Webinar: Knowledge, Systems & Outsourcing with David Carney

Webinar: Knowledge, Systems & Outsourcing with David Carney

From The Leveraged Advice Firm Program – Audere Coaching & Consulting 

Outsourcing parts of your advice firm to others who can do it well so you can focus on what you do best is big business these days, and few are as big as Virtual Business Partners.

One of the people behind VBP is David Carney, and he’s my guest on this live Insight session to show how he’s built an outsourcing company of such significant size, specifically designed for financial advisers.

The range of services he provides extends beyond just VA, paraplanning and admin support, to cover areas like document production, marketing, and a whole host more. What we’re going to talk to David about is not just his experience in this space, but also his previous experience as a consultant to financial advisors, to give insight into how he’s made it work at scale, so you can do the same.

VBP at Five: 10 things we’ve learned along the way

VBP at Five: 10 things we’ve learned along the way

Oh, how time flies!

We can’t believe it’s been five years…yes, five years. For most businesses, five years may seem relatively new, but for us, these five amazing years have given us a lot more than we can imagine.

A mix of thrill and excitement—it definitely is a ride!

So we asked the Davids, “In those 5 years, what lessons have you learned?”

The things we learned about outsourcing and more

As we, in VBP, all know, DC (David Carney) and DD (David Deegan) met in a conference way back, talked business, drank some beer and the rest, as they say, was history.

From 2 employees to now over 300, handling everything in a rapidly growing business in a foreign land is definitely no piece of cake.

Here are 10 things that they’ve learned about running an outsourcing business according to the Davids: (in no particular order)

1.  Limiting beliefs

In outsourcing, most people think about the limitations, the things they can’t do. But one thing we’ve learned in this industry is to be open-minded, to have the ability to find things that you can can let go of and maximize the potential of an off-shore team. Because with the proper process and training (for your team members), you can get more done from outsourcing than you may think.

2.  The importance of priorities

As a business that has quickly developed in five years, there were tons of things that we had to go through—more complex clients, office expansions and most importantly IT upgrades and security. Currently, we have given more time and efforts in handling information security, this is why we are now in the process of getting certified with ISO 27001 – Information Security Management System  (ISMS).

3.  “Culture trumps strategy”

A quote from business management guru Peter Drucker. We’ve learned the importance of a strong culture and that a culture is present in any business whether we design it or not. Designing our culture has helped us get to where we are now. Nurturing an amazing team has, in turn, improved our quality of service.

4.  Business is about relationships

Essentially, the importance of relationship in a service business has been paramount to what we believe is our success with our clients; ensuring that we teach our staff to be confident, to communicate better so they can let the clients know what they need and want. In the same way, we encourage our clients to build relationships with their team members. Which is why a common tip that we give our clients is to consider their offshore members as part of their own team, have regular huddles and treat them  how they would with their Australian team.

5.  The power of clear instructions and documentation

We see  a lot of assumed knowledge in the financial services industry. Our FPAs/PPs start with less to zero knowledge before they undergo intensive training with our team. To ensure accuracy and minimal reworks, we encourage our team as well as our clients to practice giving clear instructions in any task assignment and process. We have also learned that developing a good documentation process is the ultimate tool to achieving desired results, consistency and efficiency.

6.  Engage everyone in the business

So if you’re going to outsource we believe it is important that everyone understands the WHYs and the objectives. Don’t assume they understand the reason for outsourcing and don’t assume they will necessarily be on board from day one. Make sure you have someone in your oganisation accountable for the success of outsourcing (have it as part of their KPI) and involve those that will be closest to the outsourcing team easely in the process so they understand what to do and why they’re doing it.

7.  Self-leadership

An important framework that we have in our business is called the Situational Leadership which was developed by The Ken Blanchard Companies. This has allowed our staff to be self-leaders and take ownership in identifying the training and development they require. Regular one-on-one sessions with their managers allow them to ask for the support and direction they need from us or from their clients.

Paul Stapleton (Senior Consultant, Blanchard International AU)
Situational Leadership training at VBP Cebu Office

8.  Feedback, feedback, feedback

In the course of five years, one of the most important parts of our growth is feedback. Of course, feedback from clients on how we provide services, feedback from our team towards our clients and feedback from the staff on how we are as a company. Whether pinpointing slip-ups or recognising performance highlights, feedback is vital for everyone’s growth. Make sure you are asking for feedback from clients, staff and your licencees on what’s working and what you can do better.

9.  System set you free

It’s simple. When you have a clear process and a system in place, it allows you to have more time to create, and evolve your business model. Don’t use original thought for routine activities. In fact, it is so important to us that we created these mouse pads to have in our desks as a simple everyday reminder.

