The Missile Test: Choosing Platforms That Fire Up, Not Fizzle Out

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Amar Pandit

A respected entrepreneur with 25+ years of Experience, Amar Pandit is the Founder of several companies that are making a Happy difference in the lives of people. He is currently the Founder of Happyness Factory, a world-class online investment & goal-based financial planning platform through which he aims to help every Indian family save and invest wisely. He is very passionate about spreading financial literacy and is the author of 4 bestselling books (+ 2 more to release in 2020), 8 Sketch Books, Board Game and 700 + columns.

Imagine you are asked to evaluate three missiles and choose the best. One is powerful and world-class, the second is mediocre, and the third is garbage. However, the salespeople from these three companies are smart; all three missiles seem fine to you. Moreover, each missile seems well-packaged. The world-class missile is designed in an outstanding way—a detail you might not appreciate or even recognize.

In such a scenario, could you accurately evaluate and select the best one? I admit, I wouldn’t understand the nuances, and I suspect you wouldn’t either. This is because we are not educated in missile evaluation or its critical criteria. While this example may be somewhat exaggerated, it parallels the challenges financial professionals encounter when evaluating technology platforms and technology stacks for their firms. You likely face this dilemma as well (I can assure you of that). The only aspect you truly grasp is the cost—it’s always the easiest factor to understand. It’s akin to what our clients experience when choosing among three financial professionals.

But what about value? What do you understand about what’s “under the hood”? Is it merely rubbish, or is there substantial quality? Do you know the key questions to ask? Are you aware of what to look for when selecting the right platform for your firm?

When it comes to evaluating technology platforms for your firm, the process can be as complex as evaluating missiles for their efficacy and quality. In the case of the missiles, without the proper knowledge and expertise, distinguishing the world-class missile from the mediocre or the subpar one would be a daunting task, especially when the packaging is equally appealing. Similarly, you might find yourself focusing on the most straightforward and apparent factor: cost. But cost alone is a myopic lens through which to assess a technology platform’s true value.

As a financial professional, to make an informed choice about technology platforms, it’s crucial to delve deeper and understand the substance beyond the surface-level features.

Understanding the value of a technology platform goes beyond just the price tag. It’s about discerning the efficiency, scalability, and suitability of the technology for your firm’s unique needs. Is the platform robust enough to handle complex tasks and protect sensitive data? Does it offer an intuitive user experience for both financial professionals and clients? Will it grow with your business, or will it become obsolete in a few years? These are the layers you need to peel back to truly assess the platform’s merit.

To evaluate technology platforms comprehensively, you should ask questions that reveal the platform’s underlying capabilities, its alignment with the firm’s goals, the quality of client experience, and the depth of training and support provided. These are critical questions that can help you assess the depth, versatility, and security of a technology platform. Here are powerful, feature-focused questions that you should consider asking:

  1. Platform Scope and User Types:
  • Is your platform designed primarily for consumer use, your use, or both?
  • What are the distinct features available for consumers versus advisors?
  • How does the platform enhance and deepen the advisor-client relationship?
  • Can you walk me through the user experience for both advisors and clients?
  • How does your platform and client experience exactly help me achieve 100% wallet share of clients?
  1. Comprehensiveness and Integration:
  • Does your platform offer a comprehensive solution for portfolio management, CRM, financial planning, and reporting?
  • Are all these components seamlessly integrated with each other?
  1. Data Analytics and Insights:
  • What data analytics capabilities does your platform offer?
  • How do you provide actionable insights to me and my clients?
  1. Scalability:
  • How does the platform handle scaling for growing advisory firms?
  • Can it accommodate a growing number of clients and increased data volume?
  1. Innovation and Forward Planning:
  • How do you incorporate the latest technologies, such as AI and machine learning?
  • What’s in your product pipeline that could benefit my firm?
  1. Client Engagement and Communication Tools:
  • What tools does the platform provide to facilitate communication between me and my clients?
  • How does it support me in providing a personalized service?
  • How will this platform improve our client’s experience?
  • Is there a client portal, client mobile app, and what functionalities does it offer?
  • Is the user interface intuitive and user-friendly?
  • Is there a steep learning curve for new users?
  1. Adaptability to Change:
  • How does the platform ensure compliance with the latest financial regulations?
  • How has the platform evolved in response to changes in the financial industry in the last five years?
  • How quickly can you implement changes in response to new regulations or market demands?
  1. Customer Support and Service:
  • What levels of customer service do you offer?
  • How responsive and accessible is your technical support team?
  • How can you specifically help me grow? Will you do initial meetings with my prospects and clients?
  • What kind of support will you provide my clients?
  • Will I get marketing and sales support, operational support, technical support, and any other? How deep will this be?
  1. Cybersecurity Measures:
  • What specific cybersecurity measures are in place to protect sensitive information?
  • How frequently do you update your cybersecurity protocols?
  • How do you ensure ongoing data protection against emerging cyber threats?
  1. Cost vs. Value:
  • What is the total cost of ownership, including any setup, training, or additional service fees?
  • What return on investment can be expected? Will you help me grow my business?
  • How does the cost compare with the benefits, effectiveness, and efficiencies gained?
  • Do you help with marketing, strategy, succession, building enterprise value and building a modern firm?

Beyond these questions, evaluating technology platforms requires a discerning eye, especially when providers may overstate their capabilities. You must ask incisive questions to differentiate between genuinely excellent platforms and those that are mediocre or substandard.

Here are some questions tailored to uncover the realities behind the facade:

  1. Investment in Development:
  • What was the initial investment to develop this platform?
  • How much do you reinvest into the platform’s development annually?
  1. Team Expertise:
  • What qualifications do your development team members hold?
  • What is the experience level of the team behind the platform?
  • Have they led and worked on scalable global projects and products?
  1. Product Roadmap:
  • Do you have a product roadmap available that outlines future updates and features?
  • How do you gather feedback for future developments, and how often is the roadmap updated?
  • How often are updates released, and what is the usual turnaround time for feature requests?
  1. Client Success Stories:
  • Can you provide case studies or testimonials from clients who have seen success using your platform?
  • What measurable improvements have clients experienced after implementing your platform?
  1. Transition:
  • What does the migration process look like?
  • How will existing data be transferred, and what is the expected downtime?
  • Will your team do the end-to-end migration of data and ensure a 100% successful migration?

By asking these pointed questions, you can get a clearer picture of the substance behind the product, distinguishing those platforms that have made substantial investments in their offerings from those that may not be as robust or future-ready as they claim.

Additionally, by thoroughly addressing these questions, you can move beyond the superficial allure of well-packaged technology platforms to discern true quality and fit for your needs. The key is not just to choose the most affordable option but to invest in a platform that will add real tangible massive value to your firm and your clients, ensuring a sound decision that supports long-term success.

Benjamin Franklin said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” Franklin’s words serve as a cautionary reminder that the initial pleasure of a bargain can be swiftly overshadowed by the disappointment of substandard performance.