Hiring an IT Services Company for your RIA? Here are the things you should know.

January 25th, 2021
Hiring an IT Services Company for your RIA?  Here are the things you should know.

Whether you’re negotiating a contract renewal for your current IT services company or looking for proposals from new potential partners, there are a few things you should know from the start. The goal after all is to establish a relationship with a company you can trust for the long term. Nobody wants to be doing this all again in a year.

If you want to find a good fit for your RIA who can improve your current IT situation (and not make it worse), start by asking these questions.

  1. Do you have experience working with RIAs?
  2. Your RIA is not just another SMB. You manage highly sensitive data that, if compromised, could put your entire firm at risk. Find an experienced IT services provider who understands your unique challenges and needs.

    Your IT provider should:

    • have experience working with RIAs and the financial services industry and understand the sensitive nature of your client data and how to protect it
    • offer affordable enterprise-level security (off-the-shelf security setups don’t cut it for an RIA). They should immediately recognize you need advanced threat protection and data loss prevention tools.
    • help you meet your SEC compliance requirements

  3. Who makes up the team that will be supporting our firm?
  4. There are lots of different models of IT support companies out there. Some are a mix of sub contractors, outsourced helpdesk banks, and employees. You want a company who has the right people available when you need them.

    Your IT provider should:

    • give you an assigned team so you’re always dealing with the same people who get to know and understand your business. Those team members should be highly trained and certified professionals with a diverse skill set.
    • have employees (not contractors) overseeing your account at all times so there are no lapses in service levels, and someone is pro-actively looking for improvements and recommendations for your firm. This includes a real person answering the phone, not voicemail.
    • offer in-office support if you need it. It’s increasingly common to work with IT service companies outside your local area, especially when looking for a company with a specific area of expertise like an RIA needs. They should still offer in-office support however, possibly through a local trusted network.

  5. What can we expect when staff put in a support request?
  6. While there is a lot your IT services company does “in the background” that you’ll never see, many of your IT needs will be those day-to-day requests from staff. Expectations for how these service tickets are handled is a really significant part of your IT support contract. Get it all in writing.

    Your IT provider should:

    • have standard response times that they share with you. These will likely be based on the urgency of the request with critical items dealt with immediately.
    • use a documented process to prioritize, assign, and manage all your requests. Without a system in place, things get missed and service levels can suffer. You want consistency and to be sure your requests don’t end up in a “black-hole” somewhere.
    • be available when you need them. This goes for both service requests as well as pro-actively monitoring your network and infrastructure. Pressing problems on the weekend cannot wait until Monday.

  7. How is our data backed up and secured?
  8. Not all IT service companies manage data backup and security the same. If you’re a small or midsized RIA, they might assume you’re like other SMBs and don’t need anything extra. It couldn’t be further from the truth. RIAs (of all sizes) should use a combination of onsite and offsite backups if possible with regular testing.

    Your IT provider should:

    • give you the option for both onsite and offsite backups to minimize risk. Backing your data up at multiple locations keeps it available should one location be compromised.
    • conduct regular (at least semi-annual) backup testing that includes confirming: 1) the backup is successful AND 2) that it can be restored. The second half of this testing is often missed. Ask for regular reports that both are done.
    • monitor backup alerts in real time and use automatic alerts to notify their team if issues emerge. You want any concerns addressed as soon as they emerge.

  9. Is our service package all-inclusive and for a fixed fee?
  10. Some IT service providers offer support on a break-fix hourly model. You end up with unpredictable IT costs and nobody pro-actively monitoring your network. Many RIAs prefer all-inclusive packages because they want a predictable price and full management of their IT.

    Your IT provider should:

    • be clear about what is and isn’t included in their service packages. You want to be sure that “all-inclusive” means everything you need for your IT and extra projects or support don’t end up costing you extra.
    • not require you to purchase hardware or software from them as a condition of the contract. Many IT service companies want everything purchased through them which can create a conflict of interest.
    • offer a trial or money-back guarantee if you change your mind. It should be easy to back out of an agreement if it turns out not to be a good fit. You don’t want to be stuck with an IT company you don’t want to work with.

    Getting started with a new IT service company for your RIA.

    Ideally, your relationship with an IT service company will be a long and happy one. To get there, spend some time researching potential partners. Ask for referrals from another RIA. Request proposals from at least 3 different companies so you can compare your options.

    If you’d like to receive a proposal from our team at RIA WorkSpace, you can request one today and we’ll be in touch with more details.

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