How to Select an Implementation Partner for Your Financial Services Software Solution: 3 Recommendations

Your firm is gearing up to replace or upgrade the software you use to manage business your asset management, wealth management, private equity, insurance or other financial services firm. As a technology that’s one of the most critical to your firm, you haven’t taken the decision of selecting software lightly—and the same should be true with the partner you select to help implement it.

Just as with software, there are many choices, all with their pros and cons. There are assumptions to be aware of in the selection process. Size means quality and dependability. Years in operation guarantees stability and proven processes. A knowledgeable salesperson will be backed by an equally knowledgeable technical team. A “big name” guarantees success (think, “Too big to fail”). But these assumptions are not necessarily true.

So, how do you make the right decision? By being educated on what to look for in a partner, what to ask, and what to avoid. To aid your search and help you make an informed decision, here are three recommendations to keep in mind:

#1: Insist on specific industry experience

This recommendation is in the number one position because its importance cannot be stressed enough. Some partners might have a laundry list of impressive client references, but if they haven’t worked with firms in your industry, they don’t understand your challenges, business processes, regulations…anything unique to your industry and the way you do business. And experience in “financial services” isn’t specific enough; we all know that insurance isn’t the same as wealth management. Be specific when you ask about the team’s experience and client references. A partner that truly specializes in your industry will have a team (not just one person) of professionals that focuses on just that.

#2: Remember that size isn’t everything

For many companies, the list of selection criteria includes size. Why? Because size implies experience, longevity, and stability. Nobody gets fired for hiring <insert big company name here>, right? So, in short, it’s “safer” to choose a larger company.  But before you make a decision based on size, remember that with pros come cons:

Beware of bureaucracy. With a larger company comes more bureaucracy. Size can often make it more challenging to get things done. Everything from finalizing contracts to requesting a change order can be slow. Look for a partner that is large enough to support your needs, but small enough to be efficient.

Make sure they can think outside the box. For larger organizations to function and be profitable, they must standardize. They often have “packaged” solutions, and if your project doesn’t fit the mold, they might push you into one of those boxes, or they’re going to charge you more for a customized solution. In short, they’re often too rigid. Look for a partner that embraces your needs and thinks creatively to give you the exact solution you’re looking for. The advantage of being nimble goes beyond the solution itself.

A nimble partner can also work with you on meeting your budget. A large organization might be willing to work with you on cost, but they will have to make up the cost somewhere, like going offshore. A nimble partner has flexibility around right pricing for your engagement. You’re still getting the same level of service (or even better), but being smaller and more nimble means that, while utilization is still important, the partner can make strategic decisions about their people and their clients. Look for a partner that is focused on doing what’s right for you regardless of the cost, should it come down to that. One more advantage of being nimble: methodology. Having a clear methodology is very beneficial; however, if it is so rigid that it puts you at a disadvantage, it is no longer a benefit. Look for a partner that has a proven methodology but also remembers that your success is their top priority.

Look out for hidden—and unnecessary—costs. With a large bureaucracy that has many rigid processes, your team might be much bigger than you need—and you will pay for it. Does your project really need a consulting director, a project manager, a consultant, and a development resource? Maybe, but what if you have qualified people internally who can fill one or more of those roles? Too bad…you’re getting that team regardless.

Don’t be a small fish in a big pond. Large firms with laundry lists of clients have to prioritize. Naturally, they’re going to put more resources—and more senior resources—on higher-dollar projects. If you’re not a “big” client (often well into the millions of dollars), you are going to share resources with other clients, and your resources will often be junior level. This also relates to point number 1: industry experience. A partner that focuses on financial services will be very comfortable working with firms of your size—and solutions required by firms of your size. Look for a partner that treats you like you are their biggest client, even if you aren’t. When it comes to size, you need an organization that’s large enough to support you, but nimble enough to meet your unique needs efficiently and expertly.

#3: Be sure you like the partner

Most of us have been in at least one situation where you are forced to work with someone you just don’t get along with. Maybe it’s personality. Perhaps it’s the way they work. Or maybe it’s just that you don’t see eye to eye. These situations add stress, create complications, and can ultimately sabotage your project. It’s no different with technology partners. Your people will be working closely with the partner’s team. In fact, they will ideally become part of the same team, so it is very important that you all get along.

In addition, you want your culture and business approach to align with those of the partner. If you’re not on the same page—if you don’t feel good about the people and the business you’re working with—you risk the success of your project. Look for a partner that plays well with others. Ask to talk to clients. Insist on meeting members of the proposed team…whatever it takes to give you that comfort level you deserve. Whatever you do, don’t assume you know the partner because you’ve met the sales team. They are not going to be working with you to deliver the project.

Don’t assume (you know where that leads)

If you’re preparing for a software replacement or upgrade, you are going to make two of the most important business decisions you will ever make. Most firms spend plenty of time deciding on a solution, but they often don’t take the time to choose the right partner. Set your assumptions aside and learn what to ask for and what to look for.

Are you ready to find the right partner? Watch this video, where Jon Meyer, CTO of CAPTRUST, discusses why they chose AKA as their partner. Then talk to the financial services experts at AKA about your project.


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Contributor: Michael Quattlebaum

As Vice President of AKA's CE (Customer Engagement) practice, Michael has 20+ years of experience in technology and financial services, focusing on a business-centric approach to problem solving. His expertise in functional and technical design enables him to convey confidence to end users as well as C-level executives.

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