Five Steps Top Advisors Take When Evaluating New Technology

The following blog post is from an article I recently had published on


One size does not fit all.

In our world of increasing automation, having the right tools can streamline your practice, increase productivity and enhance the services you provide your clients. However, investing in new technology can be a big decision. With so many options, choosing what’s best for your firm can be challenging. Following these five steps when evaluating new technology will ensure your firm has all the information it needs to make the right choice.

Focus on the future

Many firms make the mistake of only considering their current needs, rather than anticipating how their practice may change over the next 5-10 years. Think about where you would like your firm to be 10 years from now and what technology you will need to get there.

When conducting a cost-benefit analysis, evaluate economic and lifestyle impact over at least a three-year period. Many benefits will not be apparent until the solution has been in place for months or even years. In addition to cost savings, financial advisors should also factor in improvements in efficiency. Could this technology free up your time to do more productive things in your practice? Would it eliminate the need for a future hire?

Consider value

The best solution is one that fits your unique needs. While most applications can be customized, those customizations cost time and money. Each added feature should be evaluated based on its ROI and value to your firm. Solutions designed specifically for the financial services industry are often quicker and less costly to deploy because their features are created to be a better fit for any financial firm’s requirements.

Look for a scalable solution that meets your needs today as well as grow as your business grows. A 2017 report from the McKinsey Global Institute found that automating transaction workflows has the potential to increase the scalability of these processes by 80 percent. By automating routine tasks, technology solutions enable financial advisors to be more productive and can help firms better manage their personnel costs.

Ensure integrations

When evaluating new technology, consider its APIs and ability to connect with your existing platforms and any future ones you may need. The average financial advisor wears many hats in addition to their role as client advisor; acting as a business manager, marketer and administrator, among others. Integrating various applications for an advisor will make it easier to juggle these various roles. While the majority of financial advisors purchase technology solutions as a bundle, additional integrations are often beneficial.

Integration is especially critical for compliance software. As requirements become increasingly complex, smaller firms and independent RIAs often struggle to keep up. Experts recommend that advisors use similar technology to monitor their own practices and trading activity.

Financial advisors can also streamline their business processing activities by establishing an integrated forms solution. A good e-processing platform provides a consistent portal for completing paperwork and simplifies the process for onboarding new clients by automating the completion of many forms. Integrating client data across platforms and digitizing signatures can reduce the hassle and frustration of un-indexed paperwork. Look for firms that are developing solutions that deliver a true A-to-Z offering across multiple business lines.

Consider which integrations are most important to your business. Technology should make your life easier and minimize time normally spent on data entry and other tedious tasks so you can spend that time serving your clients and building your business.

Contemplate implementation

While purchasing a solution that can be integrated well into your business model should save you from hassle, it is also important to understand the details of how the product will be deployed and have a proposed timeline for implementation. Ask about the solution’s ease of launch and which features will be readily available when the solution goes live. For more complicated applications, it may make sense to go live with a basic solution and implement customizations in phases.

The solution you choose should be intuitive and user-friendly. If a platform is difficult to apply, your firm may struggle with adoption rates. The provider should conduct user acceptance testing (UAT) with your team before deploying the solution.

Confirm ongoing support

Financial advisors should discuss what support the vendor or provider will offer after implementation. It is important to understand how bug fixes, updates and other issues will be addressed and whether there will be any costs associated with these support services. Top providers will want to ensure their tool continues to meet your needs.

When it comes to technology solutions, one size does not fit all. Taking an analytical approach to the evaluation process will help your firm avoid costly mistakes while adopting technology that makes your advisors more efficient and effective.

Trust Company of America – Exciting Acquisition

Here’s the Skinny…

Last week we learned some good news for both USA Financial Portformulas and USA Financial Exchange – Our custodian, Trust Company of America (TCA), has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by E*TRADE Financial Corporation.

We view this as a positive development as we believe the resources of E*TRADE will allow TCA to invest more in its innovative technology, valuable platform and in the top-notch service. Subject to regulatory approvals, we expect the transaction will close by the end of the second quarter of 2018.

We want to highlight some TCA features that will not change as a result of this transaction:

  • TCA will be run as a standalone entity and the TCA brand will remain unchanged.
  • The TCA leadership team will remain in place and will be able to continue to make decisions that are in the best long-term interests of your clients and your business.
  • TCA will continue to be non-competitive. You should not expect your accounts to be directly contacted by TCA or E*TRADE selling any products or services as a result of the acquisition.
  • TCA statements, tax forms, the client portal will remain the same.
  • TCA’s fee structure will not change.

E*TRADE is committed to ensuring TCA has the people, systems, and technology it needs to solidify its status as an industry leader. Like TCA, E*TRADE is a leader in technology, and both organizations will benefit from its combined technological resources and experience. Over time, TCA will be designated as an E*TRADE company in its branding so you will be able to benefit from E*TRADE’s national brand recognition.

We expect this change to ultimately enhance the benefit and value you already experience in dealing with USA Financial Exchange and/or USA Financial Portformulas as we continue to partner with TCA.  No doubt we will be in touch with more information as second quarter 2018 arrives.

That’s the Skinny,




Mike Walters, CEO