Adviser firms are businesses in every sense of the word, says Tim Sargisson, and like everything in the modern world of commerce, the key to delivering a customer value proposition is a modern, digitally-enabled practice
Last month's blog in Professional Adviser picked up on the supposed comments made by Bob Geldof about advisers and the fact the public does not trust us. Despite the opinions attributed to Bob, however, the fact is that the modern advisory practise now has more opportunities to add value to clients through excellent service and providing the highest quality of advice.
In other words, it has the chance to put some ‘clear blue water' between the practices of old and a client value proposition that is truly client-centric and has the mantra of ‘delivering great customer outcomes' at its heart. Nevertheless, like everything in the modern world of commerce - and advisory businesses are ‘businesses' in every sense of the word - the key to delivering your customer value proposition is a modern digitally-enabled practice.
It is simply not good enough to operate through a non-digital business - with filing cabinets bulging with paper and client visits that begin by heaving the four-inch thick file out of a battered briefcase ahead of the annual review. If your client visibly wilts at the prospect of what lies ahead at the ‘review' meeting, how can we possibly hope to engage with the next generation who view paper as akin to our view of holding data on parchment?
Still, how do we make it happen? There is an awful lot of tech out there for advisers to spend their hard-earned revenue on. While many advisers will feel they are ‘digitally enabled', my experience is that many assemble a number of bits of software that end up doing lots of things, but do they join up to support the customer service proposition? Do they work well together to make the practice highly efficient and remove cost?
Data collection and data management
It has been shown that approximately 70% of all adviser data is collected via pen and paper and then advisers pay to have it keyed in to back-office and platform systems. A digitally enabled business should be looking to reduce this obvious and considerable overhead.
There are options such as digital pen technology, which transforms handwriting into xml data and can fire it straight to the back office. This technology works on tablets, so forms such as the client fact-find can be readily converted to populate client record systems.
Back office systems are the backbone of a digitally-enabled business and advisers use them to varying degrees of success. A modern digitally-enabled business should have seamless connectivity between back office, front end and the wealth management platform.
Depending on your client proposition, this would also tie into your client-facing website so you can offer clients access to their portfolios and other product holdings. They would be able to see all assets they own and check goal progress.
But using data collection as the basis for IT decisions is only part of the picture - hence mistakes are frequently made. Many software purchases are driven by decisions around the functionality of the kit and not necessarily a complete appraisal of the needs of the business. It is a symptom of this tech age. As we will see with so-called robo-advice, watch out for lots of clever ideas seeking problems to solve.
A better way is to ensure your client-service proposition is clearly mapped out end to end. Here is a key pointer - define the customer value proposition by asking why you do what you do. How does this translate into the articulation of your advice?
As an example, I am aware of one adviser who says to clients: "My job is making sure you know The Number you need to retire on and everything I do will be focused on how close we are to that number." It is a single-minded and compelling proposition and drives the conversation at every meeting.
After all, we are very good at describing what we do - and some of us can describe how we do it. But very few of us know why. Start with ‘why?' and ensure it is aligned to your client value proposition and you can work out the rest from there.
Tim Sargisson is chief executive at Sandringham Financial Partners
Read all of Tim's columns for PA here
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