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From Adviser Guide: Back Office Systems

Q: How important is an all-in-one system?

It can be extremely valuable but there needs to be some important tinkering if advisers want to avoid compromising quality.

By Oliver Haill | Published Sep 13, 2012 | comments

Installing an all-encompassing back office system can be incredibly useful for advisory firms, providing a single point of contact for all operational aspects of the business, integrating with other tools and giving a single view of all aspects of the business, including client management.

Nobody said it was going to be easy, however. There are limitations to this ideal standard, cautions Steve Billingham, owner and director of Steve Billingham Consulting.

“One of the biggest frustrations for IFA businesses is the need to double handle data due to ‘multi-system chaos’.

“Whilst there are tremendous ‘all in one’ solutions out there, such as Marketo, Infusionsoft and Hubspot, these are not designed specifically for an advisory business. They can be adapted but there’s a lot of work - and therefore cost - in getting there.”

Sue Nutall, owner and lead consultant at Jacana, says this work is not so arduous if you know what you’re after.

“Most of those on the market have some good points and also some not so good points.

“When looking to install a database for the first time, or if you are considering switching, you need to draw up your wish list. You should then match the list to the different products available and see which provides the most ticks.

“It is important that a system is flexible enough to fit your processes and procedures and has the ability to integrate with functionality it doesn’t itself provide.”

Many firms manage large parts of their business through one back-office system but rely on other tools, such as Microsoft Outlook, for management of activity and communications, complains Richard Stanton, sales manager at Time4Advice.

“[A back-office system should] provide a single point of contact for all operational aspects of the business, integrating with other tools such as Outlook, or document management systems where they add significant functionality and value, but giving a single view of all aspects of the business, including client management.

“Furthermore, where relevant, a back office should provide integration with the ability to record the output of best-of-breed third party tools to address the other aspects of a firm’s activity, such as financial planning.

“This allows a business to select the tools appropriate for their specific areas of business, client needs and preferences, without having to compromise on the selection of their business management systems.”

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