SSO for RIAs and financial advisors: A primer on security and efficiency

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In the wealth management industry, maintaining client trust and confidentiality is paramount. As more and more registered investment advisors (RIAs) and financial advisors move to digital platforms, preserving these values becomes a delicate balancing act: RIAs and financial advisors must ensure both accessibility and security. Single sign-on (SSO) solutions are the answer to this equation.

Understanding SSO for RIA and financial advisory firms

SSO is a secure and efficient way of accessing multiple web-based applications with a single set of login credentials. The system, which essentially serves as a key that opens many locks, allows users to access various applications without having to enter a username and password for each one separately. RIAs and financial advisors can leverage SSO to streamline their daily workflows, speed up client interactions, and reduce the risk of security breaches.

Common SSO misconceptions

Many RIAs and financial advisory firms have two glaring misconceptions about SSO: 

1. MYTH: Password managers are SSO solutions

Many RIAs are yet to incorporate SSO into their infrastructure. This is often due to the misconception that existing password managers offer similar benefits, thereby undercutting the urgency to invest in authentic SSO frameworks.

While password managers are a valuable asset for securely storing and managing passwords across various services, they are not SSO solutions. Their function pales in comparison to the robust, end-to-end security architecture of SSO systems.

A dedicated SSO solution not only centralizes password management but also enforces 

enhanced authentication factors, access controls, and logging procedures — essential features that do not exist in most password managers.

2. MYTH: Consumer SSO solutions are sufficient for RIA operations

Consumer-grade SSO solutions such as those offered by Google and Facebook are often used in place of dedicated SSO systems, primarily due to their ease of use and familiarity. However, these solutions lack the level of security and customization required for professional use.

As an RIA or a financial advisor, it is crucial to invest in a dedicated SSO solution that meets the stringent security and compliance standards of the financial services industry.

The best in class: Enterprise SSO solutions

Enterprise SSO solutions provide the highest level of security and customization for RIAs and financial advisors. These solutions are designed specifically for professional use and often include features such as:

  • Strong authentication options (e.g., biometrics, smart cards)
  • Customizable access controls
  • Audit logs to track user activity
  • Integration with existing infrastructure
  • Compliance with industry regulations

While the initial investment for an enterprise SSO solution may be higher than consumer-grade solutions, the long-term benefits far outweigh the cost.

Microsoft, Okta, One Identity, IBM, and Ping Identity offer some of the top enterprise SSO solutions in the market. Their solutions not only provide robust security and compliance features but also integrate seamlessly with popular financial services platforms, making them ideal for RIAs and financial advisors.

The Microsoft SSO advantage

We at RIA WorkSpace believe Microsoft offers many standout features that make their SSO solution a must-have for any RIA or financial advisory firm:

1. Industry recognition

Firstly, Microsoft’s formidable reputation in the SSO realm is bolstered by its positioning within the Gartner Leader Magic Quadrant for Access Management. This accolade demonstrates Microsoft’s dedication to top-notch access management, which is what companies would want from an SSO solution provider.

2. Inherent security strengths

Secondly, the cornerstone of Microsoft’s SSO advantage is its robust identity management and protection offerings, particularly Active Directory (AD) and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). These platforms are utilized and trusted by over 90% of Fortune 1000 companies.

At RIA WorkSpace, we extend the same level of enterprise security offered by AD and Azure AD to RIAs, regardless of size. Whether your firm has 5, 15, or 25 employees, you can benefit from the same protections large corporations rely on. We can help you leverage a comprehensive set of identity management capabilities that enhance security, streamline user access, and ensure compliance — all of which are seamlessly integrated with Microsoft’s SSO solution.

3. Accessibility and cost efficiency

Thirdly, many RIAs already have access to Microsoft’s SSO capabilities — it may just be untapped potential within your existing subscription. If you’re already utilizing Microsoft 365 E3 or E5, then SSO is already at your fingertips. If not, upgrading or purchasing the add-on is a straightforward process. Microsoft Entra gives you access to Microsoft’s SSO capabilities for just $6 per user per month, making it a cost-effective solution.

4. Seamless software integration

Lastly, when it comes to software integration, Microsoft is the common denominator across the industry. Software vendors prioritize creating robust, direct integrations with Microsoft products so users don’t have to rely on workarounds or third-party connectors. This reduces the likelihood of technical glitches since the integration process for Microsoft’s SSO solution is seamless.

The key benefits of SSO adoption

The adoption of SSO solutions offers several advantages that can significantly improve the efficiency, security, and credibility of your RIA or financial advisory firm. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits:

Boosting efficiency with simplified access

Picture a day at the office: you need to log in to Wealthbox, Tamarac, Orion, Redtail, Salesforce, eMoney, QuickBooks Online, and probably a few more platforms to complete your daily tasks. Without an SSO solution, each of these applications will require entering a separate username and password. Multiply this for every client, and it becomes quickly evident how much time is wasted on the login process.

With SSO, accessing work applications is a breeze. Your employees can quickly launch a browser on their work computers — assuming these meet your RIA’s IT compliance standards — and find all web-based applications listed there. This streamlined approach eliminates the need for multiple login attempts, making it a hassle-free experience to connect with vital work tools and enabling employees to spend more time on their core duties.

Ensuring security and compliance

SSO solutions offer unmatched security by allowing control over application access, including the ability to restrict usage to specific IP addresses or compliant devices. Reliable SSO systems also utilize strong security measures to protect user credentials and data, including multifactor authentication, encryption, and access controls. These measures mitigate the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access, ensuring that your sensitive client information remains confidential.

Additionally, with SSO, there’s no need to share usernames and passwords with users, minimizing the risk of credential exposure. Also, SSO systems generate comprehensive audit logs, documenting user access details including time, location, and device used, offering increased visibility and control over sensitive applications.

Finally, SSO solutions help you comply with industry regulations, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission’s cybersecurity guidelines. By implementing a secure and compliant SSO system, your firm can demonstrate its commitment to protecting client data.

Effective user management

Onboarding or offboarding employees from individual platforms can be a tedious process. With SSO, however, you can easily add or remove an employee from all their work applications in one go, saving valuable time and effort. This also minimizes the chances of administrators overlooking inactive accounts that former employees may still be able to access — a serious security risk for RIAs.

The importance of SSO for modern RIAs and financial advisors

In the context of modern wealth management services, the integration of an SSO framework is less of a luxury and more of an essential business practice. SSO solutions offer secure and streamlined access management while also providing a convenient user experience.

Our team at RIA WorkSpace can help your RIA or financial advisory firm seamlessly adopt Microsoft’s SSO solution to maximize the benefits mentioned above. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can support your RIA’s IT and security needs. Let us help you take the first step toward a more secure, efficient, and productive work environment.