By Mark Davidson, Consulting Director at Jigsaw Tree
As the saying goes, if I had a pound for every time I heard…..well in my case it would be “I want all these different technologies to talk to each other and to enter data just once”
This is the holy grail of the adviser technology world. A worthy aspiration but unfortunately for the majority it remains incredibly difficult to achieve. When you work with multiple suppliers, with different agendas and competing priorities, it is inevitable that not all will collaborate and therefore deliver you the utopia model. So if the ultimate goal is beyond your reach for now, should you just give up or is it still worth exploring what you can achieve?
There are good examples of systems that talk to each other or integrate to use the preferred industry term. It is even possible for data to flow both ways. As solutions grow their functionality this may provide an opportunity to rationalise the number of applications involved. It might be a question of compromising in certain areas but the reward could be valuable operating efficiencies.
I like to take a straightforward approach here to help firms work through this challenge by creating a visual representation of their model. It starts by drawing a horizontal line through a piece of paper. I record the technologies below the line that support the adviser business in the delivery of its service proposition and then above the line, systems and services that deliver data to the end client either online or offline. For many firms this in itself can be a revelation.Seeing it mapped out for the first time in a visual fashion can elicit the response, in modern parlance “OMG” swiftly followed by “I never knew we had that many systems.”
Having got over the shock, we then start to look for the data aggregators. Which tool is going to pull together a single client view below the line and does have the potential to support the needs of the end investors above the line. Delivering aggregated data to clients is a challenge for adviser businesses and one which will take on increasing significance, as a newer generation of clients come through.
Once aggregators are established we can then follow the data. This becomes an exercise to establish key pieces of data, where they are introduced into the picture and once into the mix, to what extent they flow through the component parts. It is at this stage we start to reveal the challenges and typically establish the same data resides in multiple solutions and information is re-keyed on a recurring basis. From there my role is to analyse the model and knowing what I know about the business, start to look for some quick wins.
The Jigsaw Tree understanding of the market, ideally positions us to undertake this piece of work. On some occasions it can lead to re-evaluation of current solutions, other times it is simply a question offine-tuning and making sure the firm is maximizing the potential opportunities for integration.
It starts from humble beginnings with one line on a piece paper but it is a powerful exercise that can deliver tangible benefits.
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