Over the past few years, many commentators have expressed their views on the role of technology in financial advice and the growing variety of software solutions available to financial advice companies.
Many have sought to put their own spin on topics like robo-advice, customer portals, cash flow planning, and digital transformation, while others have focused on topics like compatibility and integration.
All of these are, of course, interesting and important aspects of the technology debate that deserve our attention, but, in my view, they are secondary considerations in terms of choosing the right technology for your consulting business.
The first and most fundamental task in selecting the type of technology you should deploy within your business has very little to do with the technology itself. On the contrary, it has everything to do with the proposition you want to offer your customers.
For example, if the essence of your proposition revolves around the quantity and quality of personal relationships, deploying numerous technological solutions allowing your customers to serve themselves is likely to be counterproductive.
Conversely, if your proposition is all about speed and efficiency at lower cost, apps that let your customers do most of the work themselves deserve to be high on your agenda.
Of course, there are all sorts of different proposals that could fall between these two extremes, but the point remains the same, which is that you need to start by deciding exactly what you want your technology to do for your customers and your business. before selecting software products and considering whether or not they integrate.
So the first step is to put yourself in the shoes of your (typical) customers and ask yourself the question, “What do I want my proposal to look like or, in marketing terms, how does using does the technology fit into my brand?” For instance:
- What role do you want technology to play in communicating with your customers? Is it just to deliver a more engaging hard copy faster or is it to use interactive apps to gamify parts of the process and help your customers understand, for example, the impact of inflation or the nature of the investment risk?
- Do you want your customers to actively engage with technology to actively participate in the process? If so, at what stages of the consulting process do you want your clients to be involved and what do you want them to do? For example, do you want them to capture factual data, provide electronic signatures, etc. ?
- What support will you provide and how? Will you offer face-to-face support, remote support, or some form of chat bots?
- What kind of look and feel do you want?
Once you have clearly defined all these aspects, you can then start designing the delivery process, i.e. what tasks need to be done, when and by whom? Which functions can be automated and which must be delivered in person? How will quality be monitored, measured and controlled?
Only when you know the answers to these questions can you then begin to research the software solutions that will truly support and enable your business.
In summary, the financial advisory industry is on the cusp of a revolution in terms of the use of technology.
Over the next few years, it will be possible to automate virtually every part of the consulting process, but the winners will be those who realize that deploying technology goes far beyond simply automating processes; it’s about using technology to find and engage with the right kind of customers to match their proposition and to deliver a user experience that truly matches their brand.
Paul Miles is the founder of Silverback Consultancy