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Talking Tech with Graham Cross

Integrations and a central point of truth drove Graham Cross’ decision-making on back office systems

Helm Godfrey is in the throes of launching a new back office system built with Time4Advice’s CURO system. I spoke with Graham Cross, CEO of Helm Godfrey about their tech set up and factors that led them to choose the tools they did. At the heart of it is a desire for an integrated tech stack. Graham told me that Helm Godfrey chose to work with firms that are prepared to integrate with other solutions, adding that integrations was “one of the reasons we went to Time4Advice.”

Helm Godfrey’s tech stack also includes a client portal from Advicefront and risk profiling from PortfolioMetrix. Helm Godfrey runs their own discretionary managed model portfolios in part powered by PortfolioMetrix primarily on the Praemium platform.

On Advicefront, Graham says the client portal “has been hugely helpful in lockdown.” It has allowed them communicate securely with clients, capture electronic signatures, and conduct electronic fact finds.

Advicefront has also developed tech to send clients DFM mandates: “The client signs it digitally and across each document there is a flash across the top which confirms details of the electronic signature. The IP address, the email address, the time and the browser that the client is using are all captured. That then enables us to automatically load it into the PortfolioMetrix solution which is a seamless approach to actually approve the mandate that the client’s investment solution is being managed in accordance with.”

The integration between Time4Advice and Advicefront mean that this will all be captured in the back office system. But it’s not just a two-way integration – these tools also integrate with the PortfolioMetrix risk profiling tool. “Within Advicefront you will have a link which will automatically lead clients to a URL that will open up the risk profile document. When that comes back the score is recorded in Advicefront which will automatically go into CURO.”

Graham re-emphasises the driving force behind adopting a new back office system: “you need a back office system that integrates with the tools that work best for your clients and advisers and you need a central point of truth as far as your client data is concerned that then feeds out to other satellite bits of software.”

Helm Godfrey’s set-up is enviable, but is it feasible for others to follow?

Graham acknowledges that getting an integrated tech set up takes an investment of both money and time. There is an upfront cost to pay the provider to migrate existing data from one system to the other. There is also a cost associated with training and workflow systems. Graham says that “for most advisory firms the initial investment would be significant.”

The other big cost is time. Graham tells me that they are currently working through data mapping. This is a crucial step in the process. He gives an example of salutations. On Time4Advice, there is a set list that is very strict for salutations whereas the previous back office system, Swift, offered more flexibility. “We have to do that data checking so that the data in the new system is as accurate as possible. There is nothing worse than launching a new system with data that is not accurate because your staff — the people using it — will start with a negative impression of what you’re trying to do.”

This is such an important point and one that is all too often overlooked. If the users of the system start off from a negative position, it makes it that much harder to drive adoption and sell the new process internally.

Helm Godfrey has focussed their tech adoption on client experience, efficiency and risk reduction. The firm needed to limit choice to a set of providers that would integrate with other solutions and they had to invest the money and time to get it right.

 


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