The Business of Tech
From concept to rollout, Salit Nagy-Todd and the technology organization at Raymond James strive to keep the focus where it should be - on advisors.
Salit Nagy-Todd will tell you that we’re creatures of habit. Technology is an ever-changing game. To keep up, we must adapt and change as well.
“The one thing that experience has taught me is that you can pretty much do anything if you set your mind to it,” said Salit, senior vice president of technology and chief data officer at Raymond James.
“I am constantly learning new things and looking for ways to be the best I can be. When learning new things, I first try to figure out how to do it on my own, and then go to the experts who know it better than I do to excel. I took the same approach when I learned English.”
Salit’s success is, in part, a product of a family of three encouraging siblings and a strong mother.
“Coming from Israel, living in the region we did, in order to survive, you had to be tough, willing to work hard to reach the top, and rely on your team, which in my case was my family. We grew up in a culture that was competitive all the time, in a positive, team-oriented kind of way,” she recalled. The same values apply to what she calls the business within technology. “You help each other out while challenging one another to exceed expectations.”
When it comes to creating technology for advisors, with advisors, “mediocrity is not an option,” she said. “We’re representing their voices to all the technicians behind the scenes to ensure we are developing industry-leading technology that serves advisor needs.”
But her team doesn’t do it alone. They can’t. They succeed by working collaboratively with advisors to support the advisor-client relationship.
A MONTH IN THE LIFE
“Typical with any career,” Salit said, “you end up with the one you love.”
After 14 years learning the industry ropes in various roles with Raymond James operations, her path led her to technology, where she managed the top-requested technology initiative for advisors, Client Reporting.
“It required a different mindset to succeed,” Salit said of the career move. “It’s very, very, very creative and sophisticated on the technology side.”
Salit needed to get creative herself. She told Executive Vice President of Technology & Operations Bella Allaire and Chief Information Officer Vin Campagnoli that she needed to touch and feel what advisors do every day.
“We have to understand literally everything the advisor does,” Salit said.
So she spent a month and a half on the road shadowing a variety of advisors. “I’d visit the branch, and they’d spend hours with me, walking me through everything they did and how they did it and why they did it,” she said. “I took all of that back, and I said, ‘Okay, this is what we’re going to develop from a technology perspective.’ And it worked very well because we’ve developed an innovative application that the advisors found differential and beneficial.”
INFORMATION ON THE FLY
But Client Reporting is only a sliver of the big picture. Client Center, Client Relationship Manager (CRM), Goal Planning & Monitoring (GPM), Portfolio Management, Practice Center, Account Aggregation, Advisor Mobile, Reports Portal, Vault. The list goes on, but those are just some of the technology tools available to help advisors gain a holistic view of their clients’ plans and assets to better serve them while growing their businesses.
Account Aggregation was brought in about a year and a half ago and has provided a significant number of opportunities within the branch to find more assets and bring them in. And that information is tied into Investor Access as well as GPM. Practice Center and Reports Portal give advisors the ability to sort and segment their clients in an effort to figure out different ways to streamline their businesses. And Client Center is used by many advisors to get their days started and continuously check in.
And through Client Reporting, “There’s so much customization in that system that if somebody wants to see a different view, it’s easy to do,” Salit said. “Right in front of the client, they can make a few modifications and pull it right back up, and then review the output together. That’s been a huge differentiator.”
Advisor Mobile, though, is upping the game.
“We have gotten a significant amount of positive feedback on our Advisor Mobile application. An advisor can be away from the office or at a client lunch meeting, and when asked an account-related question, the advisor can pull up Advisor Mobile and easily get that information on the fly,” Salit said. “It’s become one of the top applications that advisors use on a regular basis.”
That’s because every application is developed from the mindset of the advisor.
“While it’s very important for us to hit our target dates and not miss our deliverables, that doesn’t mean we’re going to roll something out that doesn’t meet our advisors’ needs,” Salit said. “We’ll never do that, and that’s what sets our technology and our approach apart.”
When an application goes to pilot with a rotating group of advisors from all Raymond James divisions who sit on the Technology Advisory Council, if they think it’s not intuitive, it doesn’t flow right, it doesn’t work right, Salit’s team will go back to the drawing board and work until it hits the mark. That’s the whole point of the council.
“They help us prioritize spending and what our top priorities should be,” Salit said.
But it doesn’t stop there.
“We meet with them every couple of weeks, so they literally are with us through the design and development cycle,” Salit said. “We’ll talk about everything from what we are trying to solve through this technology to whether they would use a certain button in a certain place. We work with them starting with conceptual whiteboards that we might share with them monthly, all the way through to the end where they are testing the system with us through pilot.”
Salit’s enthusiasm radiates as she talks about the future.
Right now, her team is in the process of rolling out a new client onboarding application that will help streamline the data capture and maintenance process. Information will only have to be entered once, and it will pass through the entire client-advisor relationship.
“It’s a much more efficient and seamless experience for clients and advisors,” Salit said. “The whole experience is driven around providing choices for both the advisor and the client. It’s the white-glove approach that focuses on our clients. It’s a multi-year program that will see more functionality over time.”