Behind the Scenes – Part I: Onboard

28 March 2018

It’s been a while since we last let you know about any product updates. Too long, actually. The truth is, we’ve been busy fundamentally reinventing the way in which we work to help financial advisers.  It’s quite a story, so grab a cup of tea, or a coffee, a glass of wine or even some popcorn. We don’t judge. But get comfortable and we’ll tell you what’s been going on…

guy picking popcorn and saying ok ok Go
Via Giphy

Once upon a time…

Let me start by taking you back to 2016, over a year ago now.  We kicked things off at Advicefront with Complete Workflow, the tool which defined the entire Advicefront experience, and what financial advising with us was meant to be.

We began by giving planners and financial advisers the ability to tackle their entire work cycle: from client onboarding and planning to deliver compliant financial advice and tracking clients’ goals.  Advisers were able to do goal-based planning, personalised branding, collaborative client fact-finding, empirically proven risk profiling, secure document sharing, and modular suitability reports.

Does all this seem like a great solution to helping provide excellent financial advice?

Maybe! Or at least we thought it was.

But when we asked around outside our own circle, “Hey! What do you think? Is this helping?” we got a different answer: no it’s not, or, not exactly.

And there were statistics that went with that “no” response, statistics which said our product was disrupting our clients’ processes and unfortunately not living up to their needs.  Even those who believed in us, and believed in what the future of Digital Advice might be, weren’t actually using our platform.

Sometimes, disruption isn’t the solution.

For a long time at Advicefront, we thought that we had it all figured out: a product that would not only push the industry to a better place but would also be much more adapted to what the future entailed. And we still believe in this! But when we looked around, our customers weren’t embracing our methods, and we had to listen to them.

It turned out that it wasn’t even a question of right or wrong solutions, but more about being adequate to our clients’ business and work methods. It was about not corrupting and cannibalising the very principles we claimed to follow: moving financial advisers and planners away from bureaucracy, complexity and paperwork.

Our clients wanted something much more specific than what we were offering. Something which targeted a specific goal or fulfilled a particular purpose. Talking to them, we began to understand how unhelpful Advicefront was being in giving them too much: too many features, too many actions, too much disruption, and too much change. Just too much.

The Office Kevin saying "it's too much"
Via Giphy

Our clients weren’t only obliged to change their work methods to work with our system. They were also compelled to adjust the way they marketed their business to their own clients – and their clients needed to understand and reap the benefits of our product too.

This mismatch in “walking the walk” is what compelled us to make these fundamental changes. We still want to provide digital-based advice, without losing the human touch – so crucial to long-lasting and engaging client relationships.

But we want to do it with much less complexity and confusion.

Back to the drawing board…

Being a Product-design driven company means we pass by the first solution and look directly into the core of the problem. We listen, interpret and address the problems, ultimately solving those and not creating new ones.  After listening to client feedback we knew we had some work to do in re-imagining how our platform could best serve their needs.

Every day in April 2017 we sat around the table in “Tokyo”, one of our meeting rooms (we name them after countries and capitals).  For the most part, it was Francisco, our ex-COO and shareholder, myself, and our CEO José. Sometimes our designer and product developer would join too.

It was there, in Tokyo, where we looked at each other and said:
“This is it, this has to happen.”

And so we decided what we had to do next: go forward with confidence …. and irrevocably deconstruct Complete Workflow.

Once we made our decision, things moved fast and in two weeks we had everything settled.  From the old Complete Workflow system would be born three independent (yet connected) tools, each with a clear purpose and goal to help financial advisers.

But what does it mean to deconstruct our platform?

Does it mean we’re dividing the existing platform into sections or modules? Yes.
So is it just providing the same features, but now in groups? No.

I’m writing to you today because Onboard by Advicefront, our first module, was launched a few weeks ago and is here and ready for you to explore. But I’m getting ahead of myself, first of all, let me explain…

Onboard by advicefront on a Iphone

Why modules?

By breaking our platform into modules, and removing what made it complex, it‘s now easier to add new integrations.  By breaking things apart advisers no longer have to work exclusively under goal-based planning. By offering different plans, we shift the focus from what we think advisers might want to what advisers really want.  And in doing so, we give them the freedom to choose the modules and features which best suit their individual business needs. We’re also opening the gates to other solutions – whether it’s human-centred digital advice, going full robo-advice, or having a mix between the two.

A significant “eureka” moment came to us when one of our biggest supporters shared with Advicefront how helpful it would be to have a tool to help with client onboarding.  While he was explaining his ideal system it was like having a checklist projected onto the wall in front of us and watching each point ticked, live, as he spoke to us. Everything he said met with Advicefront’s new approach. It gave us the validation we needed.

We kept it a secret until the launch, but we’ve been developing our first module, Onboard, since September 2017. We decided we would keep these renovations to ourselves until we felt it was ready to share. Which is now.

OK cool, so what is Onboard exactly?

Honestly, the best way to explain Onboard is by letting it speak for itself. That’s why this post focuses more on what brought about these major changes than it does on giving you a full description of our new tool.

We encourage you to dive in and try it out for yourself, but here’s a brief overview of what you can expect:

Onboard is here to redefine client onboarding and turn it into an engaging experience, for both advisers and clients. You will be able to breeze through fact-finding and risk profiling by interacting with your clients and getting the information you need seamlessly. You will be able to easily share documents, have digital signatures and get paid quicker. It will save you valuable time so you can focus more on achieving peoples’ dreams.

This change also brings a new set of features. Onboard by itself is a good help, but how can you get your client information to your current system? Well, one of our foundations was and will always be to “keep things simple” and this means no re-keying. That’s why we’re introducing a set of integrations, with more to come.

While we’re opening our doors by creating our own API, we’re also already integrating with multiple providers to give advisers the best workflow possible. One that will fit their specific process while making them more agile and effective.

Author
Andre Costa

CTO & Founder @advicefront and also the Lead Frontend Teacher @lewagonlisbon

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