The coronavirus pandemic has caused everyone to change the way they live, work and interact with each other, and adviser platforms are no exception, writes Jeremy Mugridge. Here, he argues analogous platforms could be alienating customers...
While the lockdown is in place we are finding new ways to hold meetings, meet our friends and keep fit among many other things.
Perhaps more pertinently it has changed the way many businesses now have to operate. Support, both financial and emotional, is understandably with those who are struggling through the crisis, of which many in the financial advice process will be included.
However, there are also numerous companies who are updating their business models in light of the lack of face time we can now have with people. This is primarily being done not only to make doing business easier but also to improve the customer experience for good.
We have seen this more so in the platform world, where a debate has been developing over how ‘digital' every aspect of a platform's service can during this period of uncertainty.
At the end of the day, being a tech-focused business these days does not just mean the ability to video conference clients and send documents over email. Instead it should be about giving advisers the option to submit business, whether new or existing, knowing it can be done quickly and efficiently, without any hassle and all at the click of a button.
There has long been a drive to be more digitally enabled as an industry, however this hasn't always been the case across all aspects of the adviser platform. Paper still dominates in many circumstances and wet signatures are required more often than they should be.
There is a phrase that you should never let a crisis go to waste and that has been the case with the coronavirus crisis, which has brought opportunity as well as serious challenges.
This period of uncertainty has the capability to separate those who take digital processes seriously from the platforms that just talk a good game when it comes to online capabilities. For example, some platforms have moved quickly to remove the need for wet signatures and allow documentation to be submitted online.
Others are also ensuring their businesses are future proof by getting their adviser and customer base engaged in a more digital manner too. Platforms must be preparing themselves for disruption to postal and printing services, so they have a duty to ensure they can still communicate with customers during challenging circumstances.
This also extends to payments too, where cheques continue to be used despite being slow and cumbersome to process, while now adding the extra risk of exposing those who handle them to coronavirus. Platforms must be getting their advisers and customers to embrace bank transfers to enable a fully paperless experience.
All of these changes will ultimately benefit the customer in the long term by having an enhanced experience while also reducing the cost base for the platform so it can focus on more useful and innovative products and solutions.
Of course, platforms must also be alive to the threat of scams and have robust processes in place to detect threats and alert customers quickly and appropriately. Those who are thinking digitally should already be best placed to deal with this threat.
Nevertheless, as with almost every industry, there will be some who end up not adapting quick enough to this new world of working. Following this period there is going to be demand for more services being available online, and those that remain stuck in the analogue age will ultimately lose the support and loyalty of their customer base.
It has taken time for the digital revolution to be fully appreciated by platforms, but it now appears like there will be winners and losers that emerge from this crisis. Those platforms that do succeed will be the ones that pivoted their business to be an enabler of technology and make the lives of its customers easier at what has been a very trying time.
Jeremy Mugridge is head of UK proposition marketing at Quilter/Old Mutual Wealth
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