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In this week’s episode Steven is joined by Louis Retief, Co- founder and CEO of Hubly, a software platform dedicated to helping Advisors have incredible systems. Louis has been around financial planning most of his life and for years now has been passionate about helping Advisors have better processes in their practices. Their discussion goes far beyond how great processes can improve tax planning outcomes (don’t worry, that is covered too!). Selfishly for Steven, all of the efficiencies and quality improvements created in an Advisor’s practice frees up time and resources to dedicate to tax planning so the conversion is a huge win all the way around.
Steven and his guests share more tax-planning insights in today’s Retirement Tax Services Podcast. Feedback, unusual tax-planning stories, and suggestions for future guests can be sent to email@example.com.
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Hello everyone, and welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast, Financial Professionals Edition. I’m your host, Steven Jarvis, CPA, and I’m really excited for my conversation today because we’re going to leave the technical tax behind and talk about how advisors can get more done in their practice, which will either create time to do tax planning or help their tax planning be better. So joining me on the podcast today is the CEO of Hubly, Louis Retief. Louis, I’m really excited to have you here. Welcome to the show.
Hi, Steven, a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me and excited to chat to you and your audience today.
Yeah, so let me kick off kind of why I was excited to have this conversation. You can tell me what I get right and wrong here with my description of Hubly because I am not a Hubly user, but before this ever came across my radar, I had heard from multiple advisors who had talked about getting onto the Hubly platform and how much they love the automation driven processes that Hubly allows them to have that helps them just do things more efficiently and effectively in their practices. And then selfishly for me, that means, okay, now you have more mental space to help your clients with tax planning as well. So hopefully that’s at least somewhat of an accurate description of what you’re doing. But why don’t you give us some background as to how Hubly came to be and what it is you do to help advisors?
Yeah, so a little backstory that’s important just about my life growing up, my parents always had a financial advisor and they always had someone do their taxes. And so since early on we had our tax advisor come through the home and give my parents advice. And so I think probably not normal, but I’ve been surrounded by professionals that give advice specifically under the finance umbrella. And through that experience of my parents hiring these folks, I had the opportunity to also work with ’em. I was part of the so-called household. And so I still remember my first chat with my parents’ financial advisor where he literally took me out for lunch and he proceeded to explain to me how stocks work and how the equities and all of those things and personally just have really fond memories of that. And I think because of that have always had a very strong interest for personal finance.
And this really started in my career. I got really obsessed with the FinTech sector and through that work I discovered the WealthTech sub-vertical of your FinTech sector and just really fell in love with the future of where wealth management technology is going. And through doing a ton of customer discovery, which I’m happy to touch on some more, we found a very obvious opportunity to improve how advisors and their teams work on a day-to-day to help them service more clients. I think it became quite obvious that there was an issue with their so-called workflow that was very ineffective in the service that they provided. And the simple question was, can we actually make these services more scalable so that more people can get access to the incredible work that you guys do? And so Hubly was born and we’ve been in business for about three years now, and that’s the short of the very long story.
That’s a great perspective. That makes total sense that you had exposure to this before you really got into it. This wasn’t on a whim. You said, Hey, let me go ahead and design something for advisors and let’s hope it works that your own experience, you talked about customer discovery in there and then there is, so I work with hundreds of advisors all over the country and the ones that have the most impressive practices, however you want to rate that are the ones who have very dialed in processes and probably the single most efficient office I’ve ever been in and seen. They have their own custom built workflow automations that they built out through the CRM they use that they’ve put years and hundreds if not thousands of hours into building all this out and they have a well-oiled machine now. But as other advisors will see that office and say, well, I want that. And they say, well, great, take the next 10 years and build it. Or you start seeing people like you who say, wait a second, what if we created a solution that advisors could easily adopt? Because I just actually recently went through a demo with someone on your team showing me how Hubly gets set up and started. I was impressed at how quickly someone can have this implemented and turned on in their office.
What I like to tell people, Steven, is that it’s funny that financial advisors are really good at managing other people’s financial lives but struggle in managing their own business. I think you need to realize that as a financial advisor, you are also a business owner and operator and you need to put as much attention into building your business as you are putting into helping people manage their financial lives. And I feel like there’s a lot of attention on how do we do financial planning better? How do we work on all these strategies and how do we serve this person so that they achieve their outcome in terms of their financial lives, but not a of thought put into how should I build this business so I achieve my outcome that I want to achieve as a business owner? And so I see there’s a gap there and me as an entrepreneur just into my own business building, I get to spend a lot of time actually thinking about those things.
