Technology adoption will be one of the key differentiators for financial advisers

David Greenslade attended the T3 financial services technology conference at Ft Lauderdale Florida in early February 2018. This is the first of three articles with key take-outs from the conference.

The annual T3 Adviser Conference is regarded as being the leading practice management and technology conference for independent financial advisers. It is the place to go to find global trends and technology tools for financial advisers and advisory firms.

Key takeouts were:

  • Mechanise the inside - customise the outside”. This was possibly the key theme of the conference. Clients are not interested in how you operate and what you do behind the scenes. They are more interested in the interactions they have with you, the adviser. Therefore, build standardised processes run by technology to drive the business. Then use good interpersonal skills and really nice looking technology when meeting with the client, to provide a fully customised, appealing, fast and easy to understand, advice outcome that clients will read or view.
  • The game has changed and the stakes have too. We have moved from an adviser-centric world to a client-centric model. The main reasons are: regulations and the need to place client interests first; low-priced digital advice disruptors; changing client demographics, and commoditisation of financial product selling. Additionally, consumers are demanding participation, transparency and value. The result is a move to what is called ‘Financial Planning 2.0’. However, many advisers in the USA are struggling to grasp how quickly things have changed and how they implement Financial Planning 2.0.
  • The old school 6 step financial planning process is unchanged, but it is now implemented differently. Technology is now integrated into client meetings, advice has moved from a consultative to a collaborative approach, and much of the engagement is modularised rather than focussing on a full comprehensive financial plan.
  • Selling product may make you money today but it is not demonstrating adviser gamma and increasingly, technology will be able to recommend suitable products quicker and cheaper than humans. Financial planning 2.0 is the key to showing value.
  • Technology advances in the financial advisory industry started slowly - in fact well behind many industries - but are now rapidly catching up. The rate of advance is exponential, and those planning to build systems to automate what they have been doing up until now will possibly be throwing good money into a bottomless pit. It is likely they will be spending money to build something that will quickly be redundant as other processes could negate, or make outdated, the automation they were trying to achieve.
  • Building your own technology platform, be it a CRM, calculators, reporting tools etc., is going to be a major financial drag and distraction. The simple reality is that if you cannot obtain immediate scale, then the cost to constantly upgrade the technology becomes prohibitive. It is usually cheaper and faster in the long run to use an ‘out of the box’ solution. Under licensing, a financial advice provider (FAP) will need to prove to the FMA that their technology is robust, is compliant, is regularly tested, meets Privacy Act requirements, meets cybersecurity protocols, and can help monitor adviser conduct obligations.
  • When thinking of introducing technology, don’t focus just on the upfront cost. Allocate 33% of the budget to people, i.e. staff training and client training; allocate 33% to process design, i.e. defining processes and automated workflows; and finally, allocate 33% to technology.
  • Client data aggregation is huge. All CRMs/advisory tools coming to market are designed to have 360 integration of all client information including banking info, insurances, investments, general insurance etc. This is key to Financial Planning 2.0.
  • There is no one solution which will completely run your business and meet 100% of your needs. Get an ‘out of the box’ solution that is pretty good, then have APIs to link to the other specialist software tools you use.
  • Different clients have different planning needs and therefore may need different software.
  • Website video is a powerful tool largely under-rated by financial advisers. According to Snappy Kraken “Video on a website landing page can increase conversions by 80% or more”. Additionally, “Businesses who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users” plus “An email with a video receives an increased click-through rate by 96%”.
  • Blockchain will be a major disruptor. Most new software start-ups in the financial advice space are building systems to handle blockchain transactions.

From these key takeouts it is clear that there are FOUR BIG DECISIONS all FAPs will have to make:

  1. How do you want to interact with your clients?
  2. What is your planning approach?
  3. How will you build your processes to support your planning?
  4. What platform will you use?

Strategi has developed Business in a Box and engaged financial adviser trained technology consultants to help financial advisers, financial advisory firms and QFEs implement the technology solution appropriate for their new business model.