4 Challenges Cash Flow Software Can Solve for Financial Planners

Do the challenges associated with cash flow make your financial planning processes more complex? In this blog, we take a look at these challenges and explore how cash flow software can help you. 

Incorporating cash flow is a necessary part of financial planning, as ensuring a client can maintain their lifestyle and achieve their financial goals takes a thorough understanding of their incomes, assets, debts and expenses. However, because it influences so many factors, including capacity for loss, risk suitability, tax obligations and compliance, and is impacted by market performance and events, calculating cash flow accurately can be cumbersome for financial planners and advisory firms.

While this poses various challenges for financial planners, cash flow software can help ease processes associated with cash flow planning and help advisers and clients achieve optimal outcomes that ensure clients reach their financial life goals. Let’s dive into the challenges cash flow software addresses and problems it can solve for advisers.  

Key issues with cash flow planning that advisers face

Accurately planning cash flow for a long-term plan that accounts for as many contributing factors, “what if” scenarios and market fluctuations as possible can feel like a near-impossible task for advisers. Preparing thorough cash flow plans can notoriously take several days, and even when done properly, can still be a challenging part of the financial planning process. 

Some of the cash flow planning problems advisers typically face include:

  • Getting data into systems correctly without rekeying errors or wasting too much time - and ensuring optimal back-office integration to streamline this can be difficult
  • Being able to provide accurate updates year on year as leveraging previous years’ graphs don’t make for adequate comparisons for future plans
  • Being able to explain results to clients in a way that’s easy to understand - something with which graphs don’t necessarily help
  • Setting assumptions consistently across a firm so that results are realistic and standardised
  • Matching cash flow with risk and suitability checks, as these two functions are nearly always in different and unlinked systems
  • Difficulty measuring capacity for loss accurately given various stress scenarios that may or may not impact a client’s finances
  • Easily and swiftly changing plans when meeting with clients without getting stuck 

The role of cash flow in the financial planning process

Cash flow is a vital component of the financial planning process as it’s critical for calculating a client’s capacity for loss to plan their finances accurately. It’s impossible to understand if a standard of living can be maintained without projecting the money that would be needed to maintain that standard and checking it against the assets and incomes available to meet those expenses. As such, cash flow planning helps show clients how their financial objectives and expectations are being met. 

Additionally, cash flow is needed to identify long-term tax efficiency. Although tax planning for a single year can be done without cash flow planning, understanding the full picture over a longer period of time is only possible with cash flow taken into account. 

Cash flow software is becoming an increasingly vital tool for advisers, as there are various barriers that cash flow creates in the financial planning process, including:

  • The time spent preparing cash flow creates a lengthy turnaround time for planning 
  • Being able to show clients the outcome of a plan without overwhelming them with detail
  • The need to explain the assumptions behind the cash flow planning
  • The cost of creating a cash flow plan means it’s less likely to be used for lower value clients

How cash flow software can help

Cash flow software helps streamline the time-consuming process of cash flow planning as these tools look at a client’s income, expenditure, assets and debts and help advisers and clients better understand if there are going to be any shortfalls in the future - in a fraction of the time it would take to manually run the calculations. The tools then also suggest changes to help make financial plans work more efficiently.

Finding the right financial planning software solution that can be used by everyone in a firm and that’s simple enough to use, but comprehensive enough to be effective, has traditionally been a challenge. To date, user-friendly tools versus robust tools have been somewhat mutually exclusive. Additionally, finding the time to learn how to use cash flow software effectively is also a barrier to entry most advisers face.

However, with the advent of robust, single-click solutions that are easy to navigate, like EVPro, advisers and firms can start leveraging the benefits of cash flow software effectively in their plans and deliver fast, better and more accurate outcomes for clients. 

4 challenges cash flow software can help advisers overcome

1. Time constraints 

Because of the time-intensive nature of cash flow planning, clients typically experience delays when waiting on the most appropriate financial advice from advisers. Usually, one session is had for data gathering purposes and only later do advisers provide the answer. With cash flow software, data is gathered beforehand, which makes the cash flow readily available for the adviser by the time the first session is held, allowing clients to at least understand their current position immediately rather than having to wait. 

2. Information overload 

The go-to visual aid for explaining cash flow planning is graphs. While these can help show that assets and incomes can meet expenditure, they can also be confusing - especially if your client doesn’t have the financial acumen to correctly interpret the graph. Simpler ways of demonstrating the success or failure of a plan would be beneficial to clients. Cash flow software solutions represent cash flow plans in different, more decipherable ways using additional graphs and visuals that show a range of outcomes and possible journeys, allowing advisers to easily communicate plans, comparisons and revisions. 

3. Explaining assumptions 

Straight-line assumptions are approximations that exclude real risks, such as the sequencing of returns. Even simple deterministic assumptions still require explanation, and as with graphs, accurately explaining these assumptions to clients can be difficult. These assumptions can also create an expectation of certainty around a plan’s outcome that can’t be precisely predicted. Leveraging a cash flow software tool that accounts for as many assumptions as possible, using a stochastic model, helps advisers to communicate assumptions easily and give clients the full picture of their plans, ultimately helping to manage client expectations. 

4. Cost of delivery

Advisers and firms offer lower levels of service that exclude cash flow planning to clients with less money to spend, but these are the clients for whom a sensible financial plan will have the greatest positive impact. Therefore, quickly demonstrating whether a plan is working or not using robust cash flow software is effective for all kinds of clients that firms may have, and can help advisers offer the most streamlined level of service, for less. 

Key cash flow software features that make cash flow planning simple 

When it comes to the features and functionality of effective cash flow software, there are several that contribute to making cash flow planning easier. Here are the main features you should look out for when exploring cash flow planning solutions:

  • Stress tests - these standard checks test the robustness of plans to ensure a client’s minimum standard of living is met with a single click.
  • Capacity for loss metrics - use probability, safety and asset levels to understand if a client can afford any risks associated with their plans.
  • Risk suitability - this metric uses the actual risk of products and funds invested to show the potential range of outcomes for expenses and assets over time, not just a single straight-line forecast.
  • Backsolves - these identify when events can happen to meet the probability or how much a client should save to ensure their future is certain, thus saving advisers time on finding solutions.
  • Tax efficiency checks - this should enable advisers to change the order in which assets are taken at a product level to see the impact on affordability. High-level metrics can show the impact of tax and the value of your advice.
  • Probability - remove the expectation of certainty that single forecast cash flows create by showing the likelihood that a plan will work, which can be monitored and adjustments for potential future options considered to make it work.

The functions of the cash flow software you choose should provide simple, single metrics that enable you to compare the progress of a plan over time to see if clients are on track financially, or if their plans require adjustments. The metrics should allow all changes in a plan to be succinctly summarised at a probability or asset level, which can then be reviewed at regular intervals. 

Summary

Cash flow is a complex consideration that advisers must account for when managing financial plans for clients. Although time-consuming to work with and influenced by so many simultaneous factors, it forms a key part of the financial planning process and impacts outcomes for clients. Luckily, modern cash flow software can ease the process and challenges of cash flow planning, and better enable advisers and clients to understand current and future financial positions to make accurate and sound adjustments that ensure clients’ goals are met. 

So what next?

If you’re interested in how technology can help optimise your advice process overall, not just cash flow, take a look at our Guide to Modernising Your Financial Planning Advice Process and Technology. This handy resource sheds light on the modern financial planning process and how you can start future-proofing your processes by leveraging the power of today’s adviser tools. 

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