The industry cloud: Driving technology-led change at financial and professional services firms
Across the financial and professional services industry — including the private capital, investment banking, legal, accounting, and consulting sectors — a new wave of technology-led change is fundamentally changing longstanding firm business practices and digital strategies.
There is now a widespread belief within management teams that digital transformation is critical for firms to continue to grow and compete — which is an encouraging change from 5 years ago when even the cloud was looked at with skepticism. The problem now is not one of philosophy, but rather outcome. Unique markets like financial and professional services, with a very specialized business model, operating requirements, and culture, have not experienced the same level of benefit from modernization initiatives and technology investments that other sectors have.
Unsurprisingly, firms are recognizing that the traditional paths to modernization, using primarily horizontal technologies, are not working well enough. The good news, though, is that there is an emerging alternative and new major trend in enterprise software that is rapidly catching on: industry clouds.
Industry clouds are an exciting category of purpose-built enterprise software that helps unique industries, like financial and professional services, best take advantage of modern technology to drive needle-moving change and sustainable business outcomes.
Before going into the Intapp Industry cloud, here are some exciting technology and data-driven transformations happening now across the industry.
Current industry transformations
In the private capital markets, partners across every asset class and investment strategy — including private credit, private equity, and real assets — have become more selective. They’re using volatility in the capital markets as an opportunity to focus inward, enhancing their digital and analytics capabilities to optimize coverage, deal sourcing, and underwriting.
In investment banking, clients are demanding a larger buyer pool and better outcomes amid decreasing M&A volume. In response, bankers are combining proprietary internal research with external data sets to enhance their origination efforts and engage the right buyers.
In legal, growth-minded firms are strengthening their business development capabilities and culture. By focusing on key-client programs and relationship analytics, they’re boosting their ability to cross-serve existing clients and improve the experience of their most important clients.
Accounting practices are similarly undergoing a fundamental reconfiguration. Large firms, under pressure from regulators, are spinning off practice groups; at the same time, midmarket firms are consolidating to achieve scale. These shifts are pushing firms to modernize risk management and independence processes that protect their interests while optimizing revenue.
And in consulting, the war for top talent continues unabated even as economic conditions shift. Firms continue to embrace hybrid work environments that require enhanced collaboration capabilities to develop associates and trainees, strengthen firm culture, and enhance employee experiences.
Distinct characteristics of financial and professional services
Across all these markets, technology-led change is happening, which is inspiring. But before we can fully deliver these outcomes en masse, we must recognize and adapt to the fundamental differences between these markets and other sectors, including:
- Organizational structure. Uniquely, financial and professional services firms maintain a different organizational model than typical corporations, and they’re governed differently. These firms are partnerships, and partners, professionals, and dealmakers constitute the majority of their employees. Rather than organizing by traditional departments, they’re grouped by specialized expertise and focus, such as practice area, investment strategy, asset class, or product desk.
- Hyper-leveraged partners. Firms have a leveraged organizational model made up of professionals of various levels of seniority, from analysts and associates to senior partners. Senior partners tend to be highly overcommitted, juggling responsibilities including (but not limited to) overseeing sourcing, origination, execution, talent management, and the overall partnership. They’re simply too busy to pull reports and manually fill out large forms. They rely on extreme delegation because they don’t have enough time in their day — and never will.
- Regulatory mandates. Firms are regulated by a broad spectrum of authorities and must comply with a growing number of jurisdictional statutes, client and investor obligations, and rules of professional conduct. Within these firms, complexity is high and the stakes are higher, with financial, reputational, and strategic implications interwoven into day-to-day operations.
- Knowledge-based offerings. Firms don’t create traditional products or deliverables (“things”) — they compete on the strength of their relationships, intellectual capital, and specialized knowledge. Their teams’ deep expertise and understanding of their respective industries are part of a firm’s value proposition and differentiation in the marketplace.
Given these defining characteristics of financial and professional services firms, and their stark contrast to traditional corporations, even the most powerful horizontal technologies just aren’t sufficient to drive sustainable transformation in this industry.
Challenges with horizontal software
Horizontal software is primarily designed for the manufacturing, retail, and packaged goods industries — that is, companies that make widgets and products. Although this type of software can work well for corporations in certain industries, these generic tools just don’t serve the needs and complex challenges of professional and financial services firms. Consequently, this form of generic software suffers from shallow adoption at many firms, especially by their professionals.
At Intapp, we’ve worked with and listened to stakeholders in professional and financial services firms for more than 20 years, and we’ve heard our clients share similar problems with their horizontal systems:
- Misaligned workflows and data models. Horizontal software developers do not understand the persona of the firm professional, and thus their underlying data models do not accurately capture and reflect the services these professionals require, whether from a workflow, reporting, or analytics standpoint. (Look under the hood of the average CRM or ERP, and you’ll inevitably see data fields for sales teams, product inventories, supply chains, and field service.) For firms, closing this gap requires extensive customizations, greater complexity, and higher costs. In turn, this leads to enormous strain on firms’ IT teams, and limits the deployment of AI and other intelligent capabilities.
- Unnecessary burdens on busy professionals. Enterprise software often fails because it requires too much data entry from decision makers who are far too busy to manually enter data or perform de facto data steward roles. Again, traditional horizontal applications aren’t designed for partner-led professionals, but instead for typical corporate departments. A lot of good technologies have died on the vine because they’ve asked too much of professionals and, as a result, were never fully adopted.
