Tech Talk: Disrupting the Industry

Brendan McConnellBrendan McConnell, Chief Operating Officer

Over the last two years we have seen a tremendous amount of change driven by technology in the financial services industry—an industry that has gone from lagging around technology innovation to one that is very much at the forefront. With change comes disruption, and we are beginning to witness a tremendous amount as wealth management firms adjust to offer technology-driven investor experiences.

One recent disruption that has seemingly dominated headlines is that of the online digital advice firms, perhaps more widely known as the “robo advisor.” In most cases, these platforms provide a lower-cost, time-saving alternative for the average investor complete with a more frictionless experience through the use of technology. These firms have set a new baseline around portfolio management, and traditional advisory firms are reacting.

Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Vanguard are three major institutions now offering, or planning to offer, their own digital wealth platforms. They are making a conscious and deliberate investment to deliver this type of technology to the segment of investors who would prefer less human interaction and faster execution of transactions. These platforms also allow the financial advisor to bring additional scale to their own practices.

At Brinker Capital, we hear concerns from financial advisors on how this new class of investment management is impacting the industry and, more importantly, how it’s impacting them. Suffice it to say that the real impact on the rise of technology in the industry will ultimately be a positive impact for advisors and investors. These new technology innovations are making their way into the hands of financial advisors to in turn offer to their clients. This will lead to a more efficient and productive advisor with the ability to serve a broader audience of consumers looking for financial planning and advice. The future-ready advisor will be one that can offer comprehensive financial planning while maximizing the technology available in the industry.

Technology is changing the way consumers view financial advisors. The services that consumers value most from advisors has certainly started to shift. This has upended the advisor value stack. At a recent Fidelity Investment conference, Sanjiv Mirchandani, President at Fidelity National Financial Clearing and Custody, outlined Fidelity’s vision of the future advisor (images below) with a simple and easy-to-understand visual of the current advisor value stack.

The traditional financial advisor value stack:

Advisor_Value_Stack_Traditional

Source: Sanjiv Mirchandani, Fidelity

Now, technology and investor preference has upended and squeezed the top-end of the value stack:

Advisor_Value_Stack

Source: Sanjiv Mirchandani, Fidelity

What Fidelity is identifying here is that investors are putting greater importance on financial planning and behavioral management when selecting a financial advisor. This is the opportunity for a financial advisor to demonstrate their value and justify their fee over the digital advice offering. Fees are less of a concern with advisors who are following this new value model. The new future-ready architecture is one that supports goal-based financial planning and a digital experience. Advisors who focus on these values seem better positioned to succeed in this evolving landscape. Advisors should focus less on the portfolio management, outsourcing these duties, and more on a planning centric client relationship maximized by technology.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Tech Talk: Adding Value Through Technology

Brendan McConnellBrendan McConnell, Vice President, Business Administration

I recently participated on an advisor technology panel at the 2014 FSI OneVoice event in Washington, D.C. One of the topics of conversation highlighted the number of new technologies available and what technology an advisor should consider adopting. It starts with creating a solid technology foundation.

Financial services, not unlike most other industries, is a competitive landscape where it can be difficult to separate yourself from the pack, so to speak. There are a lot of skilled institutions and personnel promoting similar products and services. Embracing the right technology is one way to differentiate yourself. Adding technology to your practice can be disruptive, but a firm with the right appetite for change finds success in transforming the customer experience. Let’s look at a few tools and concepts you should start considering adding to your business.

Adopt a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
CRM systems are designed to help you manage your business more strategically and efficiently. They serve as the ecosystem where all relevant business data exists—from client contact information and account data, to prospect opportunities and service requests. Your CRM is the hub around which all other technology revolves. Most CRMs are now offered as cloud-based technology, giving you access anywhere on any mobile device and eliminating the need to support the technology infrastructure. The cloud delivery also makes CRM much more affordable. Use CRM systems to automate workflows and eliminate those time-consuming, manual procedures. Set up alerts so that you know when a new proposal is run or an account hits a specific threshold. Have emails proactively sent to your clients when a service case is completed or for an anniversary or birthday. Time is your most valued resource, add more of it through a properly implemented CRM system.

Adopt a CRM SystemIf you are currently using a CRM, your future technology choices should include an evaluation of integration with your system. Think of your CRM like a power strip that all other technology plugs into. This will provide you with a simplified infrastructure with one source and a single log in. If you are shopping for a CRM, take a look at your current core system, software, and platforms and find the CRM that will integrate best with your existing technology. If you follow this strategy it will eliminate the siloed technology approach, which often leads to inefficiencies.

Improve the Client Onboarding Process
As important as embracing technology is to your internal processes and procedures, it’s vital for enhancing the client experience. This is where you prove to the client that you add more value than simply serving their investment needs. A recent Fidelity RIA Benchmarking survey found that 77% of high-performing firms were focused on using technology to enhance the customer experience and satisfaction.

Client onboarding, for example, is an area worth the technological investment. Tools that allow for pre-population of forms, applications that allow secure, electronic signatures, using CRM data to customize templates—all of these enhancements create a unique and personal experience for the client. And we all know the adage “a happy customer is a loyal customer.” In addition, a paperless workflow technology can provide a tremendous amount of efficiency and process standardization that can help reduce resources required (time and money) and help eliminate mistakes.

Customization is KeyProvide Customizable Client Reports
What about the ongoing servicing of existing clients? Client reporting, much like the onboarding process, helps enhance and maintain successful relationships. Each one of your clients has an investing objective that is personal to them. You need to be able to provide them with a custom report that shows how they are measuring against their goals rather than trying to fit them into a predefined template. The one-size-fits-all model is no longer going to meet your clients’ expectations for the evolving world of goals-based investing.

The driver behind successful adoption of technology for any practice is internal participation. You must have buy-in within your organization or practice. Whether a one-man show or a team of 20, everyone has to commit in order to maintain a culture of innovation. With proper adoption of technology, enhanced client experience and satisfaction will be within reach.