"After just an hour, two thirds of our short-term memory is gone, it's amazing how fast it leaves us. If you have a method to capture the information and document it, absolutely you're going to see better results."
"The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for advisors to lead through change and and show their clients that they can count on them, that they're going to be there for them through these tough times. They should radiate positive energy when talking to clients, even though they might be stressed out and might be worried themselves. Advisors maintaining a positive attitude can provide huge benefits."
–Corey Westphal, CEO, Mobile Assistant
When Corey Westphal and Mobile Assistant were ramping up capacity in advance of this year's tax season, he had no idea that he was actually preparing for the largest volume increase in their 20 year history due to the COVID-19 crisis. And while work hasn't slowed down for Corey and his firm, he was able to take a few minutes to speak to me about some of the trends he's been seeing and where the industry is heading from here. All of this and more on this episode of Wealth Management Today.
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This episode of Wealth Management Today is brought to you by Ezra Group Consulting. If your firm is evaluating new technology or looking to improve your current wealth platform, you need to contact Ezra Group. Don’t spend another day using technology that doesn’t offer an elegant user experience. Your advisors and clients deserve better and you can deliver it to them with the help of Ezra Group.
Companies & People Mentioned
Topics Covered in this Episode
- Customer Usage Activity [05:40]
- What Kind of Advisor is Using Mobile Assistant? [14:30]
- Mobile Assistant Integrations [17:00]
- Case Study: Dictations & Short Term Memory [20:30]
- Dictation Templates [26:30]
- Talk It App & Assistant [29:00]
- Mobile Assistant & Reg BI [31:30]
- Start With Why [34:00]
- Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop: After Motif Closes, Which Roboadvisors Will Survive?
- 6 Smart Strategies for Managing Remote Wealthtech Employees
- #ItzOnWealthTech Ep. 46: The Mad Rush into Digital Advice with Bill Capuzzi
Complete Episode Transcript
Craig: Thank you everyone in the world of wealthtech for joining me today. This is the stay at home version of the Wealth Management Today podcast and I'm your host, Craig Iskowitz. I run a technology consulting company called Ezra group and we help wealth management firms make better tech and business decisions through our research and advice. And on this podcast I speak with some of the smartest people in the industry who are on the leading edge of technology and innovation and please remember to subscribe and leave us a five star review on iTunes as well as sharing this podcast we post on social media networks. Thanks again. I'm happy to introduce my guest for this episode is Corey Westphal, founder and CEO of Mobile Assistant. Hey Corey.
Corey: Hi Craig. Great to be with ya. Nice to catch up with you as always.
Craig: Well, the problem you and I always have when we're talking is that we have to stop all the chatter beforehand to get the interview started.
Corey: We had a good half an hour of of pretty amazing content that isn't even going to air here today.
Craig: That's all right. We'll have to do it all over again. I've only done this once where I started the interview, but forgot to hit record, I realized it 10 minutes in. That was the only time that we had to do it, but we had to do the whole thing over again.
Corey: You're a pro now. Craig.
Craig: I'm a such a pro I remembered to hit the record button. That's really all I do. But I'm glad to have you here and glad to be talking to you. Really quick, today is the third episode of the CEO roundtable where you're bringing together some leaders in the industry, we're looking forward to that later today and we'll talk about that a little bit later. But can you do a 30 second overview of Mobile Assistant for people who are listening, who may not know about you guys?
Corey: Yeah, absolutely. So Mobile Assistant is designed to provide an easy way for financial advisors to capture and then accurately have documented information from their client interactions. Mobile Assistant utilizes either have a Talk It app that our clients can use, or they can call our dictation hotline. So when they get out of a client meeting, they get somewhere quiet, they use our app and they speak their notes, they give a recap of that meeting, everything that they want to memorialize and they want to have it done accurately. Mobile Assistant has over a hundred transcriptionists around the country that do an amazing job of making sure that notes are done incredibly accurately.
Craig: I thought that was interesting about how you've got everybody remote. I mean, I know that's the way I run my business and I run a very different business than you. We run a consulting business, but we've always been virtual. We've never had an office. I don't have the lobby like you have with the big logo behind me, but you seem to be ahead of the game that you have everybody remote. So how did that work out?