- Generic user experiences. Horizontal systems don’t provide solutions built for the mosaic of different teams (e.g., strategies, asset classes, practices, etc.) and professionals that make up partner-led firms. Instead, they typically provide narrow, monolithic user experiences designed for a specific department. Each strategy or practice tracks its own specific data sets, leverages unique third-party market intelligence, and relies on tailored analytics and predictive models. These can’t be sufficiently addressed by a one-size-fits-all departmental solution.
- Application silos. Subject to a wide variety of regulatory requirements, firms maintain many related — and highly specialized — workflows regarding collaboration, compliance, ethical walls, conflicts of interest, member independence, and complex time management. It’s important to address these workflows as a holistic interconnected ecosystem built on a single source of truth, rather than using a disjointed patchwork of point solutions and customizations that lead to costly, disparate systems and inevitable user frustration.
The industry cloud approach
Horizontal technologies aren’t inherently bad (obviously); many of them are great, and they certainly have their place — but they weren’t built for the unique needs of the financial and professional services industry. When it comes to the most important aspects of running a firm, generic solutions alone can’t support the specific work of firm teams and professionals, and the very specific ways that they accomplish their goals.
Instead, these specific needs and requirements require an industry cloud. Industry clouds combine purpose-built software, a low-code platform, data and AI, and infrastructure capabilities, all together tailored to meet the needs and challenges of a unique industry.
This strategy guides our development and is why we’ve built the Intapp industry cloud.
The Intapp industry cloud
The Intapp industry cloud provides unique solutions critical for the professional and financial services industry we serve. We’ve been building and evolving these solutions for years, applying our domain expertise and close client relationships to understand at a deep level the unique functional requirements that exist. These unique capabilities include:
- Industry data architecture. Underpinning our industry cloud is an industry graph data model and single source of truth that reflects the way firms work. It understands the nature of firms’ deep and interconnected relationships, and it understands their professionals and dealmakers. The data model is fed by out-of-the-box integrations to internal firm applications and external third-party data feeds. That collected information can then be governed and protected by ethical walls and industry and region-specific confidentiality policies. This architecture ensures firms have access to the right data, and it’s accurate, up-to-date, and reliable.
- Tailored UX. We’ve made our platform incredibly easy for professionals by designing it to address the specialized needs of firms’ different strategies, service lines, and practices. We do this with individually configured user experiences for different teams and professionals, all via our low-code platform. So a firm’s M&A team, their restructuring team, their private equity team, their real estate team, and any other team can each have their own personalized experience and solution — built just for them with the data, insights, and workflows they care about. No more one-size-fits-all.
- Applied AI. AI is another way we’ve made our platform incredibly easy for professionals. We don’t want to ask too much of busy professionals, and we know nobody likes entering data. Professionals hate it so much they often won’t do it — and when they do, the data is often bad. We knew we could make this situation better, and we have: The Intapp industry cloud is powered by zero-entry data capture, our ongoing journey in using machine learning, natural language processing, and automation to minimize the effort to ingest high-quality data. Here a few examples of how we’re delivering on this today:
- Self-maintaining contacts. In relationship-based industries, inaccurate contact information hampers relationship nurturing, business development, and client experience — but professionals struggle to keep up with the massive number of changes across their network. Our next-generation “self-maintaining contacts” feature looks at email signatures, which are almost always current, and uses AI to automatically convert them into new or updated contact information. Professionals don’t have to do a thing — their contacts simply update. This is the zero-entry vision in practice.
- Automated activity capture. Professionals need to understand all the activities their network engages in with the firm to helps coordinate different firm stakeholders and touchpoints with major clients, and to help enhance coverage programs with better institutionalized knowledge. Automated activity capture, another zero-entry capability available today, captures email and meeting activities with specific contacts and automatically adds them into Intapp — again, without any additional work.
- Relationship intelligence. Our relationship intelligence capability applies AI to the total set of contacts in the firm, building and scoring the strengths of relationships using a configurable algorithm and generating true insights into the collective network of a firm’s relationships. Relationship intelligence allows professionals to leverage the firm’s full network to quickly identify the strongest relationships and the fastest path to a warm introduction — and also to identify when a relationship with a key client is beginning to cool so that corrective action can be taken.
This is real agility, without behavioral change. And all of these AI-powered features are available and being used by our clients today.
A partnership to position you for the future
Intapp cloud solutions are deeply integrated with the Microsoft technology landscape, enabling firms to keep up with the accelerating pace of innovation around Microsoft 365, AI, security, the Azure cloud, and more — all adapted by Intapp to be effectively used by firms.
By delivering the modern workplace solutions firms need, Intapp and Microsoft are helping drive greater technology adoption by continually creating and evolving tailored, easy-to-use experiences. We want professionals to think, “This was built for me.” That’s why Intapp’s platform fully embraces and natively extends Microsoft 365, including Teams, Outlook, and SharePoint: We know we need to meet professionals where they work all day long — and that’s in Microsoft 365.
In addition, using Microsoft Azure’s market-leading infrastructure, Intapp helps firms protect their most sensitive client information, comply with increasing and varied regulations, meet client expectations for better transparency and collaboration, and support their professionals’ need for anywhere/anytime access.
These are just a few of the ways that our strategic partnership with Microsoft is bringing firms the best of both industry expertise and enterprise technology — along with an entire partner ecosystem for support.
Unique solutions critical for your industry
As a vertical SaaS company focused exclusively on the financial and professional services industry for over two decades, our mission is to keep asking questions, exploring new possibilities, and working to anticipate future challenges so that we can continue to best support our clients’ unique technology needs.
By bringing together industry-specific data models, zero-entry AI, and tailored user experiences — augmented with Microsoft technology and delivered using Azure — the Intapp industry cloud can help firms drive sustainable technology-led change and transformational value where other approaches have failed.