 
Mouse pad design

10.  Continue to evolve

Looking at it now—the structure, how we do training, onboarding process, etc.—it’s vastly different from how we did everything a few years back. And no matter how old we get, the business will continue to evolve. Every business has 6 -10 main processes (Advise Delivery, Ongoing Service, Sales, Recruitment etc.), pick one area a quarter and review everything you do in this area, get everyone involved and look for incremental improvements. Then next quarter, pick the next area. In the span of two years, you can renovate your entire business.

Remember most people overestimate what can be done in a quarter (try to review everything) but underestimate what can be accomplished over a few years.

Let’s raise our glass to our 5th year and to many more years of supporting our clients!

Otter: Record and transcribe real-time!

Otter: Record and transcribe real-time!

Dreading transcriptions?

Anyone working in the financial planning industry can surely relate to creating tons of file notes and transcribing numerous discovery meetings.

This slow painful process is one of the most time-consuming tasks in our back office.

But thanks to the ever amazing magic of technology, people are now discovering new tools to make this task easier to bear.

Otter AI App

Artificial Intelligence has always been around for quite a while but recently became a fast rising trend that has largely contributed to today’s technological advancement. Some of these help you find your way to that newly opened café in the city, think Siri and Google Assistant, some even help our doctors in various clinical scenarios. And now, it will be helping you out with admin tasks too.

Otter is a voice note app created by AI Sense that helps you record and transcribe your conversations real-time.

Record, Transcribe, Share!

You can use Otter in all types of conversations, just don’t forget to inform or ask permission from all parties involved in the conversation.

The app functions as a simple voice recorder but what gives Otter its edge is its real-time transcription. While recording the conversation, it automatically transcribes the words which you can see right on your screen as you talk and record. It has key features like voice recognition where it recognizes different voices and time stamps when it detects a different person/voice speaking. Once recording and transcription is done, you are able to search keywords when you want to jump into a specific part of the conversation.

Though Otter’s transcription is far from perfect, it may input different words depending on how it captures the sound. You can then review the transcription and just edit it out. This still helps you save a huge amount of time and effort.

In addition, the AI app also allows exporting and collaboration so you can easily share notes with your team members.

The app is a great tool to use for back office tasks where file notes and discovery meetings have always been a part of the routine.

Using Otter will give you and your FPAs more time to focus on other crucial tasks. Definitely an increase in productivity!

Check out the Otter AI App here: https://otter.ai/

Dedicated Paraplanners: Take the hassle off delivering advice

Dedicated Paraplanners: Take the hassle off delivering advice

Less hassle, less cost yet consistent and more efficient.

Late last year, we refocused our paraplanning services by offering dedicated paraplanners to our clients. With this service, a dedicated offshore paraplanner is assigned to a particular client where they work as a part of their team similar to how our existing admin staff (financial planning assistants, executive assistants, etc.) work with their clients.

We provide training and onboarding the same way we do with our admin staff. We ensure all the processes for generating advice documents and client preferences are covered.

Why is it better to have a dedicated paraplanner?

By having a dedicated paraplanner, you will have someone proactively work with your admin team to complete all necessary tasks which can reduce the turnaround time as an SOA can be delivered together with an SOA pack (all the supporting documentation to implement the advice).

With a paraplanner exclusively working for your firm, he/she is able to learn your process and preference, allowing them to understand how you want certain tasks to be done. This is a huge benefit as it improves overall work efficiency as they get to know the advisers and their requirements and are able to easily clarify issues with advisers without lots of reworks.

How our dedicated paraplanners helped our clients

We now have 19 dedicated paraplanners working for 14 clients, with more currently in training. We are regularly adding more to our team as we cater to more clients.

Our paraplanners undergo intensive initial training with RG146 qualification. They are also provided with ongoing training and ensure they meet 40 CPD per annum.

“Staff are eager to learn and I have found that as they build the relationship with the client they are more confident in raising issues. The feedback from clients is very positive regarding the dedicated paraplanner model.” says Head of Paraplanning Jason McDonald.

Here are a couple more feedback, this time from clients themselves:

To learn more about the how our paraplanning services work, our fees, compliance, training and to register your interest :

Client Data Protection: Why we use LastPass and why you should too

Client Data Protection: Why we use LastPass and why you should too

Online security is one of the major priorities in businesses today. Especially with us in the financial planning industry, this is crucial in protecting our processes since most of the data (if not all) we’re dealing with are confidential.

Passwords are one common way to lock in these important information. It’s everywhere—from mobile phone apps to bank accounts to e-mails and other forms of communication—that sometimes it’s too hard to keep track of them all. Can you even count how many password-protected accounts you have created since the time you signed up for your first e-mail address?

