Why advisers have nothing to fear from technology

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At the danger of invoking a collective moan of discontent from all Australian financial advisers, I want to begin this post on the role of technology in your industry by talking briefly about a completely unrelated topic: regulation overload.

Because even I – a humble financial technologist – can see the corrosive effect that the winds of regulatory change have had on the financial planning industry over the past decade or so. Advisers would be forgiven for feeling cynical and weary – or even fearful – about “change overload” in our post Henry, post Ripoll, post-Cooper, post GFC world.

But I urge you to resist the temptation to click away at this point and stay with me. Why? Because, firstly, I feel your pain. The industry last grappled with major structural change in the days when Financial Services Reform was a new blood sport for certain politicians and the consumer lobby.

I was involved in the wealth management industry at that time by way of my day job creating technology enhancements to a certain well-known, big brand IDPS platform. Our single objective was to help advisers by delivering efficient, compliant technological solutions. And we had to navigate the newfound delights of extensive compliance laws, SOAs, and limited advice standards.

So yes, I too felt the pain of the consequences of recent financial services reform.

Secondly, I believe that technology holds a vital key to unlocking the absolute potential of quality financial advice. And the guts of it is this: put world class tools in the hands of world class financial advisers and this will can only lead to world class outcomes for clients.

Not that clients don’t already receive world class financial advice and services. Many do.  But if technological advances can ease the regulatory burden while also engaging both adviser and client to help define, design and deliver better financial advice outcomes, than more’s the better.

I can see a future where financial advisers more actively empower their businesses with innovation, allowing advisers to better engage clients via intuitive technology that supports and enhances (rather than automates or replaces) the process of delivering quality financial advice.

A new wave of technology is coming – in fact it has already begun. I am talking here of technology that the client and the adviser use collaboratively. For the purpose of keeping “product push” out of this post, I don’t propose to write further here about this new technology, or the myriad ways advisers can harness web-enabled tools.

However, if you are interested, download our White Paper,  which explains more about my firm’s thinking on the future for financial advice using smart technology.

Overcoming fear: know thyself

One of the many observations I have been privileged to make in my 15 or so years in this industry is that we humans typically split into three main behavioural groups. When speaking in the context of our use of technology, the differences between these groups become more pronounced – ever more profound.

My advice? Any adviser who may feel reluctance or fear about engaging with new technology (or on the flip  side, absolute excitement) should really know their type and why they are reacting this way. I have summarised below my three “typical groups”:

  1. The Warrior – You know this person – he or she is the classic early adopter. First off the ship and ready to take up the good fight. The warrior welcomes change with clear eyes, open arms and an expectation that there are bound to be a few mishaps – aka learning experiences – along the way. They are often visionaries, and seek new and efficient ways to solve their problems while allowing more time to focus on the things they love doing. Like getting clients sorted on the way to financial and lifestyle security. Such is their opennesss to get new stuff done, such people are often frustrated at the perceived slow pace of change.
  2. The Worrier – This person is the antithesis of early adoption. He or she takes a lot of considered time, assessing each new technology, carefully listening out for feedback, poring over the data, assessing the pros and cons. Such people need a lot of convincing and are not overly motivated to act early …or soon. They are conservative by nature and, as the name suggests, worry about the unknown factors of adopting new technology. “Will it affect my compliance record? What’s the capex cost to the business? Shouldn’t the Dealer pay for it?” Some of these are typical concerns of the Worrier who shares the same deep concern for the client, just expressed in a different manner.
  3. The Worker – Roll up your sleeves and set your mind to the task! The worker is the backbone guy. A reliable, steady influencer. Slightly cautious though optimistic, such people regard technology as one of several tools in their working kit bag. These are the people who turn up every day, gain satisfaction from completing their task and expect that workplace promises will be met – whether by the technology or the people around them. They have high standards but are generally self reliant and hard working.

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