TL;DR – Just having digital records, isn’t enough to make your data useful. Establishing a single source of truth is essential to your business momentum.
Printing and Paper
It wasn’t all that long ago that we lived in a much simpler world. In fact, when I started my career, I was working with a firm out of St Louis who was installing their first real piece of technology. Before I showed up, the founder of the firm, who was in his late 60s at the time, would have his assistant print out every client statement, every day. He had a binder on his desk that he would thumb through and look at the physical record. He’d review the binder and then make recommendations to his team to reach out, make trades or take other actions. All of the information was on paper and in his mind. All of the actions were based on his personal insight.
I’d never experienced anything like that firsthand before. When he walked me through his process, he wanted to demonstrate to me that this was what he wanted in a digital experience. He wanted to see his system of record all in one spot.
I can’t blame him. Right now, a lot of financial services companies have the equivalent of many different binders, some folders, scraps of paper and people’s brains. These separate data containers, even when they’re digital, are often no better than printed paper if they aren’t properly integrated.
Digital Doesn’t Mean Useful
Just moving from paper to a digital desktop isn’t enough to provide a straightforward, transcendent through time, system of record. Having digital data doesn’t free you to be able to swap out the technology you use over time. That process remains really painful and hard to manage. Version control and the inexistence of a single source of truth keep technology choices painful.
Data warehousing and API creation affords you the opportunity to more efficiently move between applications, complement your existing systems with your own proprietary technology and accurately look into your business behaviors. Chasing after the single source of truth is no small task, but that simple record will change how you run your business forever.
Gut Feelings vs Data Backed Knowledge
Most CEOs of wealth management firms struggle to be able to manage all of their data in an efficient way. If you’re playing a game of telephone with your team to help you make critical decisions without having the proper system of record – no matter where it is stored, you are really just guessing. Sometimes you might guess right but, when you miss the bigger insight and make the wrong decision, the repercussions of that moment can lead not just to a loss of revenue, but a loss of real momentum.
An official system record of your business, that guides you forward, that helps you understand all the nuances of your clients, your team, your advisors, your most profitable or least profitable actions inside your business will help you continually iterate and change in a way that doesn’t disrupt your business. An official system of record enhances not just your operational decisions but your firm’s valuation too.
Move Toward Better
If you are ready to become data driven, you have to create a central version of the truth. I’m pretty sure that the giant binder CEO is retired now. Hopefully printing out reams of paper every day has been retired too, but beyond that, I hope wealth management is moving toward being able to see all the data we need to make better and better decisions for our clients and our businesses.