And the way I think about if I was going to start a financial advisory business tomorrow as an entrepreneur and not a financial advisor, I think there’s a couple of things that are important is that one, you need to realize as a financial advisor, you are providing what I like to call the most complex service under the sun. It’s not only highly regulated, it is also managing people’s financial lives and their futures. And it involves a whole lot of numbers. It’s not McDonald’s or some sort of a simple service business like cleaning someone’s house. There is a lot of complexity towards delivering the services that you promise your clients you’re going to deliver to them. And with that, there needs to be a lot of thought put into not only how we’re going to deliver those services, but who’s going to help deliver them and what systems, processes, et cetera are we going to need in place to actually fulfill on those processes.
So Louis, what was the first process in an advisor’s office that you tackled as you were creating Hubly?
That’s a really good question. So when we started Hubley, I’m not a financial advisor and my co-founder that started the business with me, his name is Ron, is also not a financial advisor. And so I think the obvious thing to do was to just build a software that was going to optimize a specific workflow. We in sense said, okay, why don’t we just build the best software that is good at building workflows and we’ll figure out which workflows to optimize from there.
And so what we did actually for the first hundred users, we onboarded onto Hubly, my co-founder and I actually worked with them one-on-one to custom design any process they wanted built out. And so through that experience of working one-on-one with every single user we onboarded, helping them build a process throughout tool, we naturally actually started gathering a lot of data on what are all of the common workflows and processes inside of an organization that’s called a registered investment advisory firm that provides financial advice. And through this data gathering process, we actually started finding a lot of standardization across how advisory firms function. And then it actually became a problem of understanding all of this data and actually trying to understand where is their standardization and where do we need to leave room for customization for the individual business owners.
That’s really interesting. I guess that makes a lot of sense of it wasn’t that you had one specific process in mind to say, Hey, we can solve processing trades for advisors in the best way possible. We can create a tool so that we can design these processes that, and if I understand this right, you can either customize processes for your specific office or you have this whole library of here’s how we see other advisors do it across the industries. You can just adapt this, modify it however you want, but here’s the types of processes we normally see advisors have.
Exactly. And so nowadays, Steven, like on a sales call, we don’t need to customize as much as we used to anymore at all. Generally now it’s a question of let’s solve the most timely problem you have today. So an advisor comes to us or even their team comes to us, if they have an operations lead in their organization, they come to us and they’re like, either tax season is around the corner, we need help, or we have our surge meeting process coming around the corner, we need help or we’re switching custodians, we need help. And so now it’s a problem of how do we actually find the immediate workflow or process that’s the biggest problem for them and then plug that with our massive library of solutions which we call workflows to actually solve that problem. And it’s interesting how the life cycle of an advisors and their team’s year works in terms of when we find those commonalities need to be plugged and when we’re recommending certain solutions.
So again, selfishly part of the reason I was really interested in having this conversation is because I get advisors who will tell me they see the value of tax planning, but they’re not sure where this fits into their day or week or year. They’re not sure how to delegate more of their current responsibilities to team members so they have more time for those things that only they can do. And that’s one of the areas I see a lot of value in something like Hubly. As you’re onboarding advisors and working with them over time, do you have a way to track or do you have a sense for how much time this saves for the advisor, whether that’s through delegation or eliminating manual processes? How do you quantify success for an advisor?
It’s a really good question and it’s actually a very difficult thing to do is to quantify success. And I will provide some hard numbers, but it’s interesting when we talk to advisors and we ask them or even their team members and we ask ’em, how would you guys define success of Hubly successful? It’s rarely about money save or time save. It’s like I can sleep at night or I can feel like I can relax when I’m on vacation with my family. And it’s rarely quantitative. It’s actually a lot more qualitative in the impact that Hubly has in terms of there’s this deep rooted trust that they feel when Hubly is in place running and operating their business, which is we were still struggling to quantify to this day now we’ve done a bunch of case studies and we have a couple of case studies, one shows where we helped an advisory firm save about eight hours per week per staff member through implementing Hubly. We have enough case study where we helped an advisory firm three x their revenue in 18 months. And so it really depends on the advisory business. We have a lot quantitative things we can point to, but I find that often it comes back to the qualitative.
I can totally see that and that even resonates with the comments I hear from advisors who talk about being on the platform. Louis, what it’d be interesting to me is if we could pull back the curtain a little bit because so far we’ve been talking about this kind of high level and for a listener who’s not familiar, it might kind of sound like, Hey, we’ve got magic sauce and everything is put Hubly in there and it just works different. But having looked at the workflows myself, there’s some clear, very detailed thought process, intentionality behind this. Maybe even pick a process that we can use as an example, but talk about what it is about Hubly that helps these processes run more efficiently.
