The technological revolution for IFAs, if we can call it such, has been running much longer in the back office than the front, indeed a good rule of thumb in our market is the further you go from the client experience, the more you will find technology.
This actually seems quite odd when you consider that over 17 million people now use internet banking, internet usage is growing fastest in the older (65+) age group and 42% of the UK population shop online. In others word, depending on the market you serve, the bulk of your clients are probably IT literate and use technology regularly.
Historically speaking, there have been good reasons why technology has not been used in front of clients including slow speeds, visual unattractiveness, and the perception of creating a visual barrier of a screen between the advisers and the client. However, perhaps it is time to look again.
Several well known IFA (and controlled distribution) firms are now using tablet technology to undertake fact finds, and whilst this is a good start offering many benefits (not least avoiding having to re-key data into systems later), this approach represents at best a ‘halfway house’ in terms of what is possible.
Advances in hardware and software have now made it possible to place sophisticated needs analysis capability and graphical analysis on laptops linked to the fact-find, with speeds sufficient to allow advisers to have a real time discussion about, for example, whether a client’s investment is adequate to meet their objectives or consider ‘what if’ scenarios when discussing protection.
This can support a more detailed discussion about the client’s circumstances and priorities, and represents an excellent method of dealing with clients with unrealistic expectations.
The benefits include upsales, cross-sales, and better sales as clients are able to experience the journey between their needs and your recommended solutions interactively. Consumer research in the controlled distribution space has reinforced that clients want to be involved.
Of course, barriers to adoption remain, not least the fear that too much technology in front of the client risks devaluing the role of the adviser.
However, this view is largely misconstrued; clients with complex, and sometimes competing priorities, especially those that involve technical complexity or uncertain outcomes (investments and pensions) need the professionalism and judgement that only an adviser can offer.
For evidence of this, we need look no further than where those in the vanguard of direct to consumer ecommerce, the price comparison sites, have focused their efforts – debt and simple savings related products.
I have no doubt that the coming year will see significant progress in this area.
Simon Farrant is director of financial planning at Distribution Technology
The views expressed in this article are those of its author and do not necessarily represent those of IFAonline or any other Incisive Media affiliated organisation.IFAonline
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