How Our Systematic Approach Makes Us Better

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As a part of my job as the Chief Operating Officer at Marotta Wealth Management, I am the head computer programmer.

When I tell people I am a financial planning firm’s computer programmer, I get funny looks even though I cannot imagine Marotta Wealth Management without all the programs we have.

We attend a National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) study group each year, where all the NAPFA members from the central Virginia area gather to learn from one another and trade ideas. Whenever the other planners at the group ask for advice on what technology to use for some industry problem, veterans of the table laughingly say to me, “Let me guess: you have that coded in the Marotta systems?” And they are right.

Our Marotta systems are workflow and task management, contact management, email archive, human resources and executive functions, trade blotter, and even a credential study system all integrated into one seamless computer program.

My first title at the firm was “Systems Analyst.” It is a borrowed term from the engineering disciplines that means that I identify problems that we have in the firm and invent procedures to solve them. Originally, when I joined the firm full time, I was primarily an author for the blog and a computer programmer. After I finished coding the first version of our systems, I was promoted to “Chief Operating Officer” and given the task of formalizing all the procedures we use for each of our services and administrative tasks.

I carefully learn the way we are doing each service, improve the process, and then formalize that procedure into a workflow in our Marotta systems.

“Workflow” is a term that is a little business-speak. A workflow is the repeatable set of steps required to conduct a given task. A workflow for making and eating a sandwich might include everything from going grocery shopping to putting the dish in the dishwasher. If it is a thorough workflow, it will even assign tasks such as Dad makes the grocery list, Mom does the shopping, and Baby eats the sandwich.

In our Marotta systems, each of these steps are split into individual tasks (we call them “to dos”). Those tasks are created as templates in a workflow design. When the workflow is started (we say “kicked off”), those templates are assigned to the correct people based on their role to the client. As steps are marked done — ie. Dad made the grocery list — the next steps are kicked off — ie. A reminder for Mom to do the grocery shopping is created. This workflow’s individual tasks are then part of each employee’s larger to do list, where they can schedule what day they would like to work on it, when the task is due, and so on.

In this way, each employee can serve every client by doing just the things that are they are responsible for doing. This ensemble approach allows us to juggle more tasks than we could by ourselves. Our Marotta workflows serve as a well-trained assistant for each employee. In other disciplines, like healthcare and aviation , the mere act of having a checklist has been shown to save lives and improve service. I believe our workflows help to ensure repeatable high-quality customer service for every service we provide.

The first workflow we kick off for each person who comes to us is the Prospective Client workflow. It includes steps to send our informational packet, run preliminary analysis, set up a meeting, and give them space to decide. Eventually, if they sign up, the workflow seamlessly transitions into a New Client workflow.

Onboarding a new client is a very difficult process. New clients often would benefit from starting most of our services in addition to needing their accounts transferred, first investment plan drafted, and basic data entry completed. Our step-by-step workflow helps us move patiently and swiftly through all of the steps while making sure we don’t forget anything. Once their asset allocation is in place and the accounts are able to be invested, the New Client workflow automatically starts “Step 5” of our getting started process as a workflow.

This workflow is the first place I get to serve clients. As the current tax specialist at the firm, my workflow of reviewing a client’s tax return is first kicked off as a part of Step 5. The advisor doesn’t even have to remember that this is a service. When the time is right according to the workflows, I simply get a to do to see if we have a tax return that I should review. If we don’t, my selection gives the advisor to dos in the “Request Tax Return” workflow. If we do, I get to dos as a part of the “Review Tax Return” workflow.

Also as a part of Step 5, we give the advisor the step to make a “game plan” for the year. In this step, they plan out what services we should try to offer to the client throughout the next year. When the time comes to offer the service, the first task is as simple as kicking off a workflow.

Workflows mean that each employee has the formalized advice of our firm right in front of them for assistance with each task. This means that everyone from new hires to veteran employees can have the system guide them through the process to ensure it is accurately completed.

At Marotta, our firm values are Accuracy, Clarity, Empathy, and Responsiveness in that order. Our first goal is to be accurate. We want to get the right answer. We want to do the task the right way. This is where workflows help. They give us the systematic procedure to achieve the best results and help to elevate our customer service to exceeding expectations.

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Follow Megan Russell:

Chief Operating Officer, CFP®, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 800 financial articles and is known for her expertise on tax planning.