In NextWealth's latest Financial Advice Business Benchmarks report, we discovered the shocking statistic that the equivalent of a third of a whole financial advice professional’s working life is spent gathering information for client reviews.
Two in five advisers we surveyed said that preparing the report was the lengthiest step in the client review process. The average amount of time spent preparing for the client review was 5.5 hours per client.
Advisers are having to ask providers, platforms and clients to provide updated information because getting reliable information automatically is just not happening.
This is a big ask for people who have invested years of time and effort to qualify to provide expert advice to their clients. You might say that this is work for admin staff.
Yes, admin staff can do some of the heavy lifting but imagine how much more efficient it would be for every financial advice firm if they got the information automatically, without the need to ask. Think of the extra clients they could take on.
Think of the hours of time saved if the tech was there to provide a cohesive, joined-up way for back-office systems to gather the information automatically.
Some back-office systems would argue they are doing this, but the reality is they still have a long way to go to deliver on the promises.
It is not their fault. Many providers and platforms just do not have the tech in place to allow them to deliver the data that is required to make an automatic process work in a seamless way.
In terms of clients, imagine how efficient the review process would be – and how much better – if advisers had tech that enabled clients to update their changing circumstances 24/7, 365 days a year. Some are working on creating their own solutions to this because what is currently available is not compatible with their existing tech-stack.
It’s that old integration chestnut – or lack of it.
Part of the problem is that individual providers and platforms design bespoke solutions that work for them but have little regard for the reality of how financial advice firms work – advisers are not aligned to one provider or platform.
Another issue is that too many processes still rely on paper and cannot be included in a digitised solution.
Some firms are responding to the call for change, but it is a slow process overall.
I sincerely hope that we do see a move towards working together so clients can enjoy a better service and advisers can have the time to reach more clients with this improved offering.
One thing is for sure, we will be watching and we will the first in line to champion those firms who do rise to the challenge.
Heather Hopkins is managing director of NextWealth