Preparing Data, People and Processes before Implementing a Family Office Solution
As purveyors of financial technology and service for wealthy families, we at SEI Family Office Services are keenly aware of the important role data migration and setup plays in achieving long-term client success.
But the process of collecting, migrating, normalizing, testing and validating data is no simple task, especially when the number of data points soar.
Nonetheless, the SEI Family Office Services Implementation Consulting team has managed to deliver hundreds of successful implementations of our family office software solution, the Archway Platform℠.
If the proof is, as they say, in the pudding, our clients have certainly put our teams to the test.
Over the past two decades, we’ve implemented established, multi-generational families with hundreds of entities and complex ownership structures and first-generation wealth owners who are in the process of structuring their new family offices. We’ve implemented large financial institutions serving hundreds of high-net-worth families and wealth advisors in the early stages of rolling out their family office practices. We’ve even implemented hedge funds, private equity funds and fund of funds. And while we can all agree that no two implementations are alike, there are certainly common threads that stretch between each of our onboarding projects.
Following these threads and using our collective experiences, we’ve identified five potential project snags to be aware of. And, more importantly, how you can prevent them from impacting your implementation timeline. After all, who wants to hear about a problem without a solution?
1. Incomplete or low quality data.
Clean, readily-available data is the single most important asset when it comes to keeping a project timeline on track. Setting a balance forward, entering performance history and producing reports all necessitate accurate data. To avoid the crunch of data collection, it’s important to establish a process for collecting data from legacy accounting systems, custodians and other relevant data sources—prior to selecting a new wealthtech solution.
Be prepared to supply lists of entities, accounts, ownership structures, designated signers or powers of attorney, account owners, relationship managers and points-of-contact at places like banks, custodians and funds. Lastly, we recommend taking time to proactively organize key financial reports like balance sheets and custodial statements as well as historical alternative asset cash flow detail.
2. Changing requirements and expectations.
Understanding requirements, setting expectations and establishing project milestones upfront creates structure and accountability for the duration of the process. But we also know that sometimes the scope of the project may change as other business projects take priority rank, entities are reorganized, new accounts are added or reporting requirements change. In these situations, we recommend communicating any new requirements as early as possible to avoid unnecessary rework and delays.
3. Delayed deliverables and milestone reviews.
If establishing project milestones is how you build a plan, then adhering to project milestones is how you measure progress against the plan. But anticipation and excitement of what’s waiting at the finish line can make it easy to overlook the necessary steps it takes to get there. Compounded with the fact that most project participants on the client-side still have to perform their day-to-day tasks, it can be difficult to stay on top of the reviews and approvals that are required to move the project forward.
To keep checkpoints on track, ensure that your team has the proper allocation of time and resources to uphold milestone obligations and sign off on milestone achievements. Equally important is to ensure that your chosen vendor has—at a minimum—a set of guiding principles that will dictate your path forward. As a firm believer in this approach, SEI Family Office Services leverages a repeatable, trusted implementation process that helps formalize deliverables and measure progress as data is collected, entered, tested and validated—all in pursuit of the client’s expected results.
4. Undefined roles and responsibilities.
Selecting a technology or service provider is a project in and of itself, but it is merely a precursor to the actual implementation of your chosen solution. Avoid the dissolution of project stakeholders by embedding their participation into your project plan. Create clear outlines of who will be responsible for collecting which components of the data, who will review the data before it is shared with your vendor and who will perform the final validation check once it’s been entered into your new system.
Balance is also key when it comes to projects of this magnitude, so assigning a dedicated project manager and an underlying project team can help build momentum towards implementation success.
5. Lengthy data rebuilds.
Historical data is a hot topic when it comes to converting records from a legacy system to a modern application. It can also be quite nuanced depending on the type of historical data requested. For instance, five years of accounting activity versus five years of performance returns are very different requests. The easiest way to avoid project delays is to understand exactly how much and what type of history you desire before beginning your project.
While many things can delay your implementation project timeline, there are also many things that can keep you on track—or, in some cases, even expedite your progress:
- Define clear requirements and desired outcomes for the project, including expectations around historical data rebuilds
- Create lists of signers, powers-of-attorney, account owners, relationship managers and points-of-contact for banking and custodial relationships
- Create a plan for collecting data
- Review data for completeness and accuracy before delivering it to your vendor
- Encourage responsiveness and timeliness across your team
- Establish an organizational structure and assign roles and responsibilities once project deliverables and milestones have been defined
But perhaps our most salient advice is to choose a vendor with experience and expertise when it comes to converting data and implementing clients onto a new solution.
Schedule a call with a member of the SEI Family Office Services team to learn how successfully converting hundreds of family offices and financial institutions onto the Archway Platform has armed us with a wide range of best practices and practical advice to help our clients overcome the challenges of implementing a new wealthtech platform.
Director of Client Relations – SEI Family Office Services
Michael is the director of the Client Relations team whose core focus is on Archway PlatformSM product support, client interaction and training. Prior to joining the Client Relations team, Michael managed the SEI Family Office Services Implementation Consulting team, where he was responsible for configuring the Archway Platform specifically for family office clients. During his time with the firm he has assisted a variety of family offices – ranging in both size and complexity – in successfully onboarding while developing internal resource proficiency. Prior to joining SEI, Michael spent time in fund accounting, branch banking and mortgage retention.
Michael earned a Bachelor of Arts in both Economics and Spanish at Hanover College. He enjoys traveling, playing intramural sports and attending concerts.