Technology and the advice journeyThe use of technology has changed enormously over the last three years. The lockdowns and shifts in working patterns stemming from the pandemic forced firms to embrace technology like never before. At the same time, as individuals we all became increasingly comfortable with doing everything online from working and socialising, to shopping and banking.
These trends have played out in the advice sector too, with increased adoption and engagement with technology across the sector, better integration and collaboration with partners across the industry and a growing trend towards client engagement tools like customer portals. Firms today can more easily than ever embed technology into every step of the advice journey to streamline processes and increase efficiencies while improving consistency and driving engagement for clients.
Making the best use of technology starts from the first interaction with the client. Using standard workflows within your practice management you can set up a new client online and use template letters and service fee agreements, which can be sent, signed and returned digitally to reduce the need for hard copies and postage. Plans reviewed, relevant documents and subsequent work can be linked to the client record to keep everything in one place.
The fact find process can also be enhanced with technology such as client portals allowing the client to securely populate, add to, or amend their own data. For instance, enabling clients to scan and upload images of passports or driving licences, or, even better, access the portal via a smartphone or tablet and taking a photo that uploads automatically, can speed up the ID verification process considerably.
Breaking down the information requested into bite-sized chunks within the client portal, rather than one long boring form, helps encourage people to complete it, as well as linking to third-party tools to minimise the need to find and rekey information and improve accuracy. For instance, inputting a postcode automatically brings up the address data and a property valuation, cutting out the task of sourcing or estimating the current home value. Similarly, linking bank accounts or credit cards to the portal via Open Banking provides income and expenditure data at the click of a button, removing the need to trawl through bank statements or hazard a guess.
Feedback from advisers tells us that information completed by clients in this way is often more complete than a paper-based fact-find, giving a more comprehensive view of the client’s finances on which to build the recommendations. Empowering the client to complete and update their own data also ensures it is accurate from the start and can be shared across other systems and tools with confidence. A recent poll of advisers by AdviserSoftware.com found that a third (31%) believed poor data quality was a barrier to digitising more of their business.
Completing attitude to risk and capacity for loss questionnaires via the portal can also save time, or you can work together to input the data directly, either in person or remotely using co-browsing software. This removes the need for paper forms and means the digital questionnaires can easily be stored in the online client record.
We estimate that sharing the completion of the fact find with the client saves advisers around half an hour compared with gathering all the data during the initial meeting. Meaning when you do meet face to face, you’ll have a more detailed picture of their financial situation and can spend more time focusing on the client’s goals and objectives.
Shaping the solutionWhen developing the financial plan, technology can again do a lot of the heavy lifting, supporting the research and due diligence process and helping to stress test the chosen solutions. Using cashflow planning tools with the client can also bring the strategy to life visually and encourage confidence in the strength of the plan and the value that you’re adding to their future finances.
Although some providers still require wet signatures for some transactions, increasingly electronic signatures are accepted. Digitising the process of product applications and transactions makes the advice journey far quicker and less painful for advisers and clients alike, so the market certainly needs to move towards making this the normal way of doing business.
Once the plan is in place, clients can access valuations and check on products, contributions and withdrawals via their client portal whenever they want. This reduces the need for people within the advice firm to answer simple questions, but more importantly gives the client greater ownership of their financial plan, encouraging engagement and long-term buy-in.
Although every firm is different, the advice journey that each client and adviser follows will have many similar steps. Embedding technology throughout the journey can not only improve your business, but it can also strengthen your client relationships and ensure you continue to deliver the best outcomes too.
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