Next-Level Tech: A Conversation with SEI's Shauna Mace
This February, the Hubly blog is all about falling in love — with your tech stack. And who better to talk about this than Shauna Mace, head of practice management and managing director at SEI — a leading provider of technology and investment solutions for the financial services industry?
We recently asked Shauna her thoughts on how to set up a modern wealth management tech stack; where most firms struggle with adoption; and what the future might look like for the advisortech space. Read on to see what she said!
Walk us through your process of matching an advisor with the right software for them.
First, we begin by understanding their business and technology needs — their service model, their ideal client, and their team’s experience and resources. Then we get to know their current tech stack, and identify what’s working and what’s not.
Stephanie Reilly, a techops business consultant on our team, created a Scale with Tech Toolkit to help advisors and their teams gain capacity with technology. The toolkit includes the Tech Selection Builder, which guides an advisor through factors such as features and functionality, stakeholder input and feedback, integrations, and budget, so they can make informed decisions about what to adopt.
The second approach we use is to lean into the power of community. We know advisors highly value advice and best practices from their peers. We often connect firms or facilitate conversations in one of SEI’s community groups (RIA, Growth, Operations and Women’s) to provide a relevant perspective.
What different factors affect your recommendations?
Usability, cost, support and a team’s resources all affect our recommendations. Setup and adoption can be the most challenging aspect of successfully utilizing a new technology, so it’s critical that teams have the internal buy-in and resources needed to implement successfully. Without the internal resources and support to implement it, even the best software is not worth the investment.
What are some of the most common hurdles to adoption advisors/firms see when implementing new tech?
Ownership and a plan. Having someone who owns the buildout, implementation and ongoing management of the technology will help set it up for success. Having a clear plan, with deadlines around each of these stages, will improve accountability and set expectations for how and when the team should be integrating the new technology into their workflows.
New technology will likely disrupt existing processes, which makes it important for leadership to get team buy-in prior to making any changes. Communicating the value of the new technology to the business and clients can help. We also recommend that leadership set a good example by adopting the technologies themselves, while also holding users accountable to set adoption standards/metrics.
What would you recommend to a firm that is struggling with an ill-fitting tech stack?
Great question! First, determine what’s causing the issues. Is it poor adoption or inconsistent usage? Lack of connectivity between your technologies? Do you not have the right tech tools?
If the issue is people-focused, then it may be time to do some training and define your processes. If you are lacking connectivity, focus on how to better integrate your technology. You may start by asking vendors who they integrate with, and if they can help you improve connectivity and communication with your other technology.
If you don’t have the right technologies or there are gaps, start by understanding if you are using what you have to its fullest capabilities. Where you identify gaps, look to solve them by adding relevant technology.
However, many times we find that firms are leveraging the right technologies, but not utilizing them to their full extent. At SEI, for example, we have an end-to-end technology platform that supports many aspects of an advisory business — yet many of our clients are unaware of all of the capabilities they have access to.
With the industry landscape ever-evolving, we challenge firms to stay on top of what features are being released with their current tech providers. Do you know where recent enhancements are disclosed? Is someone on your team responsible for touching base with your tech providers for updates annually?
In your experience, what’s one piece of tech that advisors typically don’t realize they need, but will transform the way they work?
Their CRM! Most firms use a CRM, but many are not fully leveraging it. As a result, they’re missing out on features that can truly save them time and effort. Using a CRM as just a rolodex is like just eating the crusts off of bread!
What’s more, when it’s integrated with the rest of your software, your CRM is critical to a strong tech stack. Our CRM Integration Diagram provides a framework to holistically determine if you are missing opportunities to gain efficiency. Are you fully leveraging the integrations available to you? Are your data feeds set up correctly? Many gaps can be easily uncovered by seeing where your tech tools are (and aren’t) ‘talking’ to one another.
What are some of the more exciting changes you see coming to the advisortech space in the near future?
There are many exciting solutions coming out of the advisortech space right now! Artificial intelligence (AI), optical character recognition (OCR) and analysis, enhanced digital collaboration through the use of real-time surveying, virtual meeting technology, and more.
Stephanie Reilly is our in-house techops expert, so I asked her what she’s most excited about. She shared that she has been very impressed with new advisor tools that can automate common manual processes, such as meeting notes, to add value to clients and the advisor.
Anything else you want to add?
Technology and operations are so interconnected that they are almost synonymous. In our experience working with firms that are looking to scale with technology, we find that adding solutions for the sake of adding them doesn’t always produce the desired result.
As a best practice, we guide firms to optimize their operations, processes and workflows before adding new tech. The magic happens when technology supports and enables your digital and human operations to truly enhance the client experience in the right ways.