Microsoft 365 for RIAs and financial advisors: Your questions answered

img it consult iStock 000066496013 Large

Microsoft 365 is a suite of tools and applications designed to help individuals and organizations maximize productivity, collaboration, and security. For registered investment advisors (RIAs) and financial advisors, Microsoft 365 offers a range of features and capabilities that can streamline workflows, improve communication with clients, and simplify compliance processes.

In this guide, we will answer some commonly asked questions about Microsoft 365 for RIAs and financial advisors, and explore how this powerful tool can benefit your practice.

Common questions about Microsoft 365 for RIAs and financial advisors

From security concerns to collaboration capabilities, here are some of the most common questions RIAs and financial advisors have about Microsoft 365:

General overview

What is Microsoft 365, and how is it different from traditional Office software?
Microsoft 365, previously known as Office 365, is a subscription-based service providing access to Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, alongside cloud storage, communication tools, and advanced security features. This shift from traditional Office software, which involved a one-time purchase without regular updates or additional features, aims to offer a more dynamic and comprehensive solution for users.
It’s important to note that Windows, the operating system developed by Microsoft, is separate from Microsoft 365, focusing more on the software that manages computer hardware resources and provides a platform for running applications.
How does Microsoft 365 benefit RIAs and financial advisors specifically?
The suite’s comprehensive toolset caters to the multifaceted needs of financial professionals. It offers robust tools for document management, analysis, and compliance, alongside enhanced security and collaboration capabilities. By bringing everything under one umbrella, Microsoft 365 simplifies the digital workspace for RIAs and financial advisors.

Security and compliance

How does Microsoft 365 ensure the security of financial data?
Microsoft 365 implements a variety of measures to ensure data security. Advanced Threat Protection helps safeguard against sophisticated attacks. In addition, Information Protection ensures that sensitive data is handled appropriately, while the suite itself offers robust access controls and permissions to manage who can view or edit documents.
Is Microsoft 365 compliant with industry regulations for RIAs and financial advisors?
Microsoft prioritizes compliance and offers a wide range of accreditations and certifications to meet industry standards. Most notably, Microsoft 365 provides tools and resources to assist with compliance, including SEC Rule 17a-4, FINRA, and GDPR.

Collaboration features

What collaboration tools are available in Microsoft 365 for team projects?
Microsoft Teams is the go-to platform within the suite. It enables virtual team meetings, chat, and file collaboration, providing a seamless environment for all team members to work together, no matter their location.
Can I collaborate on documents in real time with Microsoft 365?
Absolutely. Whether you’re working on a simple spreadsheet or a complex financial report, real-time collaboration is a breeze with Microsoft 365. Multiple users can co-author documents and see one another’s changes instantly.

Accessibility and user-friendliness

How user-friendly are Microsoft 365 applications for non-tech-savvy professionals?
Microsoft 365 is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, even for those who are less familiar with technology. The suite offers a clean and consistent interface across all applications, making it easy to navigate and learn. Additionally, Microsoft provides resources such as tutorials and support to help users get the most out of the tools available.
Are there accessibility features within Microsoft 365 for diverse user needs?
Yes, Microsoft 365 can accommodate diverse user needs through a variety of accessibility features. These include screen readers, magnifier tools, and keyboard shortcuts for those with visual impairments, as well as voice recognition software for those who may have difficulty using a keyboard or mouse.

Integration with existing tools

Can Microsoft 365 integrate with other software commonly used by RIAs and financial advisors?
Microsoft 365’s adaptability shines through with its ability to integrate with a plethora of third-party applications commonly included in an RIA tech stack. Fintech tools, CRM systems, and financial planning software can seamlessly integrate with Microsoft 365, providing a holistic solution for managing tasks and data.
How seamless is the integration of Microsoft 365 with existing IT infrastructure?
Tying in with the previous answer, Microsoft 365’s integration capabilities make it easy to incorporate into existing IT infrastructure without major disruptions. The suite is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems and offers flexible deployment options for a smooth transition.

Data migration

What is the process for migrating data to Microsoft 365, and is it complicated?
The process for migrating to Microsoft 365 can vary in complexity, depending on data volume and existing systems. However, a reliable IT partner, such as RIA WorkSpace, can assist with the migration to ensure a smooth and efficient process.
Are there risks of data loss during the migration to Microsoft 365?
When handled correctly, the migration process is low-risk. However, it’s essential to take the necessary precautions, such as performing backups, and work with experienced professionals to mitigate any potential data loss.

Cost and licensing

What is the pricing model for Microsoft 365, and are there hidden costs?
Microsoft 365 offers flexible pricing models, with various tiers to meet different needs and budgets. While there shouldn’t be any hidden costs, it’s important to review and understand the licensing terms to ensure that all necessary features are included in the chosen plan.
Can I customize my Microsoft 365 subscription based on my specific needs?
Yes, Microsoft provides the flexibility to select services and features that are most relevant to your practice. This ensures you are not paying for services you won’t use and can scale your subscription as your business grows.
Specifically for RIAs and financial advisors, RIA WorkSpace recommends E5 over other Microsoft 365 subscriptions due to its enhanced security features. Read our blog comparing Business Basic and E5.