Corey: Well, what's interesting is that unlike a lot of companies that have had to really shift and change their outlook on how they support the remote staff, and how do you go about making sure everyone can perform their functions adequately at home and make them efficient, we've always been structured like that as an organization. And it really comes from the beginning, which is Mobile Assistant has really evolved from my medical transcription company that my father and I started back in 1998. With medical transcription, I think a lot of people probably would already know this, that a lot of medical transcriptionists work at home. They are remote working and they're working on confidential patient records in secure remote environments. That's the infrastructure that we had in place because of the medical transcription industry that we were in for so many years. Mobile Assistant was spun off from US Transcription, that medical transcription company 10 years ago, and so the transition to having at home workers, there really wasn't one for us. We were already structured in that way and we were prepared for especially for this pandemic that we've all gone through it. It really put us in a great position just as a company to make sure we were going to be able to deal with it and be able to handle the uptick in the files that we were going to have because of the client meeting increases.
Customer Usage Activity
Craig: You're perfectly prepared. So prepared. That's a good segue. So let's talk about data. Let's talk about customer usage activity. You said you saw a huge spike in your workload. Can you talk about that, what you saw and how you guys dealt with it and what was that spike?
Corey: Yeah. What really came to light very quickly when advisors were being forced to deal with a really difficult situation, which is they had clients that could no longer meet with them in person, and a market that was so volatile on a daily basis that there were always so many questions that need to be answered from their clients. They needed to be able to reassure their clients. And so what we saw is that, as soon as the state at home orders went into place, our workload went through the roof. And it was because all of a sudden advisors were needing to have a lot of client interaction, a lot of meetings to try to both reassure their clients and make sure that they know that they're there for them. And so because of that, as a company, we did a lot of things to make sure that we were there for our clients as well and that we initiated over time. We gave our our transcriptionists and all of our teams more flexibility when it came to the hours that they could work so that they could get their production in. Because of those measures that we took we were able to keep within one business day of turnaround time for all the notes. We've heard back from a lot of advisors during this period of how appreciative they were and that we were able to maintain this kind of lifeline for them, which is they have these really important conversations that are maybe the most important they've ever had with their clients and they need a way of capturing that information efficiently and having it documented in an accurate way for them. So I'm really proud. I'm really proud of our team for the way that everyone's responded, even though we were structured and in a remote environment already there was definitely a lot of strain put on our company as far as just making sure we were able to step up and increase our production really quickly. And so I'm really, really proud of everyone at our team for stepping up.
Craig: One day turnaround seems incredibly fast. How did you manage to keep that? I mean, I'm not an expert in the transcription business, but I've heard some stories that other firms are running a week behind. You didn't know there was going to be this huge spike, you couldn't just go and hire hundreds of transcriptionists who could be experts in our industry. How did you manage to maintain that level of service?
Corey: Well, every year like clockwork, we have an increase in our workload in the months of February and March and it coincides with annual reviews that are done by advisors. It's leading up to tax time, and so at the beginning of every year we always increase our hiring by about 30%. And because we had done that already, we were so ramped up the end of March with the staff that we had in place that it was just a little different this year that we just didn't see the decrease. It did stay at that level. So because we were so well prepared for the spike that we normally see on an annual basis, it really transitioned well once we initiated over time, because all of our transcriptionists stepped up the way that they did, the amount of production and the amount notes that we were able to keep up with the demand.
Craig: That's impressive. Did you say your workload spiked by 50%?
Corey: No, not 50%. We increased our staff by 30% at the beginning of the year. We were able to keep that hiring pace because we are structured remote and all of our transcriptionists are set up to be able to work remotely, we are able to hire up to 10 transcriptionists every couple of weeks when we need to. This really boils down to the process that we have in place operationally from a training and recruiting aspect. We have some amazing managers and trainers that are on staff that really do allow us to bring on very high quality professional transcriptions very quickly and get them up to speed on our terminal and the terminology that's so important in the financial industry. And so that infrastructure, it really comes down to having great people around you. And that's what I feel like we do have within our organization, is some amazing managers and trainers on staff.
Craig: Speaking of great people around you, can you talk about your CFO? I heard she is really great.