It certainly is a hassle trying to remember all the unique passwords you have created. In VBP, we use a password manager called LastPass. It’s a “vault” that stores all our account usernames and passwords for different websites and platforms. It keeps everything in one place.

What we should stop doing

Admit it or not, we are all guilty of having poor practices in managing passwords. One of which is using weak passwords which makes it so easy for hackers to guess correctly with simple password-cracking tools. We are also guilty of re-using passwords. Using the same password across different accounts is something a lot of people continue to do.

Another common habit is having a master list or sheet of login usernames and passwords that is shared to everyone, and even writing them down in sticky notes in the desktop. The list could go on but for us who are in the financial planning industry, prioritising password protection management is a sure means to stay away from technical hitches.

Why we use LastPass

Using a tool like LastPass saves us time from remembering and manually listing down all our passwords. It also helps us to avoid the poor habits in password management. We use LastPass for the following reasons:

  1. It allows us to share our username and password (and even in groups) when necessary, without exposing the actual codes and pins. When there are changes in passwords, it automatically updates the shared ones.
  2. It is IP restricted which means that the staff can only use their LastPass accounts from the office internet connection.
  3. The client is in full control, they can revoke access and sharing anytime.
  4. Bulletproofing against phishing attacks and keyloggers.
  5. It has layers upon layers of protection in place to secure your data. Everything stored in LastPass are encrypted with a master key that only you have access to. To further protect this, they also have multifactor authentication and anytime someone logs in from a new device or location, you will be notified for verification.

 

Business Process: Why is it so important when outsourcing?

Business Process: Why is it so important when outsourcing?

Learn the most important tips for letting go of tasks and delegating to your staff

Businesses create processes  to improve overall operational performance and increase workforce efficiencies. Processes  are very useful in all areas of an organisation but oftentimes, they are poorly planned and structured. This causes confusion when different employees need to go through a process of a specific area of the business and there is no flow of the process. As a result, accuracy and consistency is highly affected.

Workflow VS Business Process

Most financial planning firms have some form of workflows. A workflow basically represents the approach on what needs to happen (set of tasks) to complete a piece of work (often specific to a client like a review meeting).

Meanwhile, a business process teaches us how to do each task in the workflow. Business process documentation is the process of creating materials containing manuals (ours are all online) and step-by-step guides of completing tasks and processes and provide tips and checklist to follow to ensure a consistent outcome for completing a series of task in a workflow.

Both of these work together to make a more efficient and systematic business operation. On our experience, firms usually rely on a lot of assumed knowledge on how to do tasks when they hire a staff. Therefore, it takes a long time to get someone confident and independent in completing workflows (not to mention a lot of handholding).

How to document your business process?

In VBP, we follow a standard process in documentation:

  1. Complete Workbook. The workbook allows you to think about your business process and create an outline of the process.
  2. Create Flowchart. By creating a visual flowchart or a swim lane diagram, we get clarity on who’s responsible for each step of the process.
  3. Client Training. All training sessions will be recorded for future references and will show a step-by-step demonstration of how the process is being completed.
  4. Edit and Save Videos. All videos will be edited. VBP will remove all unnecessary parts of the training video and retain only the important parts that are relevant to the topic being discussed making it easier and faster to reference in the future.
  5. Create manuals. In addition to the videos, manuals will also be created for the CSRs to easily browse through the manual if there is a particular step they need to review.
  6. Upload Materials to the Intranet. All of the training materials including your templates, reference material, links, videos, and manuals will be in uploaded to one centralised location–the client intranet. This will be the main resource of your CSR when completing tasks for you.
  7. Client Sign Off. After all of these have been completed, a link to your intranet will be sent to you for you to review the content.

Once everything is documented a process should have 6 key elements:

 

How does process documentation benefit your business?

There are 5 main advantages of business process documentation:

  • Tasks are completed exactly how you need them to be completed.
  • If you need to take leave from work, someone else can cover for you and help with your tasks.
  • Easily share task instructions with colleagues and new hires.
  • It increases efficiency as it’s easier to keep track of the progress of a task/project and identify any blockages along the way.
  • It adds value to the business especially when you consider purchasing, as it will be easier to integrate new business into your documented processes. In the same way when you plan to sell your business, having a structured and well documented process can add significant value to potential purchaser.

Some tools we use for documentation include: Zoom to hold client training or meetings, Snagit to record all training sessions, Camtasia to edit videos, Screensteps to create manuals, Lucid Chart to create process flow charts and Google Sites to host client intranet.

When a workflow is properly documented with clear business processes, the main benefit is, it is much faster to get a new staff member up and running as they have more confidence around the work being done.

Whether you are considering outsourcing or wanting to scale your business with internal staff, this statement holds true “Customise the Advice, Sytemise the Process”.