Long Read  

Broadening access to advice

Broadening access to advice
(FT Money)

The financial advice industry has seen an astonishing change over the past decade.

It has become even more professional and transparent; education levels have never been higher and clients can be more confident than ever in the service they receive.

However, there remain key challenges in broadening access to financial advice, communicating its value and convincing future generations that they should engage with an adviser rather than TikTok.  

The question of how to broaden access to advice has been hotly debated. The administrative burden makes it difficult and expensive to deal with smaller clients and transactions. Advisers may recognise that they need to build a pathway to future generations, but relatively few have found a way to do it successfully.

And the perils of inaction are increasingly clear, with many younger savers apparently more inclined to take a gamble on crypto than invest in a Stocks and Shares Isa, for instance. 

Against this backdrop we believe we need a manifesto for industry change, looking at how the sector can learn from other businesses and develop innovative solutions which will better engage the clients of today and tomorrow.

Look widely for inspiration

There are a range of consumer-facing businesses harnessing technology to build excellent service propositions. To date, the advice industry has lagged. Clients stay because they trust their adviser and have built relationships, but their service expectations are rising, and the gap between the advice industry and other consumer-facing companies may become more evident over time. 

The greatest strength of companies such as flower delivery group Bloom & Wild is to keep customers informed at every step of the journey. Customers know which flowers they are getting, when they have been boxed and when they have been delivered. Ultimately, technology has allowed the group to streamline its service delivery. 

Taking such successes as inspiration, the advice sector needs to re-engineer its back office to clean up client data and make the advice journey more engaging.

The right technology 

Adviser technology has made relatively little progress in the past five to 10 years. Adviser apps, for example, have not built on the early innovation that promised so much.

Yet an adviser app that managed to aggregate lower value clients, allowing advisers to build a relationship with them (and even make a profit) would be a game-changer for adviser groups.

It does need more industry involvement – the requirement to reconnect accounts every three months will lead to apathy and non-usage by consumers.

Robo-advice is the solution for many smaller investors, but most will outgrow these solutions as their wealth builds and their needs become more complicated. Advisers need to think about how they can pick up these clients. That may mean forging links with robo-advisers, even if the mechanics of the relationship would need careful thought. 

The pandemic has made clients more technically adept. Most people have accepted video calls as a routine part of their life – to stay in touch with loved ones, to participate in online cultural events and to communicate with advisers.