Corey: when I talk to people about what was one of the biggest difference makers in our company over the last 10 years, that has allowed us to get to the level we are as far as the number of advisors that we service and be able to grow at the pace that we have, I tell them it's in large part due to bringing on an amazing CFO who just happens to be my wife, Stephanie.
Craig: She just happens to coincidentally be your wife.
Corey: Yeah. And so it makes a lot of sense when I explain it to people because, I've always been a big picture guy. I've always run my company as a small business, a family run business. When we started to grow at a pace where we really needed more structure to be able to operate efficiently and be able to really sustain the growth, that's where she came in and really made a huge impact. Stephanie had almost 10 years of experience in larger corporate America. She worked for some large insurance companies in the operation side of things, so she ran a shared services center where she oversaw I think the total was 400 employees that she was able to manage and really have that structure in place to make it run efficiently. That made a huge impact for us, because I didn't have those skills. I've never worked in corporate America. I didn't have the structure really when it comes to the detail of what's needed. So what we did when Stephanie came on, one of the biggest impacts she made was she really identified what the different departments were within our company. Now we have a transcription services manager that manages a team. We have a client services department that are all about the customer experience and making sure that they're dedicated to just our clients. And a sales team now that is in charge of communicating with our prospects and working in the training sessions that come in. When someone signs up a Mobile Assistant, they can sign up for a training session where our sales team will walk them through best practices. And an IT department that has really transitioned over the years into an IT partner of ours that has worked out really well. So, I guess if I had to say the main thing that she's done for us as a company is to really provide the structure that allows us a scalability for sure.
What Kind of Advisor is Using Mobile Assistant?
Craig: And that is important for any company, especially one that's growing as fast as yours. But I want to talk more about your advisors. Can you tell me about the typical advisor client that uses Mobile Assistant? What is it about them that's different than other advisors?
Corey: You would think the answer would be would be 40-something, really loves technology, or maybe a younger advisor that wants to utilize technology. It really isn't about that. We have a wide range of clients that are younger, that love technology, that are older, that hate technology, that just want to call a dictation line and not use our app. And what they all have in common is the attention to detail. The advisors that are using Mobile Assistant, it is incredibly important to them not only to have these client interactions, but to have a way of capturing it accurately and doing it in a way that they don't lose the detail. And when it comes down to what Mobile Assistant provides the financial community, it's giving advisors the power of within a few minutes being able to quickly and accurately document all the details from those client meetings so that at the end of the day, they build stronger relationships. And I think that that's one of the most important aspects of documentation that goes unnoticed sometimes. It's not just about covering yourself and making sure that you've got everything documented that gets put in for compliance. But it's about the relationship. It's about getting the detail that you might've forgotten if you had to wait until the next day, and sat down at the computer to try to type a note from a previous meeting. It's amazing how much information gets lost. So having the ability in a mobile way of being able to get out of that client meeting wherever it is and get somewhere quiet, open up our app and within a few minutes speak your notes and have them deliver back within one business day everything that you just talked about, that's where the information in those details is invaluable. We're really seeing that translate for advisors in their practice, not only in the relationships that they are building with their clients, but also we've had some really interesting data that's come in that really proves that when there's more detail in your client meeting notes, it increases your AUM as well.
Mobile Assistant Integrations
Corey: Well I think they probably will think so. I mean, they're using some of the best technology in the world, so yeah, that's right. One additional point to make is that not only do our clients pay a lot of attention to detail, but there are very few advisors that are using just our service and are ignoring other technology. They have done a great job of looking at where Mobile Assistant fits into their workflow when it comes to their overall tech stack. So what I mean by that is for an advisor that Redtail as their CRM for instance, the data that gets put into Redtail is so important. And I think Redtail even says if it's not in Redtail, it didn't happen. And so what advisors are doing a great job of is they're identifying that they need to have an easy way to capture that information, have it entered into Redtail without having to go into the CRM, go to the notes section and type it. Well now with our integrations that we have with CRMs like Redtail, Wealthbox, Ebix SmartOffice, Salesforce, our integrations allow the advisor to speak their notes and within one business day, they not only are delivered back by email, but they show up in their CRM, where they need it. I think those advisors are doing a great job of identifying technology that works well together. And that's what I'm really, I'm proud of those integrations. I think those partnerships that we have are one of the biggest reasons for our success.
