How often have we heard in the Retirement shops “Our processes are fully Automated…”, “We are starting to Automate…”, “Project to start Automating…”, and yet for all these chatter, the reality is, Recordkeeping shops have a long way to go in terms of Automation. Even for the shops that tout the latest of technology automation and cutting edge solutions, there exists the “invisible hands” of manual intervention that keeps the engine running.
Granted, it’s simply impossible to fully automate recordkeeping technology and operations. But the sheer amount of manual work done even in a tech savvy environment is quite surprising. The cost could slowly creep up and spell disaster for most shops considering low the margins for recordkeeping services. And yet there seems to be inertia in accomplishing end-to-end automation on core recordkeeping operations and technology.
The problem can be attributed to two factors. (i) The inherent resistance to change or the inability to identify processes that can be automated. (ii) Technology or Process Silos that operates independently within the organization. For example: Some shops process payroll manually to audit the files, to make sure a custom enrollment rule is set properly or receive payrolls via email and have it keyed in manually; or reconcile shares and cash manually with reports pulled from several systems; Sum up trades to buys and sells manually in an excel spreadsheet and send to a clearing partner.
It is amazing how a marketing group can have the best content management and workflow system but the same organization has a department that processes and approves distributions manually down to each check that is sent out; be it a loan check mailed out to a participant or a commission sent out to a broker.
Dig deeper, and you will find that the standard response is always, “that’s the way its always been done, so we do it that way”. There are two or three subject matter experts who perform the tasks manually and are deemed irreplaceable thereby keeping them chained to their jobs and from moving on to bigger and better things. This holds true not just in operations but in technology department as well.
For every sleek feature on the website, there is probably several IT resources manually moving files and even more Operations specialists punching information into a different system. And somewhere in the management team, there is a smart executive wondering “Why in the world are we spending millions on technology to build the best user experience and yet we cannot scale without hiring more people?”