So Steven, I love what you said there. It’s really hard to talk about it in general and so focusing on a specific process or what we call a workflow is very important. So terminology that’s important for your audience. The way we think conceptually about processes and workflows is we’ve actually had to define what is a process and what is a workflow because those things are fundamentally different when you get into business building. And so I think there’s this conception that a workflow is a workflow, but a workflow is a fictitious thing that no one has defined. So we’ve actually found that we to be able to even explain the concept of a workflows, we’ve had to define it ourselves. And so terminology that is important is first we think of what we call a process and a process is made up of multiple workflows.
And so let’s pick an example since your audience is taxed, I’m going to just use a very common process that is set up in your tax preparation process. And a tax preparation process is generally made up of what we call four workflows. The four workflows and a tax preparation process that is the most scalable and that are the most needed is you have what we call your tax opt-in workflow. I think as an RIA, you need to realize that not all of your clients are actually going to opt in to wanting tax preparation done. And so as an opt-in process confirming with clients, are we actually getting into this? Then the second step of the workflow is generally your data gathering, right? It’s we’ve got to collect all of the information to actually begin the tax preparation process. The third workflow is actually the tax prep workflow where you go through and do all of the tax preparation steps.
And then the last workflow is generally your billing workflow. We’ve now done the work, we actually got to bill the clients for the work. And so that’s like a standard tax preparation process that’s made up of four workflows. Now the value of Hubly’s workflows Steven come from when you break it down even further, so I’m just building the layers of the cake here. Now we can look at the specific workflow in a tax prep process process. Let’s look at the opt-in workflow. So the time we’re going to save you when you start using a Hubly tax prep opt-in workflow is there’s normally a couple of common steps. There’s the step one, we have to email the client or call the client to get them to opt-in. Step two where you probably got to send them the document collection checklist and then there’s step three where you got to get them set up in your tax prep software and whatever other steps might be important.
Where Hubly saves you a lot of time is in the task assignment part of it. So let’s say you have, of those three tasks that I mentioned there, you have three different people on your team doing the task. When you set up the workflow in Hubly, it’s automatically going to send the task to the right team member. So you don’t as the advisor have to delegate that task, Hubly will actually automatically delegate that task to you or to someone else on your team. And let’s say between task one and task two, you want the second person to be automatically reminded when the first person who done their task, Hubly will automatically do that as well for you. And then there’s some additional automations that come into hand. You can easily template the emails in Hubly. You can create standard note templates for any specific tasks. There can be conditional tasks for more complex workflows. But I’ll pause there Steven, but that’s kind of the layers of the cake and I’ll ask you to dig any deeper if you think that will be relevant to your audience.
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So Louis, the immediate thought that comes to mind is for anyone who’s listening and thinks that’s a simple process, Louis is going way too deep. It’s so much easier than that. You are exactly the kind of person who needs this type of software because the processes are so much deeper. Workflows are so much deeper than most people realize because, and I appreciate that you said let’s pause before we go any deeper because that implies there is a deeper to it because I can think of other questions that immediately come to mind of, well, what happens when the client ignores that first email or responds incorrectly to that first email or you have their wrong email address and it gets bounced back. There’s all these exceptions and use cases, and not only will a well-designed workflow help your team through those things, no matter what comes up, it also then gives you a way, because we’re talking about this as getting one client through it.
What if we need to get a hundred clients through it and you on a Friday before you head into the weekend, do you want to know, well, am I done with three of these or am I done with 97 of ’em or are there 50 that are stuck in a particular step and no one knows why? And so like I said, if you’re listening to that description and thinking it’s way too deep, you need help in these areas, and I’d almost guarantee that you have processes in your firm that need to be improved, that need to be delegated, that need to be better tracked and assigned.
I love where you took that and Steven because that’s the kind of build down. But then there’s the buildup, which is like, okay, now it’s a volume game. Once you have these processes set up, we have advisory firms doing tax preparations for not just a hundred clients, but thousands of clients. And so now let’s say you’re the actual business owner and you want to know how many clients have been contacted for opting into our tax prep service this year. How would you get that information just magically? No, someone has to on your team track how many people have we emailed or contacted? Now the cool thing about Hubly workflows is that once the workflow is set up, we actually have embedded business analytics and insights reporting available where you can then pull a report and say, how many clients have I entered into my opt-in workflow? Or how many have finished that workflow so I can actually see volume-wise, how many people are moving along, and then I can actually potentially project how much money we’re going to make throughout tax prep service.