Craig: That sounds really helpful, that they pop right back into your CRM. I'd like that in my CRM. Got to figure out how that's going to work.
Corey: One of the first events that I went to 10 years ago, I remember meeting someone from the Redtail CRM company and I learned what they did, what their CRM really was providing advisors. And immediately I was like, that's a no brainer. Why are we not integrating with companies like this? Because if you remember, when I mentioned that I came from the medical transcription world, in medical transcription, all the inpatient notes are delivered back from our service into the electronic record systems. So the electronic record systems for a doctor, that's equivalent to what the advisors are using only they're using the Salesforce, Redtails of the world. And so that workflow of having that information communicated in an easy, efficient way from the client to the advisor then into the CRM is I think an essential aspect of what we're providing the advisors right now.
Craig: I'd like to talk more about the advisors that use your tool. You mentioned earlier a case study that was done. Can you talk about that and what are the results were of that case study? I thought that was interesting.
Corey: So one of our largest clients and one of our longest clients, we've had a client by the name of TIAA that most of you would probably know.
Craig: We have a little client by the name of TIAA, you may have heard of them.
Case Study: Dictation & Short Term Memory
Corey: Well they have been using Mobile Assistant for over nine years now, and as a company they really have done an amazing job of incorporating Mobile Assistant, into the workflow, into the process that the reps are using when they are meeting with their clients. So their process is that they meet with their client and they immediately use Mobile Assistant to document that information and then we integrate with their CRM and then those notes are memorialized. Now what they did for us in 2017, they put together a case study that looked at 1,000 of the reps that were using Mobile Assistant, and they compared those 1,000 reps and the assets under management on average that each one of the reps was showing for the whole year of 2017 and they compared them with the reps that were not using any type of dictation for client meeting notes.
Corey: Either they were typing their notes or they were just writing their notes out and they found that the reps that were using Mobile Assistant on a consistent basis had $400,000 in AUM increase compared to their counterparts that weren't using anything. And for the new hires, the reps that had been there for less than 12 months, they showed a $2 million increase in AUM on average compared to. Now the reason why that case study was so amazing to me was when people think about mobile dictation and what the benefits are, one of the first things that comes to mind is it'll save time. You don't have to type your notes, it is very quick to speak your notes and have someone type them for you. That's absolutely true. But I think more importantly it's the detail that gets captured immediately after a client meeting and are able to recap and have all that information in your short term memory. That's where the value comes in from using a service like ours is that the detail of information that you get from those client meetings is amazing compared to waiting until the next day or not using any type of service to document.
Craig: Is the physical aspect of speech the part that's valuable? That speaking your notes versus if I were to type my notes right after the call, does that same survey show a difference in results?
Corey: That's a really great question and I think that what you would find if that was possible, I think that it would be similar. I think if you would sit down and were able to actually go somewhere right within a half an hour of your client meeting and go somewhere, open up your laptop and get out the CRM and type your notes, I think you would probably have a lot of information. Your short term memory, you know it goes after just an hour, two thirds of it's gone. I mean it's amazing how fast our short term memory leaves us. And so if you have just some method or some way of capturing the information and documenting it, absolutely you're going to find similar results. Now the difference is who has the time or really the fortitude to have their laptop with them, get somewhere where they're going to type their notes out after every client meeting. That's not an easy process, and so what we've tried to do as a company is to make that process easier so that instead of having to type those notes, it is easier to just use our app, hit the record button and speak your notes after the meetings. We've tried to do things as a company to make this process easier for our clients and one of the things that I'd love to talk about is the new templates that we've innovated and introduced into our Talk It app that I think are making a big difference for that process as well.
Craig: Before we do that, I was queuing you up for an easy answer and you missed it. I think the physical act of speaking generates more in your brain and helps you remember more than typing. So I think that's something you should look into. It's just like physically writing with a pen and paper shows that people remember more than if they typed the exact same information, I think speaking your notes would activate your brain and help you remember more than typing it on a keyboard.
Corey: I think that's a great point. I think that people are built so differently. There are people that like speaking their client meeting notes and a recap is not difficult. They can talk and they can keep themselves organized and structured and be able to do that efficiently. I think there's a lot of people out there though that aren't comfortable doing that, hitting record and trying to keep themselves organized on track as they're recapping that meeting. That's not an easy process for some people, which is why the templates were designed to try to take that challenge or that issue that some people might have and give them an easy way to do that. But I totally see your point so far as not having to type.
