technology platform that can easily on-board new employees, add additional service offerings, manage rapid customer growth, automate workflows and integrate easily.

Moving your business to an industry cloud platform gives you the flexibility you need to scale. You can make the most of your existing point solutions while you gradually integrate all the applications and services you need to underpin growth and to scale successfully.

An industry cloud platform that’s configurable and extensible means your leadership team can watch the road ahead and not the rear view mirror.

Once established on your platform, you’ll have established your core information architecture and core processes. When M&A opportunities then arise, you’re in a position of natural ascendancy. Your business is attractive because it’s under control and built for scale, positioning you naturally as an acquirer, not a merger.

With the right technology platform, it’s easier to integrate newly acquired businesses. Data can be standardised and consolidated to your format. Processes can be streamlined and aligned to your existing standards. New staff can be absorbed into your team structure.

With the right technology platform, it’s easier to integrate newly acquired businesses.

This is all without ever worrying about server capacity, networking and hardware upgrades — the sort of features that make global cloud platforms such an obvious choice.

This brings me back to our new client, Invest Blue. CEO David Stephen sums it up perfectly: “cloud platform technology affords us a robust foundation to scale our business.”

Learn more about how PractiFI is helping Invest Blue in Financial Observer: http://www.financialobserver.com.au/articles/invest-blue-signs-up-to-practifi-platform

 

Technology is key to ethics and good governance in financial services

When parliament returns today there’ll be plenty of debate about business ethics, especially as it applies to banking and financial services.

The idea of a royal commission into the Australian banking and financial services sector has become a major election issue, with key players on both sides coming out loud and strong.

The Federal Government and the industry say we have a robust financial system overseen by two regulators that survived the GFC – so hands off! The opposition, the union movement and some consumer advocates say we need a royal commission, because financial institutions consistently fail to act in customers’ best interests.

When parliament returns today there’ll be plenty of debate about business ethics, especially as it applies to banking and financial services.

The recent Four Corners story on Comminsure gave a very human face to the latter narrative.

The issue extends well beyond parliament. Recognising that “there are examples of egregious and unacceptable behaviour in some organisations”, Australian Institute of Company Directors CEO (and former Financial Services Council CEO) John Brogden said that directors need to be “creating and nurturing the right culture” and setting the “right tone from the top”.

Brogden called for high level meetings with Treasury. But amongst all the talk of culture, tone and royal commissions, another crucial contributing factor is overlooked: technology.

Meetings, standards and worthy statements of intent are no match for giving your people the tools they need to provide an ethical customer experience.

Take the financial advice sector as an example. Most advisers I know put their customers first and don’t need another lecture on ethics. But too many are wedged between increasing customer expectations and old-school, poorly integrated technology.

There’s still way too much paper, and even where there are half-decent tools, they’re too hard to configure to the business’s real needs. The result? Inefficient processes that force advice teams to find shortcuts. And shortcuts and compliance don’t mix.

So what’s the answer? Invest in technology that empowers advice staff and delivers the transparency needed to create the right business environment.

Plus, old-school advice systems are too hard to integrate. If technology doesn’t show that the customer has, say, insufficient life insurance cover to match their risk profile, the adviser has to work so much harder to ensure their recommendations are in their client’s best interests.

The situation is even worse for management. Their tools for monitoring and supervising advisers are disconnected from the advice process, leaving them running audits and handling complaints well after mistakes are made. They just don’t have the technology to drive ethical financial advice proactively.

So what’s the answer? Invest in technology that empowers advice staff and delivers the transparency needed to create the right business environment.

First, every relevant piece of information needs to be immediately at hand so advisers and management can make the right decisions.

Second, systems need to constrain advisers to be compliant without compromising the flexibility they need to provide personal service and run a great business.

Third, management needs visibility. Compliance managers need ready access to advice-in-progress against the accreditation level of each adviser. They need reporting that indicates how much advice is being written in high-risk areas.

Finally, you need detailed audit tracking embedded into the system, not scribbled on pieces of paper somewhere. And that needs to be married to compliance information from other sources, whether it be client complaints, adviser audit results or remediation activities.

Getting these four dimensions right takes careful thought and some investment. But it’s so much more effective than yet another meeting with Treasury.

 

 

2016: The Year of the Client

2015 was a big year for wealth technology. Advancements in robo advice, greater mainstream social media adoption and even DIY investing changed the way individuals consume advice, as well as the way advisers interact with them. But amongst all the hype and change, one thing remains decidedly unchanged: financial advice is all about meaningful client relationships.

