Financial Advisor Marketing & Technology

Marketing & Technology For Independent Financial Advisors

Flower

Looking Back On 2008

2008 was not a good year for a lot people. For Advisor Products, however, it was a great year.

While the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 32% and the Dow Jones Industrials fell 37%, Advisor Products showed double digit sales growth. Moreover, we streamlined processes and dramatically improved our client service. I hope you can learn about how to improve your business by looking back at our key accomplishments in 2008.

Customer Service. Gone are the days when clients complained about not receiving calls back or when deadlines were not met by our staff. We now assign a project manager to every client's project. One person owns every job. Clients know who to call when they have a question and our staff is more accountable.

New Hires. We lost several staffers in 2008 and replaced them by making great hires—David Lucs, a project manager, Brien Shanahan, a content manager, Steve Schopp, an HTML expert and project manager, and Jim Voss, our operations manager.

Manual. A lawyer rewrote our company manual, setting clear rules for everyone who works at Advisor Products. By re-distributing the manual and getting everyone to sign a form saying they have received it, it makes it easier to enforce rules about attendance, vacation, and lateness.

Outsourcing Email Support. We hosted hundreds of email accounts. But this was not core to our business, contributed almost nothing to our revenue, and support questions were overwhelming our staff. So we partnered with a company that specializes in email hosting. Email service is now faster and more reliable, and support is better and available 24/7.

Integration. Our website platform is now integrated with a long list of applications used by advisors. We now have interfaces with 11 applications used by advisors and plan to launch interfaces three others in 1Q09.

Performance Reporting

CRM Financial Planning Account Aggregation Form Filling
Advent Axys* Redtail FinanceLogix Advisor Exchange LaserApp
Albridge Solutions XLR8 MoneyGuide Pro ByAllAccounts*
AssetBook EZ Data SmartOffice*
Black Diamond Reporting
Orion Advisor Services
Schwab PortfolIoCenter
*Launch planned for 1Q09.

Technology Project Manager. We engaged a consultant who is a certified PMP (Project Management Professional) and expert in managing technology development projects. We met weekly with him to get organized.

Content. Since our financial planning coverage is a key differentiator that separates us from our competitors, we invested more in it. In 2008, we more than doubled the number of stories we wrote in 2007.

Customer Tracking. We invested heavily in our proprietary web-based CRM system. Key staff met weekly for months to plan changes to the system. The sessions culminated in developing new features that will go live in the next few weeks. All emails to and from our clients will automatically be saved in the client’s folder. So will recording of all phone calls.

AdvisorVault 2.0. Our vault system, perhaps the most advanced online document vault ever offered to advisors, was rolled out and received rave reviews from advisors. On a .NET platform and using Microsoft SharePoint, the vault allows clients as well as advisors to upload documents to the vault and offers high security and redundancy.

Performance Reporting. We developed a system that is integrated into the vault that allows advisors to distribute dynamic HTML as well as PDF performance reports online. The PortfolioCenter version went live two months ago and the Advent Axys reports go live in a few weeks.

Custodian Deal. Schwab Institutional announced it would close down its Advisor WebCenter business and began recommending Advisor Products as a vendor for websites. Many Schwab advisors are switching to our website platform.

Manager Meetings. The four key managers in the company began weekly meetings every Monday morning to talk about our goals, and we instituted a brief follow-up meeting every Thursday afternoon to ensure we were on track toward accomplishing what we said we would.

Client Portals. Our client portal platform, an innovative way for advisors to use the web to strengthen client relationships, was finally launched early last year. About 20 advisory firms are now using the system. We expect the platform to move from early adopters to mainstream advisors in coming months as relationships based on financial planning advice, rather than transactions, become more important.

To my staff at Advisor Products as well as our clients, I am thankful for the support and kindness you showed me in 2008, and you have my best wishes for a healthy and happy 2009.

3 Responses to “Looking Back On 2008”

  1. January 2nd, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Bill Winterberg says:

    Andy,

    Congratulations on the successes in 2008. Advisor Products has really made great advances in technology and integration, and I look forward to your new rollouts in 2009!

  2. January 2nd, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Jim Voss says:

    I’m very excited to have come on board. I look forward to a great year in 2009 where we’ll further improve in customer service and efficiency, and add even more compelling technology for independent financial advisors.

  3. January 5th, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Brien Shanahan says:

    I agree. In the past year we’ve made so much progress in office efficiency and client service. And now that we’ve streamlined our processes and can respond more efficiently to clients, we are freeing up our time to pursue new technology projects and increase our content offerings.
    I definitely feel that I am part of a forward-thinking and talented team that will accomplish great things in 2009 and beyond.

Leave a Reply