How long ago was it that the insurance salesman was epitomised by the sight of the trusty rate book? I have no idea because technology has been with us in financial services for many a decade.
The question of how technology has impacted on the industry is too vast a question to answer in one Blog but I assert that it should have an extremely positive impact in supporting the profession of giving financial advice.
To understand how technology can help advisers, let’s look at some of the key elements of the advice process:
- Know your client
- Research and justify a proposition
- Selling the proposition to the client
These are the skills every skilled financial adviser employs each day.
Computerising the trusty rate book, and more, has taken nothing away from the need of employing these skills. In fact it should give greater opportunity to develop and hone these skills, which, after all, are the real value-add in building long-term client relationships.
Technology takes the leg work out of the process, freeing up valuable time. A back office system helps record and manage an adviser’s client data; greatly assisting, not replacing, the skill of knowing your client. In much the same way as Microsoft Word can help you write a letter through its spelling and grammar check functions, it cannot give you the skill of choosing the right words.
Web portals save an extraordinary amount of time and effort in obtaining illustrations but still require the adviser’s skill to present the proposition to the client and request the appropriate product illustrations. Again looking at Microsoft, but this time PowerPoint, it provides the tools to put together a visual presentation quickly and efficiently but I’m sure we can all remember presentations we wish we hadn’t bothered with due to the presenter’s poor performance!
Excellent though it is having systems to handle client data and obtain illustrations, there is a necessary link between them. That is a research tool that allows the financial adviser to take what he knows about the client and match them up with products that he knows best suit his client’s requirements.
By applying criteria the system filters choices down to appropriate products and, importantly within today’s highly regulated environment, provides an invaluable audit trail. But, yet again it is a tool, still requiring the skills of a professional adviser to employ it correctly. This is one of the reasons why we envisage such a system being for professional advisers and not a public facing application. And the Microsoft analogy? This time it is Excel. A fabulous tool for analysing data but if you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out.
I said at the beginning of this blog that technology should have an extremely positive impact in supporting the profession of giving financial advice. I accept that disjointed use of technology within the industry has not, to date, served financial advisers as well as it might. Integration is the way forward, cutting out re-keying and increasing the familiarity of operating functionality.
Does that sound a bit like Microsoft Office where data can easily be transferred between Word, PowerPoint and Excel and operating each is all very similar and familiar? Too right.
There is the old saying that a bad workman blames his tools but in truth a professional will always use professional tools. We believe professional advisers should embrace technology and that we can deliver a professional suite of tools that will deliver an extremely positive impact in supporting those that do.
Graham Coxell is business and commercial development director at Capita Financial Services.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the company he represents.IFAonline
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