Continuous IT innovation shapes the future of financial services firm

LPL Financial is a leader in the financial services industry, and the journey to that position has involved dramatic growth in a relatively short time. Since LPL achieved scale, the company has focused on operational excellence and client satisfaction, including efforts to delight our 13,500 financial advisers and 700 institutional clients by anticipating--as opposed to merely meeting--their needs.

For the technology team, this required changing everything about ourselves. Our mission now is to not just respond to the business, but to determine how we can lead the company into new market segments.

Our job isn't about accepting the project of the day but about discovering new trends and computing paradigms, as well as delivering compelling technology solutions. In short, technology is unlocking value across the organization.

How did we accomplish our transformation? We moved quickly away from the old project-based approach to work alongside our colleagues to develop solutions that help our clients grow.

We place a premium on ideas and collaboration. For example, last year we launched "Innovation Days," which gave people the opportunity to think more creatively, and then invested in 15 of the best ideas.

Our employees are thriving in this new environment. They recognize their potential to influence the business, drive value, increase margins and boost customer satisfaction. Further, our advisers and institutions recognize that the technology team is improving their business.

Ultimately, it comes down to how we do our jobs, and our success at LPL depends on three key skills. First, we listen. This means getting close to clients, understanding their business, delving into where they see opportunities or pain points, and partnering to address or fix them. This ensures we understand our clients from the top down. And when we launch a new solution, we do a beta with a controlled number of advisers to make sure we're spot on.

Second, we demand good design. We present the tools we deliver in a compelling package. Good design melds great user experience, seamless integration and high-quality data.

Third, we believe delivery is not a one-time event. We're not done working on a new product until a target number of advisers have embraced it and tell us it's making a difference in their business.

You'll hear our CEO talk about a smarter, simpler, more personal LPL Financial. For technology, being smarter is about using data to produce stronger indicators and tools for investment advice. Being simpler is about removing some of the inherent complexities. And being personal is about providing tailored services to advisers and institutions and giving them tools that enable more personalized customer interactions. This allows us to innovate within the next generation of infrastructure and deploy integrated mobile and digital solutions faster through our private cloud.

The financial services industry has not always been on the cutting edge of technology, and CIOs and their staffs have not always been part of the most important conversations. At LPL, we've changed this dynamic by implementing solutions that drive business transformation.

Victor Fetter is managing director and CIO of LPL Financial.

Read more about finance in CIO's Finance Drilldown.

This story, "Continuous IT innovation shapes the future of financial services firm" was originally published by CIO.

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