Corey: I think besides just the actual physical aspect of typing the notes, the process of getting somewhere with an internet connection and space that you can actually dedicate and and sit there for half an hour and type your notes, versus on the way back to the office when you can just use the Bluetooth setting that we have on our app and speak your notes on the way back to the office, by the time you get there, they're done. You don't have to go to the office and go and find a way or time to be able to pull up your laptop and type your notes in, you can move on to the next thing that's gonna be revenue generating for you.
Craig: Exactly. And that's a huge advantage, being able to use different time, different places. Hopefully we'll be able to go out soon and go visit clients. And once we can do that again, then you're talking about the ability to take advantage of what would be downtime, when you're stuck in the car, going back where you can record your notes. I do want to talk about your templates, because I know even my business, I'm always looking for shortcuts and what we call heuristics, ways to do things quicker common processes. So I was interested in how you put those templates together and why they're effective. Can you talk a little bit about those?
Corey: Absolutely. So Mobile Assistant has three core values. We have quality, innovation, and partnerships. And so I've already really talked on the quality side of things. I've talked about the partnerships that are so important. When it comes to innovation, I think that a lot of companies do it backwards. I think a lot of companies believe that they have a solution that will help advisors. I think they build their technology in a way that they have the best intentions for it to be the right solution for whatever problem they're solving. But what we did, and I think that it's really proving that we did it the right way, is that we listened to our clients and we tried to learn and understand what was the biggest challenge that our clients had when they did try to dictate their notes after a client meeting. And what we found is that there was a lack of structure. A lot of people, like I had mentioned earlier, it's second nature. They can hit record and speak for 15 minutes and keep themselves organized. I know I'm not like that. It's really difficult for me to keep myself structured and organized, and keep all my thoughts in order, and make sure I don't miss anything that I want to make sure I'm documenting. And so because of that we wanted to introduce a different way of looking at how dictation really functions. If you think about 20 years ago, dictation was the same as it is today, which is you hit record or you call a dictation number and you speak your notes. The onus is on you to make sure you keep yourself on track and you don't forget anything. So what we wanted to do is we wanted to disrupt that concept and we wanted to bring a different way of dictating to light, which is the introduction of assistant templates.
Talk It App & Assistant
Corey: So last year we launched a new version of our Talk It app that includes an assistant section which gives the advisor the ability to use templates and be able to keep their thoughts and ideas on track, and to dictate exactly what they want to make sure they're capturing. So the process is very, very simple. Instead of just hitting record and speaking, they can choose a template that's specifically designed for whatever that topic is. There can be a tax review template. There can be a client review, an annual review a phone call template. When they select the template, it's going to bring up a list of questions that they are going to be able to scroll through as they're dictating. So now I have a guide, I can go through that template, I can say the question, answer it, and when I'm done, I hit submit.
Corey: Our transcriptionists then are going to have that template in front of them when they're typing the notes so that all that structure that you have in a templated form, that's the way the notes are returned back. So one of the biggest impacts we're finding is that advisors are now getting notes back that are structured and formatted, they're not just a giant paragraph of information. So being someone that's so interested in, in so in data is so important to you, Craig, I know that you'll appreciate this, that the notes coming back in a structured way makes it easy for not only the advisor to find the important information, but it's important for their workflow and the way they're communicating with their assistants and the way they're communicating with other people within their team. Where now when an assistant goes in and looks at the meeting recap, everything is structured in a way that they know exactly where to look for the pertinent information they're trying to get from the action items that would be in there for instance.
Corey: What we're finding is that of all of the notes that are being dictated today, 25% of them are now being delivered in the form of a template. So there really is no better validation in my mind that a feature or an enhancement to our Talk It app in the form of templates is really, it's being used and it's useful because it's not something that they have to use. It's available. We are always going to be thinking of different templates that we can make available to our advisors and they have the ability to create their own. Giving advisors the ability to customize their own, to fit exactly the way that they want these notes to come back and what the information is, I think it's really powerful.
