With firms and clients forced to make the most of their existing gadgets and engage with new online functionality, Nick Eatock explores whether coronavirus could make clients more comfortable with adviser technology.
In recent weeks, the UK has seen a boom in the use of video and voice calls via laptops and iPads. On 23 March, the day the UK lockdown was announced, Zoom was downloaded 2.13m times globally according to Apptopia, compared to a daily average of 56,000 in January. Similarly, at the end of May, EE's network reported that traffic for communications apps including Zoom, Teams, Skype and WhatsApp, had soared by 45% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Many advice firms have used these services as part of their normal working practices for some time, but the lockdown has motivated more of us to make full use of existing and new technology. We've certainly seen this in the use of Intelliflo's services.
Our Intelligent Office DocuSign functionality, which has been available for more than two years, saw use increase by 1,189% between February and April. We also saw clients logging into the Personal Finance Portal three times as often as normal over the same period, while the use of our Glia virtual client meetings app has risen almost six-fold.
These figures tally with how advisers are feeling generally about their use of technology. A recent Intelliflo poll of more than 500 advisers about the impact of Covid-19 on their work, found that technology has played a role in 98% of adviser businesses since the outbreak, with 50% saying it has played a more prominent role in day-to-day operations and 66% had seen an improvement in employee adoption of available technology.
Perhaps more surprisingly, a third (32%) said adopting new technology has made them more efficient during this time, while two fifths (42%) have adopted new technology that they will implement permanently.
The technology trend has not just affected the advice industry. The lockdown has forced people to interact digitally with a range of different providers. For instance, according to NHS England, GP's have switched from holding around 90% of patient appointments face-to-face, to managing more than 85% of consultations remotely by phone and online.
Similarly, research from Santander found that 54% of over-55s have used more online services since the coronavirus pandemic started, while 17% have signed up to at least three new online entertainment, socialising or shopping services in recent weeks.
Many advice firms have long embraced technology to help deliver an efficient, cost-effective, client-centric proposition. Others were already moving towards greater use of online functionality to support their work. However, while technology is transforming the adviser experience for some time, clients have been slower to engage with online tools.
Yet, interestingly, our Covid-19 survey found that half (50%) of firms had seen an improvement in client employee adoption of available technology. Only time will tell, but the legacy of the lockdown might be to accelerate and strengthen the client-facing digital trends within the advice process.
The Coronavirus experience has pushed many of us to look in more detail at how technology can help improve our day to day lives, embedding new digital habits across the population. There's no doubt that this will shape the future for advisers and their clients and deliver greater efficiencies for both as a result.
Nick Eatock is CEO and executive chairman at Intelliflo
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