Training and support

Is training available for users unfamiliar with Microsoft 365 tools?
Microsoft offers extensive training resources, including videos, tutorials, and documentation, to help users become proficient with the tools. Additionally, many third-party organizations provide specialized training for financial professionals.  RIA WorkSpace has a growing library of tutorials for clients based on common questions that come in to our helpdesk.  
What type of support does Microsoft offer for troubleshooting issues?
Microsoft provides technical support via phone, chat, or an online portal, depending on your subscription. For more complex issues, they offer advanced support services that include access to experts who can assist with specific system faults or outages.  Generally, if you have a reputable managed IT provider, they will manage all the details of your Microsoft subscription for you and offer support for your Microsoft tools.  

Mobile accessibility

Can I access Microsoft 365 applications on my mobile devices?
Yes, Microsoft 365 is designed to be highly mobile. Whether you’re using an iPhone, an Android device, or a tablet, you can access your documents, emails, and team communications on the go.
How does Microsoft 365 ensure a consistent experience across different devices?
With its responsive design and device-aware functionality, Microsoft 365 optimizes the user experience, regardless of the device. This means you can seamlessly transition from your desktop to your smartphone without a hitch.

Backup and data recovery

How is data backed up within Microsoft 365, and can it be recovered if it is lost?
Microsoft 365 includes various backup and recovery solutions, such as OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, as well as advanced retention policies. This ensures that data is regularly backed up and can be recovered in the event of accidental deletion, corruption, or a cyberattack.
Are there additional backup options available for critical financial data?
Yes, Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure is designed to be highly available and resilient. It also allows you to layer additional backup solutions on top of the primary solution to meet your firm’s specific data protection requirements.

Updates and new features

How often does Microsoft release updates for its 365 suite?
Microsoft follows a regular update schedule, typically releasing new features once a month, often informed by customer requests and industry trends.
Can I choose to delay updates to ensure compatibility with existing workflows?
Yes, you have control over when updates are applied within your RIA or financial advisory firm’s specific environment. This flexibility allows you to manage the transition to new features according to your needs.  You can work with your IT partner to manage this schedule. 

Offline access

Is it possible to work offline with Microsoft 365 applications?
Yes, many Microsoft 365 applications come with offline functionality. You can work on documents offline, and they’ll sync once you’re back online, ensuring you’re never out of touch.
How does offline access impact synchronization when I go back online?
When you go back online, Microsoft 365 will automatically sync any changes made while offline. This ensures that your work is seamlessly integrated into the most up-to-date version of the document or project. Additionally, you can manually sync your work at any time to apply all changes across devices.

Document versioning

Does Microsoft 365 automatically save different versions of documents?
Yes, with features such as AutoSave, Microsoft 365 automatically captures versions of your documents as you work, so you can recover earlier drafts if needed.
How can I track changes and revert to a previous version?
In applications such as Word and Excel, you can enable the Track Changes feature, which highlights any edits or additions made to a document. You can also access the version history to restore an earlier version with all changes intact.

Storage limits

What are the storage limitations for documents and data in Microsoft 365?
The storage limitations depend on your specific subscription. For instance, Microsoft 365 E5 comes with unlimited OneDrive storage per user for subscriptions with five or more users, or 1 TB of OneDrive storage per user for subscriptions with fewer than five users.
How can I manage and expand storage if needed?
You can manage your storage allocation through the admin center, and it’s possible to purchase additional storage if your needs exceed the default allocation.

Communication tools

What communication tools are available within Microsoft 365 for virtual meetings?
Microsoft 365 offers a host of communication tools for virtual meetings, including the aforementioned Microsoft Teams, which enables video and audio conferences, screen sharing, and collaborative document sharing. Skype for Business is also available for more traditional audio and video calling.
Can I schedule and host meetings directly through Microsoft 365 applications?
Yes, you can schedule and host meetings directly from your Outlook calendar, streamlining the planning and execution of important client interactions.

Unlock the full potential of your RIA or financial advisory firm with Microsoft 365

Ultimately, Microsoft 365 offers a seamless and integrated experience for RIAs and financial advisors looking to boost productivity, enhance collaboration, and keep their day-to-day operations secure. Regardless of your specific needs, the suite is highly customizable and continually evolving to meet the ever-changing demands of the financial industry. With a range of communication and training resources available, you can easily transition to Microsoft 365 and take full advantage of its robust features.

If you’re looking for further guidance or assistance in transitioning to Microsoft 365, RIA WorkSpace is here to help. Our experts can provide personalized support and training to ensure your firm makes the most of this powerful suite of tools. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you optimize your workflow with Microsoft 365.