Why Advisors Should Own Their Data

August 20, 2019

Teri ShepherdTeri Shepherd knows practice technology. As president and chief operating officer of Carson Group, a provider of investment management and financial planning solutions for advisors and clients, she oversees the operations and technology teams serving nearly 100 financial advisory firms.

Two years ago, Shepherd spearheaded the development of Carson Group's Digital Client Experience platform, which led to a 40% increase in productivity. According to Carson Group, partner firms using the platform have, on average, increased their assets under management by 27% annually.

Shepherd will be a panelist at the upcoming Wealth/Stack conference, held Sept. 8-10 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ritholtz Wealth Management is putting on the new conference, which is described as "by advisors for advisors." ETF.com recently chatted with her to get a sneak peek at what her panel will cover.

ETF.com: Would you give us a taste of what will be covered on your Wealth/Stack panel, "The 800-lb. Gorilla: Solving Your Tech Puzzle"?

Teri Shepherd: My specific angle will be around data aggregation and owning your own data. Obviously, cybersecurity is a big part of that as well.

Also, integration. There are a lot of great, innovative tools, but they don't talk to each other. So they're not as effective or efficient at enhancing productivity in the way they should.

ETF.com: What sort of data do you think is the most meaningful for advisors to keep their eye on?

Shepherd: I would say it's more that an advisor really needs to own their data. A lot of advisors have been with a firm for some time, or they're affiliated with some group, whether it's a custodian or a broker/dealer or an RIA. So they're using someone else’s systems.

This means they can't really download all the data they're entering into the system, not even just lead-gen information for a prospect. The advisor might have access to it, but if they want to move to another place or integrate it with another tool, how can they do it if they don't own that data?

So [owning their data] empowers them to control their own destiny. That's what we've focused on over the past several years: making sure we empower our advisors to own the data, no matter what tools they use. So if something isn't meeting your needs, you can take that data and plug it into a different system, and get up and running again.

I know it sounds simple, but doing that gives you maximum optionality to control the future of your business.

ETF.com: What do you consider the bare minimum technologies that advisors today must use?

Shepherd: A big part of what we focus on is "passion prospecting"—knowing your client and being able to prepare for their future. There are many different AI [artificial intelligence] and engagement tools now to help you know enough about your client's life goals and life needs, so that you can engage them to a whole other level. You can meet their needs before they even realize they have them.

ETF.com: Technology can help you do this better than, say, sitting down with them face-to-face every couple of weeks or months?

Shepherd: Well, no. But I guess I'm not as good at remembering all that as I get older.

[For example], there are obviously birthdays and anniversaries—the regular, basic things of making sure you send something and call clients on their birthdays. But we're going beyond that now. Is their child graduating soon? Do you need to be thinking about starting a 529 [college savings plan], because you recently had a child?

So we're tying together information about the client and where they're at in their life moment. Then you can have marketing campaigns or drips at each of those life moments, so you can catch them in a customized way through technology.

It makes clients feel there's a personal touch they're getting from the advisor, that they're thinking of them. But it's more automated, so the advisor doesn't have to initiate it all the time.

Consumers and clients are demanding more of that; they want to know that you know them, not just that you're managing their money. Especially with so many online options and robo advisors, you need that personal touch.

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