Client-facing tools are just another string to the bow of an adviser to aid the advice process; they are not a substitute for it.
They add value in two main areas: presenting detailed, complex material in an accessible and human way as well as providing vastly greater accuracy in calculations, and therefore quality of advice that an adviser can deliver to their client.
Simon Bussy, principal consultant of Altus Consulting, says: “There are a whole host of financial modelling tools now available to advisers for use with their clients. The best of these, used carefully by advisers who understand both the benefits and their limitations, can provide a robust track on which to prepare a client’s financial plan.
“The important point is to use the tools to aid the advice process – they absolutely are not a substitute for it – both at outset and as an important part of the ongoing service proposition.”
Mr Bussy says the best tools have some key attributes in common:
1) Usability. The look and feel of the tool, the whole experience, should be an engaging one – simple and interesting to use, with meaningful, actionable outcomes.
Mr Bussy says the system should encourage the user to return again and again, to be involved and to work hard towards achieving the financial plan.
He adds it should incorporate the latest thinking on behavioural finance and in web design and integrate seamlessly with other technologies the adviser uses to provide consistency, minimise or avoid re-keying and reduce input errors.
The results on screen, or included in output documents, should be clear and understandable, helping to answer the questions that clients have in a simple, meaningful way without the need for a degree in mathematics or statistics.
Mr Bussy says: “The aim is to help the adviser and the client make better decisions and take positive actions, which result in a better financial future.
“The suppliers should be constantly striving to improve; user testing is a significant, important part of the evolutionary process. In other words, releasing new, improved versions that have a clear roadmap is part of the business as usual process.”
2) Robust, proven and sustainable. The security of client information is a critical part of the development.
Mr Bussy says the system should be underpinned by a robust, independent calculations engine.
The calculations need to be current, compliant and always reflecting the latest regulatory requirements with ongoing development a top priority, Mr Bussy says.
He says: “The system should reflect the client’s ‘real world’ (the wrappers, the assets, the charges, the tax position). They are scalable and configurable to meet the needs of the adviser firm, multi-channel where necessary, and across multi-devices.”
In terms of robustness, Mr Bussy says advisers should ensure the system is backed up by a first class human help desk and online support.
Ultimately if you pick the right system, Mr Bussy believes client portals can lower the cost of servicing clients and provide information and/or a service to clients in the way increasingly they wish to be dealt with.