Family Offices have been plunged into the digital world over the course of the pandemic and while they have complied with restrictions and the remote technology they required; they have not welcomed the changes nor do they plan on keeping them around. This might however all be about to change.
I think we can all agree that remote working, at least in part, is here to stay and so we can expect to see the likes of Zoom and Teams sticking around to partner with in-office collaboration and its regular use in an office setting might just open the eyes of Family Office Leaders to the technology they will soon not be able to live without.
From proactive management to simply reducing surprises, Family Office technology can offer better information for decision making, manage risk and measure returns across an investment portfolio. It can also increase the efficiency of reporting and allow for the sharing of documentation in real-time to facilitate better collaboration in-house as well as better communication with third party service providers.
The list of new technologies are endless but the most important technology that Family Offices will soon rely upon is Robotic Process Automation, abbreviated as RPA.
Put simply, RPA is a form of process automation technology based on software robots or artificial intelligence. It can be utilised to automate business processes or through the use of robots which can perform almost all user actions and have the ability to interpret information – all without the need for human intervention. The software also has the ability to run indefinitely without the requirement for downtime and removes any risk of human error in a transactional process.
It should not be mistaken as a talent-replacement however. Principal of EY Todd Immell summarised this perfectly when he said, “RPA does not take the human out of the process, it takes the robot out of the human.” It can optimise repetitive processes, enhance finance functions, reduce the risk of human error and alleviate time.
Family offices most commonly operate with a small number of trusted employees who wear several hats and take charge of items typically thought too junior or senior to the role they were employed to do. There is little departmentalisation of duties and a shortage of hands on deck, all of which makes tasks very manual.
RPA could be the secret ingredient that Family Offices have been searching for as it can access applications, locate folders, move files, interpret emails and make calculations. It can do all of the laborious tasks currently performed by your team, allowing them to focus on the areas of business that require a human touch such as sourcing new investment opportunities, hiring new talent or making a social impact.
These are just three ways that RPA can enhance the Family Office function, outlined by EY:
- The first is pulling information from an Investment Portal. This Immell said, is a regular part of Family Office life and requires professionals to spend hours pulling thousands of documents from an investment portal, consolidating it, extracting the required information, transforming it into digestible information and reformatting it into an accounting or tax system. What might have taken a team a week is now an overnight automated process.
- The second is rolling forward information. A less than glamourous administrative task that takes place in the Family Office. In third or fourth generation families, there can be hundreds of family members, each of which have their own file structure. Just rolling forward all of these files from one year to another can take a great deal of time. Robotic Process Automation can fully remove the need for a professional to do this.
- Thirdly is document consolidation. Often information packs are sent to each family member or posted to a family portal and someone has to pull information from each service provider and consolidate it into a word document or PowerPoint. Again, the robot can do that.
Immell said: “Bots can aggregate, consolidate and reconcile. RPA does not automate the end to end process but it makes the life of a Family Office professional easier. The bot gets it to the last point ready for human approval. It’s great ROI.”
From account downloads for reconciliation, invoice matching for exceptions, auto email follow ups for discrepancies, generating profitability analysis to onboarding and payroll. RPA is limitless and in the same way that video calls have brought phone calls to life, mass mails have replaced writing letters and CRMs have made address books a thing of the past, RPA will transform Family Offices as we know them today and it will soon be a technology that their leaders will not be able to live without.