Yeah, those analytics can be so powerful. Louis, I would be curious, especially since it’s a relatively new software, what are things you’ve been surprised by along the way? What are roadblocks you’ve run into or moments you’ve had where you say, whoops, that wasn’t quite what we meant and now we’ve got to pivot. What has the progression been?
It is a great question and the interesting thing that we’ve had to do as an organization, I think when we started, we really built Hubly for the financial advisor, but quickly we realized that the people that are spending hours in Hubly every single day is not the financial advisor, it’s their head of operations, the director of operations, it’s the administrative team, it’s your customer success agents, it’s your paraplanners, it’s your associate advisors, it’s the back office team that is actually supporting the advisor who are the folks in Hubly every single day. And so we’ve actually had to think a lot about the person paying us is the advisor, but the person we’re designing the software for whose life we’re really making easier is the operations person, which in that term benefits the advisor. And so I think I’ve generally been surprised by how little thought advisors give to their back office team, and that’s where we struggle quite a bit in the sales process actually is is it having to convince advisors that making their team’s life easier and investing into your team is going to help you in the long run?
There seems to be a lot of friction in that conversation and I’ve generally always been surprised about it. And that’s why from a company standpoint, why we always highlight what we call the operations gurus in these businesses and we have a whole back office heroes campaign we’ve run to really highlight the incredible work that the back office team is doing. Because if you look at it, if you just look at the RIA vertical alone, there’s about 300,000 financial advisors, but there’s over 700,000 people working in the back office to support those advisors. And so I like thinking about those 700,000 people and how we can also have a greater impact of making their lives better because it’s ultimately going to result in a bigger impact. And so that’s kind of a surprise that I don’t think I would’ve been able to plan for unless we’ve got so deep into the workflow side of it, but it’s been a great learning and a really fun thing to work on.
I wouldn’t have expected that either, but that makes a lot of sense. Louis, for our advisors who aren’t doing tax prep themselves, what are, because again, I have no problem admitting that I’m selfish with a lot of the things I do on this podcast. What I’d be curious to know is for people who aren’t into tax prep themselves yet, what are some of the other most common workflows that the advisors are the top ones they implement or the ones that they come to you with the most immediate need? I know you talked about it’s a little bit different depending on the time of year, but what are some of those so that advisors who aren’t doing tax prep can still resonate with, oh, those are things I have in my practice, and that would be nice if that was more efficient.
So when we talk about, I’ll just start with taxes and I’ll mention all the other categories. When we talk about workflow categories, which you’re basically asking about is we hate mentioning a category as tax prep. We actually call it tax operations. And when our conversation with advisory firms we’re like, what sort of tax operations do you have? And we use that word specifically because sometimes firms do return coordination, sometimes they just do tax planning, like tax loss harvesting, those types of things. And sometimes they actually do preparation in-house actually, and there’s a whole set of workflows that support the different level of tax operations that you provide. And we have all of those templated. The other categories that are very common is the obvious one is what we call your new client process. So anything from a new lead coming in to data gathering, billing, signing your kind of sales process to financial planning steps of getting a client started, that’s a big category of process that needs to be built out.
The next category is what we call your money movement processes, account opening, transfers, trades withdrawals, contributions, conversions, backdoor Roth, list of anytime money is in motion is that set of workflows. We like to think about your client review process, which is what is that ongoing check-in process that you want to be repeatable for your clients? And generally it is segmented as well. Some clients we check in with four times a year, some twice a year, some once a year. What is that scheduling process you follow? Fourth category we think about is what we call client service using non-industry language for it is think of it as like a ticketing system. I need to update the client’s address, I need to update beneficiaries. It’s those simple tasks where clients request something and you need to action it. And then the sixth category is what I genuinely refer to as your add-on services.
We help with insurance, we help with debt planning, we help with estate planning. What are those add-on services that you’re providing to your specific niche clientele? For example, we have an advisor in Seattle and he primarily works with clients who have complicated RSUs. And so he has an entire set of RSU workflows in Hubly for RSU planning and what time of the year we need to activate the stock options and all of those things that he’s built out in terms of his workflow. And so those are the six categories of key processes that we see different businesses need to build out.