Mobile Assistant & Reg BI
Craig: That is awesome. I really like that idea. I think that works in any industry, but especially with financial advisors. So we're running out of time, I wanted to get a couple more points before we do. One of them is Reg BI and that's been a huge issue. It was big in the news in our industry before the biggest news of ever of all time came out. So there were a lot of firms talking about Reg BI I before the crisis. But even now with the crisis, compliance doesn't go away just because we have a national pandemic, it's probably more important now because we have this huge influx of client meetings and a compliance aspect is so much more important. So can you talk a bit about how your firm is helping out with advisors to be compliant with Reg BI?
Corey: I think that's a fantastic question. So if you rewind back a few years the DOL rule was all anybody was talking about and what the impact was going to be for advisors and how they could prove that they were acting as a fiduciary. And with that rule fading away and not really understanding how it's to be implemented, now we're dealing with Reg BI. And so with Reg BI, I remember visiting one of our broker dealers that we work with and their compliance officer, I was talking to him and he came in and he put a stack of papers on the desk that was probably a foot high. And he goes, you know what that is? And I go, no, I have no idea. He said, that's, that's Reg BI. So the amount of information in that documentation of what advisors are being expected to be compliant with is pretty daunting.
Corey: And the way that I feel like Mobile Assistant can help is not just from the fact that we can provide an easy way to increase the documentation, but we are going to be creating templates that are customized specifically for Reg BI. So we're going to work with organizations to identify what are the key questions after every client meeting that from a Reg BI perspective are important to the organization that you're going to document. And so by doing that and creating those types of templates, I think that will give the structure that will help advisors immensely to not have to just wonder if they're compliant now, but actually have a template that will walk them through the important things they need to capture. And by doing that they can rest assured and sleep easy at night knowing they've got the documentation in place that it's going to cover them. Does that answer your question of the Reg BI?
Start With Why
Craig: Yes it does. I knew you'd answer the question succinctly and completely. And one last question before we go. Let's talk not about product or about the system, but more in general about about what's going on in the world. Something that you had mentioned before when we were talking was about being positive and maintaining a positive focus. Can you talk about how that's important to you when running your business?
Corey: Yeah, absolutely. So it's so easy in times of crisis that you can get wrapped up in your own stress and it can be really difficult to exude confidence when things are kind of crazy around you. And I think that this the pandemic that we've gone through has been in my opinion, an opportunity for advisors to really lead through change and and show their clients that they can count on them, that they're going to be there for them. And when they're talking to clients, making sure that they understand that they're here for them and have that positive energy, even though you might be stressed out and you might be worried about things. Trying to try to be positive with your clients I think is huge. One of my favorites characters out there, his name is Simon Sinek, and everyone might've heard that name from the whole "why" concept, it's a great book. But he came out with something,
Craig: Start with why.
Corey: That's right. And so we went through that process a few years ago and it was great. If you haven't heard of it, definitely recommended. But he said something the other day on a podcast, I thought it was really, really interesting, he said that courage is something that comes from relationships and I think that that really ties in really well right now and is very relevant for advisors to keep in mind that clients of theirs are looking to them for the reassurance and the confidence that they are going to be okay. That they can have the courage to get through this and they're going to get through it with you and you're going to be there for them.
Craig: That's fantastic. Thanks for sharing that Corey. And I think we're kind of wrapped up here. I've got a bunch more things to talk about but we'll have to save that for our next episode. Thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate you sharing and talking to me. Thanks Craig. It was great to be here and stay safe everybody. Thank you.
Craig: Hey it's Craig again. That was another terrific interview if I do say so myself. Some of the takeaways I got from that are advisors who are using more transcription seemed to be more successful, which makes a lot of sense. Advisors who are more detail oriented, more coordinated about keeping track of their meetings and using transcription software where there's Mobile Assistant or some other tool, seem to have more success. Templates, makes perfect sense. We use it in a lot of other areas, advisors, businesses, broker dealers, businesses in all different aspects. So creating templates that you can restructure things, any process that you can repeat can become scalable. And Reg BI, how that's going to impact the industry and some of the tools you can use to make sure your firm is implementing Reg BI the way the regulators want. And being positive, staying focused and working your way through this crisis. "Courage comes from relationships" was a great phrase that Corey brought to us. So again, hope you liked it and we'll be back again next week.