Written By: Rick Kent, CEO/Founder
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Technology use among financial advisors has exploded in recent years, as the industry seeks new opportunities to improve workflow, propel growth and deliver stronger financial plans for clients. At the same time, clients’ lives are increasingly intertwined with technology, and they expect a technology-based experience with their advisors. In fact, a study by McKinsey and Company reveals that 127 new devices are connected to the internet every second.
The technology available to financial advisors offers many benefits, helping them cut costs, save significant amounts of time and energy, and aid clients in reaching their goals more efficiently. It’s also a more comprehensive way for advisors to communicate important information and statistics with their clients as well as help them better visualize their options.
As the CEO of a hybrid financial planning firm, we have had to make technology a major priority. Firms that want to continue to grow and innovate will need to provide advisors with the tools they need to grow and scale their practices. Here are a few areas I feel are critical to accomplish this.
One area we are focusing on and advise other firms to think about as well, centers around data; both the ownership and the consolidation of. By becoming the consolidation point for various data streams, will allow firms to go above and beyond for clients in order to integrate a financial plan across relevant technology platforms. Once you have the data, then you can build out everything from digitalizing the client experience to automating efficient workflows for advisors and their teams
Currently, Merit’s data consolidation process is still under development, but once fully implemented we plan to start in our own data warehouse and tie in directly with our custodians. The process combines data from multiple different sources to then feed our critical systems with consistent data from one source of truth, streamlining the data flow process and limiting the dependency of multiple systems. The intent will be to provide our advisors the flexibility to customize plans, review comprehensive data and gain the clearest understanding of their clients’ financial picture. Plus, it solves an advisors’ number one challenge; not having the essential data available at their fingertips all in one place.
STAFFING FOR TECHNOLOGY: THE HUMAN BEHIND THE TECH
Occasionally, increased technology usage can result in the loss of a personal relationship, but this can be easily avoided if the team is proactive in ensuring that human connection isn’t lost. And staffing around the technology is critical. Many firms go the route of hiring a CTO. And some decide to completely outsource this function. We took a hybrid approach by partnering with a wealthtech consulting firm, F2 Strategy. They provide a team of professionals that, not only focus on strategy, but also provide resources needed for implementation. They also provide a third-party validation on helping to make decisions as well as an unbiased way to evaluate priorities.
We also have created a tech advisory board, that includes advisors, client service, compliance, trading and marketing team members, to inform on the investment, the priorities and the overall focus as it relates to technology and highly recommend this to any firm looking to focus on enhancing their tech stack. A dedicated technology team is just as important as the platforms themselves.
COMPREHENSIVE AND ONGOING TRAINING AND COMMUNICATION
Investing in robust technology is a fruitless endeavor if it’s not properly utilized. And according to a recent Investcloud survey, the number one reason advisors are not adopting technology is because they lack proper training of the offering and do not fully understand how this offering can help them grow and scale.
New technology can be overwhelming to even the most tech-savvy advisors so ensuring you and your team focus on how the offering is being rolled out, and developing both a robust training and communication plan will be essential for increased adoption.
LEARN FROM THE PROS
Finally, we recommend taking a page from some of the best in world on how to technology can help to create the ultimate client experience. Take Amazon for example; they have made it so easy for their customers to do business with them. Just one click and that’s it! How can we, as advisors, make doing business with us this easy? Technology will be the answer. Whether it be our clients having the ability to access their accounts from their phones, communicate their questions through text or being able to view their entire portfolio all in one place, are just a few examples of that. And that will be just the beginning.
Another example is Ritz Carlton. They were early adopters of the term Client experience. From having your preferences documented like which newspaper you like to read, to the type of room you prefer, having your coffee delivered without asking and greeting you by name when you enter their hotel, they embody client service. All firms need to be thinking about how we duplicate that experience for our clients and again, technology can help us with this via our CRM’s and automated marketing programs just as an example.
Our industry has a huge opportunity for continued growth and technology will be at the center of it all. Investing in it now, will set firms up best to capitalize on that growth for the future.
Rick Kent is founder and CEO of Merit Financial Advisors.