Yeah, that’s very comprehensive. Louis, we really try to focus on this podcast on making sure that people get value out of this time they spend here, which for me means they’re taking action. And so I’ll give you a chance in just a second to tell people how they can find out more about Hubly, but if we set specific solutions aside for a second, how can advisors think about or what action steps would you recommend as advisors look at their own practice to identify where their pain points are or where their potential areas for improvement are around processes?
The best way to do this, and this has nothing in relation to the advisory business, but it’s just like general business building advice. And what I found really powerful in my own business of building Hubly is you need to look at your customer journey and you need to look at it from the perspective of your customer, not from your perspective. And I’ll explain that. So let’s say you are working with a specific household demographic, actually map out their experience and how they interact with your firm. So for example, I’m a customer that works with your firm. I go to your website and there’s a Calendly link. Okay, so schedule a call is the first thing that customer does. Then the second step that that customer does is, oh, they receive an email where they need to fill out a data gathering form. Okay? Step two for that customer is complete data gathering form, and then step three for that customer is get set up in the financial planning process, actually map out the experience, not in how you deliver it operationally, but actually how your customer experiences it. It’ll help you actually think about your customer journey in the right way and it’ll help you actually figure out how to design your workflows to meet that customer’s actual needs that they have. And I’ve found that it’s really powerful in our business and it’s actually how we designed our workflow templates library is we looked at all of the data obviously, but we also thought about your guys’ customers and how they interact with your business when building them out.
That makes a lot of sense. That’s a great recommendation, and for people listening, you need to make sure you give this a place on your calendar to live. If you’re listening to Louis described them thinking, oh yeah, there’s some things I need to go and look at. Put it on your calendar, make sure you set aside time, take it seriously. The other thing I’ll add here, because I talk about it constantly is this idea of getting tax returns from all of your clients every single year so that we can do great tax planning, but for that to happen in reality, you have to have a process that goes along with that because like Louis’s been talking about, there are more steps in the process than you probably really recognize as far as who’s going to request it and where it’s going to go and how’s it going to be securely transmitted and how are we going to confirm to the client we’ve received it and communicate timing on when they should expect a response and on and on and on. Having a clearly defined process is how you’re going to get that done in practice. With that. Louis, for people who are excited about what you are talking about specifically, how can they learn more about hubley?
Yeah, they can learn more about Hubly, I highly recommend our YouTube channel. Not only on our YouTube channel, we have a ton of quick tip videos that touch on specific workflow use cases like I’ve talked about today. We also have live demo videos from some of our customers and we have a great YouTube channel where we have tons of webinars that we run with partners and other industry experts. And so I normally recommend starting there if you want interested about seeing if Hubly is a good fit for your business, you can always schedule a call with our sales team directly on our website, even though you’re going to be talking to someone who’s on our sales team. The first thing that we do with any firm who schedules a call with us is we do what we call a strategy call.
A strategy call is to figure out if there’s a good strategic fit with Hubly and your business needs. And a lot of times we recommend not implementing Hubly. It really depends on where your business is at, what your goals are, and if there’s actually an immediate problem we can solve with a workflow solution. And so you don’t have to worry about getting sold on that call, but we are going to ask you some tough questions about how you’re running and operating your business. And so that is where I probably recommend getting started. I do have a couple other pieces of advice I can also share in terms of value, if that would be of interest to us.
Yeah, please do.
I think the last two pieces I will share that I’ve found is important just with the advisory firms that we work with and the ones that I’ve just been really impressed with how they’ve grown their business is they focus on building their business and so they follow some sort of regular cadence where they’re always revisiting how do we improve our operations, how do we improve our workflows and processes? I generally recommend a quarterly cadence for this where you’re actually creating time with your stepping away from the business and figuring out how can we actually improve things and how can we do things better? And spending a lot more time on that as a business owner. The second thing I will advise is if that sounds awful and appalling to you, hire someone to do it. Bring in someone who has an operational background who is deeply passionate about this type of work, and as an advisor, if you are one of those advisors that’s very sales orientated, loves the relationship side of your business, then focus on doing that and hire someone to deal with the operational side of running your business. You’re going to save a whole lot of hair and not ripping it out, and you’re going to be able to do the work that you love and someone else is going to run your business, and that’s also a really awesome approach to take that I’ve seen work really well.
Geez, that’s some really solid advice. Thank you for sharing that, Louis. We’ll get your website and YouTube channel linked in the show notes so that everybody can follow up there. Really appreciate you setting aside some time for me and joining me on the podcast today.
Awesome. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
And to everyone listening, thanks for being here this weekend. Until next time, good luck out there and remember to tip your server, not the IRS.
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