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Advisers should harness the power of technology

Advisers should harness the power of technology

It can feel like a stretch these days to imagine life without smart phones, apps and social media.

So it is quite startling when you realise that it is only over the past decade that smartphones have become widely used, while social media was also still in its infancy 10 years ago.

Now, we are seemingly dependent on smart phones to perform a whole range of tasks and functions that 10 years ago we did not even know we needed. 

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It is clear we are in the midst of a technological revolution every bit as fundamental as the industrial revolution, and with similarly far-reaching potential impacts. Those impacts reach deep into the world of financial services – with advice being a prime example. 

A lot of technology already plays a significant role in supporting the advice process, with most firms now using some form of practice management system, quotation portals, tools and calculators.

But this is just the start. We will see much more technology innovation that will deliver transformational efficiency gains for advisers and customers over the next five to 10 years.

Adviser businesses that embrace this technological revolution are likely to be well rewarded.

Truly scalable business operations will be able to deliver high-quality, personalised advice to substantially more consumers at a fraction of the cost.

Those adviser businesses that choose not to embrace technology will not disappear overnight, but the competition from differentiated technology-driven advice firms will no doubt be fierce. 

The challenge of embracing technology can be a daunting one, but it is more comfortable once you break it down into components.

Client communications

There are two main types of technology to be deployed here. One is the client portal, which allows clients to access their own data and perform a range of functions.

The adviser should control which elements of functionality to open up to clients to allow them to self-serve. 

Most practice management systems now provide some form of client portal capability and they are generally quite quick and easy to deploy.  

But if all your clients are happy with the status quo then why should you bother introducing a client portal?

Here are a few reasons:

  • Some clients will welcome being able to get answers to simple questions about their portfolio as and when they want, rather than having to wait for you to answer.
  • It will reduce your costs. Your staff are an expensive resource and if your clients can happily self-serve, then your staff can focus on other, more productive and profitable tasks.
  • It provides tangible evidence of your service and will help to justify your fees. 

Client portals can be a highly cost-effective way of communicating appropriately and securely to your clients and keeping them engaged.

Then there is ‘screen sharing’, or video-conferencing, which allows advisers to both see and talk to their clients remotely. 

Many practice management systems offer some kind of capability here as well. But, again, if your clients are not pushing for this type of functionality then why should you bother?

  • It will save you huge amounts of time and money, that is, not spending your life on the road driving to see your clients.
  • A number of your clients will already be using this sort of capability in other areas of their lives, so the technology will not actually be a barrier to them; in fact, some of your clients may prefer, and even expect, to engage with you in this way. 
  • Screen sharing offers a much richer client experience by allowing both parties to see facial expressions, to jointly view documents and generally work in a collaborative manner that promotes mutual understanding and enhances relationships.
  • Recording screen share sessions provides a much stronger record for compliance purposes.
  • It will enable you to create a lower-cost service for those clients that can not (yet) justify your standard service.

Using screen sharing for all your client meetings, or for all types of client meeting, clearly may not be appropriate. But do not assume that your clients are not interested in these types of capabilities only to find out later that they have moved their business away because they felt your service was lagging.