Now that we’re well and truly into 2016, are you afraid of what’s to come, or will you embrace the new year with open arms?

As an adviser, you’re comfortable with the concept of volatility. Markets are always moving, but you know that your strong client relationships are what keeps you in business. It’s the same with technology. Staying true to your clients will help you navigate the constantly evolving digital landscape and make the right decisions.

Remember that wealth technology isn’t a shortcut, it’s a relationship enabler. Focus on your client relationships this year and you’ll weather whatever comes your way.

So before you go looking for the next big threat or opportunity that 2016 presents to your advice business, take a moment to put on your client-centric goggles. Firmly. The rest will fall into place.

Platforms vs Industry Apps: The Future of Superannuation Technology

The superannuation landscape is changing faster than ever before. With increasing member expectations, regulatory intervention and competition, funds need their technology to keep pace.

Superannuation funds are looking beyond simple point solutions and see the potential of broad technology platforms. But a consistent complaint with platforms is that the raw product is just that: raw. The reality can be vastly different to the sales promise and the start of a long and costly journey.

That’s where industry applications come in.

 

 

Upgrading the technology in your wealth business? Ask yourself these 7 questions first

In wealth technology, the race for a unified customer experience is on. Getting ahead of that can give you a serious competitive edge. Getting it wrong? That’ll see you losing time and wasting millions before you’ve made a single customer any happier.

So how do you choose the right technology and make a success of rolling it out?

Before you jump into anything, ask yourself these 7 critical questions.

Is your customer at the heart of your technology?

Your wealth business is all about people. Your customer is at the centre of everything you do, so why shouldn’t they be at the centre of your technology solution? Having access to client information in real time helps you to more effectively service your clients, strengthening your customer relationships and even capturing a greater share of wallet.

Does it run your entire business?

Your business probably runs on a number of point systems that each serve a purpose. What if you could have a core operational hub connected with best of breed apps to deliver an integrated solution to run your whole operation? In addition to improving operational efficiency, great wealth technology should also help you drive growth with 360-degree analytics. Whether it’s reporting on productivity, sales performance or workflow, total visibility over your business is critical.

Is it industry specific?

A solution purpose built for the wealth sector has been shaped for the needs of your business and your customers. This has profound benefits when it comes to implementing and scaling new technology as it can remove unnecessary complexity and save you time and money. Consider the information that you need to capture or access, common tasks and required processes – Your chosen technology should be able to speak your language and do everything you need it to.

Is it highly configurable?

It’s one thing to have a solution built for the wealth industry, but how do you make it a perfect fit for your business? It’s critical that your wealth technology is highly configurable with clicks, not code. (Beware of “customisation”, which typically means someone writing a lot of application code that you then own and need to maintain!) Configurability gives you not just the ability to make your technology work for you now, but allows you to adapt to future needs as well.

Does it provide rapid time to value?

Any software implementation is going to take some time to deliver its full value to your business. However, the time it takes to realise these benefits shouldn’t be excessive. Contemporary, highly configurable wealth technology can be up and running in weeks or even days. And even in complex businesses, you should be aiming for your phase 1 rollout in 3-6 months. Understanding how quickly your technology yields results is crucial to winning over your senior management team early.

Does it balance innovation and robustness?

Truly innovative technologies are more accessible than ever before. However, being in a sensitive and highly regulated industry, wealth businesses need to ensure they make a reliable and reputable choice. Balancing cutting-edge innovation with blue-chip reliability is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Look for solutions that apply creative thinking on proven platforms. These days you can buy innovative apps and user experiences on enterprise-grade infrastructure, giving you the best of both worlds.

Is it scalable?

As the industry grows and your business grows with it, your technology must keep pace. You don’t want to outgrow your technology with every future success, so scalability is paramount. As your operation expands, you will be processing more data, have more users across more location and over many devices. Your chosen technology must be able to handle this without hiccup.

What all this means for you

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, take a moment to consider whether your technology choice is the best one available. You deserve a solution that ticks all the boxes and your future self (and business) will thank you for it.

Dreamforce for Wealth: Day Two

Today we wrap up Day Two at Dreamforce 2015! It’s the big keynote day, plus we’ve had the team out and about meeting PractiFI partners, attending tons of learning sessions and generally making sense of this huge event for the wealth industry.

CEO Glenn Elliott reports today from the APAC lounge on 3rd St, the heart of the Asia-Pacific contingent at Dreamforce.

Stay tuned for our daily updates, or follow on Twitter @PractiFI or @glennelliott72.