Over the past couple of years there has been a growing trend for advisers to send fact finds electronically to clients in advance of meetings, inviting them to complete them online – a trend that has been accelerated by remote working following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amanda Cassidy, managing director of Quilter Financial Advisers, says during the pandemic technology has been embraced more by advisers in order to facilitate remote advice.
And although the technology existed before the pandemic it was not as widely used as it is now.
Mike Barrett, director at the Lang Cat, adds: “How are portals being used for fact finds? In a word, increasingly. If we had this conversation 13-14 months ago, the answer would have been very rarely, but that has probably accelerated as a result of the last 12 months.
“The preference for advisers, if they could choose, is still to sit down with the clients and go through the fact finds, but that has been completely removed in the last 12 months. The ability to communicate electronically with their clients has become critical.”
According to Ian McKenna, founder of Financial Technology Research Centre and AdviserSoftware.com, sending fact finds electronically has many benefits.
It enables the adviser to review the fact find in advance of the meeting and start talking about the client's personal situation far earlier, he explains, rather than having to go through a time-consuming fact-finding exercise before being able to get to the heart of what the client wants to discuss.
McKenna adds: “People tend to complete their own information both accurately and comprehensively. If an adviser is having to get through a fact find quickly at the beginning of a meeting, they will tend to take only the information necessary to start the advice process.
“If the fact find has only been partially completed at outset, this makes it more difficult to automate document submissions and may mean the adviser needs to go back for more information later."
He notes: “While such capability has been available for a couple of years, many advisers were initially reluctant to use it. The restrictions of the last 12 months have motivated advisers to try new ways of working and increasing numbers are finding real benefits from taking a different approach.”
Digital uptake welcomed
Illustrating his point, McKenna points to a study by CashCalc, a cash flow modelling and financial planning software provider, which indicated financial advisers using their software now overwhelming prefer to gather client information via a digital fact find.
In March 2021, nearly 7,000 digital fact finds were either completed by clients from scratch or pre-populated by advisers for their clients to update via the CashCalc system, representing a 267 per cent increase compared with March 2020.
But digital engagement does not stop there because a portal can do so much more.
For example, last month alone saw more than 3,000 new households create a secure portal via CashCalc, with nearly 10,000 documents being digitally exchanged.