A few years ago a great deal of uncertainty and debate prevailed with the apparent rise and threat of the “Robo-Advisor” in the financial services sector. At the time advisors were uncertain as to the role and future that human advisors would fulfil as reports about robo-advisors gained traction. A couple of years on and this perceived threat has now evolved into a massive opportunity to serve our profession and clients better.
As technology advanced, we have been able to automate parts of financial services including things like online share trading, product innovation in the low-cost Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) space as well as vast improvements in the tracking of documents and records of advice.
Access to information and keeping clients well informed with regards to their investments is part and parcel of the role that technology plays.
The development of a financial plan is a personal journey and a good financial planner plays a critical role in this process, but without technology to compliment one might find things a little hard going as we drift ever deeper into the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Technology is everywhere and evolving at a rapid rate and if not embraced you might be left behind. Whether you are a financial advisor or an investor, without the presence of technology in your financial planning processes it will become harder to thrive and survive.
Technology exists to support, simplify and create efficiency as opposed to threatening our industry. It is abundantly clear that the human touch and skill can never be completely replaced by technology. However in this day and age and years to come both human and technology are vital to serve clients better and modernise our financial planning profession.
Personally I prefer the term automated advice as this better encapsulates the integration between the human element and technology.
Here are some areas where I believe technology will be a game-changer for financial planning practices to better serve their clients:
The beauty about technology is that it is “always on” and access to investment information is easy, forthcoming, convenient and 24/7/365. The age of having to literally wait days to access statements or basic information is a thing of the past with technology.
Technology allows an advisor and client to have more engaged and meaningful advice conversations. Technology enables various investment outcome based scenarios to be instantly generated with human advisors present to ensure all investment implications are properly explained to the client. All this can happen in one seamless client sitting keeping both parties engaged and focused on the ultimate goal of financial advice – good client outcomes.
Investing can be complicated and tricky at times. Technology creates simplicity and helps quantify and simplify investment outcomes in tangible ways that the average person can understand. Are terms like PE ratios, Sharpe ratios and volatility really meaningful to clients or would they rather see how their money is working for them and where they stand with their investments.
Best of both
Technology brings accuracy, speed and efficiency, all these help improve client outcomes and experiences. The human touch is just as important but on its own not strong enough. The best of both is what the profession can offer these days in a single client engagement.
Costs are one of the biggest determinants of investment outcomes, yet very few people can work out what their Effective Annual Cost (EAC) is on their investment between platform fees, asset manager and advisor fees. Technology can bring all this together and give you instant information on your total investment fee structure.
Administration and Compliance Relief
Financial services is a highly regulated industry and at times creates a fair amount of friction in terms of the uptake of financial products. Research conducted by Finscope in 2016 indicated that nearly 56% of salaried adults did not have a retirement savings vehicle, and anecdotal evidence suggests that this is because the paperwork and administrative steps to onboard clients plays a big role.
Technology allows Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) compliance and the ability to connect to everything from a Tax Free Savings Account to a Retirement Annuity or Endowment product via your mobile phone or PC. This lowers the barriers to entry around starting to invest.
The objective behind building a financial plan should be to try meet a specific investment goal.
With technology clients and advisors can regularly check whether they are on track or off track towards achieving their unique investment goals. When off track they will be able to immediately take action to get their investments back on course.
What was previously answered via a complicated financial spreadsheet can now be tracked daily with the right technology and tools.
In this demanding era, time is certainly a commodity becoming scarce. Technology gives us back our time, both client and advisor. The entire investment process from generating investment plans, records of advice and annual reviews right through to administrative FICA, forms and compliance is improved with automation. Saving everyone time.
Financial planners have been utilising technology in their practices for many years and automated advice models and offerings are no longer a threat but rather an enabler to their businesses.
Are your investments geared for modern investing underpinned by efficient technology?
Gareth van Deventer
OUTvest: Head of Advice