Technology affects virtually every part of wealth management. However, financial advisors’ reactions to new capabilities can range from passion to Luddite-like fear. Yet, more technological advances are inevitable.
Technology has shifted the power in the advisor/client relationship. While tech traditionally resided with advisors who controlled information flow, process, product access, pricing and client communication, today’s clients know much more about their choices. Clients have more “self-serve” opportunities and increasingly seek financial solutions designed specifically for them.
Thus, savvy advisors who embrace technology experience deeper client relationships, greater operations efficiency and growing businesses. So, what technologies do these advisors employ?
Here are my Top 10 tools for a sound, tech-based practice:
1 THE BASIC MICROSOFT OFFICE SUITE
This is the fundamental set of tools for managing your time, illustrating concepts, calculating projections and communicating with clients. The most commonly used applications within this suite of software are Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Most advisors use these tools (or their Google equivalents) to some extent. If you’re like me, however, you utilize only a portion of the capability of any of these familiar tools. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to dedicate 30 minutes per day to learning one unfamiliar function of these applications to improve their utility.
If you have an older version of Office, consider upgrading to Office 365, which enables online collaboration with team members, sharing documents and functionality on any device, anywhere.
If your dealer firm does not provide an in-house client relationship management (CRM) system and you still use something like Outlook to perform CRM tasks, it’s time to upgrade to a specialized financial advisor version of one of the more comprehensive tools. The most commonly used in Canada are (in alphabetical order):
– ACT! (act4advisors.com)
– GoldMine (goldmine.com)
– Maximizer (maximizer.com)
A robust CRM system is essential, not only for building a client database, but also for compliance purposes: creating audit trails, tracking client conversations, and more.
3 RISK PROFILING
Typical risk profiling in many practices is limited to meeting the dealer firm’s minimum “know your client” requirements, which often are, in my view, woefully inadequate because they are based on self-assessment by clients and unproven algorithms.
Furthermore, their solution to varying degrees of client risk tolerance – i.e., simply adjusting the equities allocation in a portfolio – fails to consider a client’s risk capacity, risk composure, varying time horizons for different financial objectives and other factors affecting a client’s overall risk profile.
With suitability being the top investor complaint against advisors, a comprehensive psychometric risk-profiling tool is a must. Regrettably, unless your dealer firm or a product provider offers an academically validated tool, there are limited options in the Canadian market. The exception is the FinaMetrica Risk Profiling system (finametrica.com).
By way of disclosure, FinaMetrica and its risk-profiling tool were acquired last year by Lindsay, Ont.-based PlanPlus Global (planplus.com), of which I am a director. That said, I honestly wish there were more options for Canadian advisors and their dealer firms.
4 FINANCIAL PLANNING
The days of financial planning using yellow notepads have passed. Today, clients, compliance departments and regulators demand proof that advisors’ recommendations are in the best interests of their clients.
Fortunately, the Canadian market offers financial planning software that enables you to offer a consistent client experience, develop operations efficiency and provide evidence of your professional judgment. Among these options are:
– Advicent (advicentsolutions.ca/products/naviplan)
– FP Solutions (cch.ca)
– PlanPlus (planplus.com/ca)
– RazorPlan (razorplan.com)
– Snap (snapprojections.com)
– VisionWorks (visionsystemscorp.com)
A note of caution: some applications that promise “financial planning” are narrowly focused on retirement planning or designed to promote products only.
5 SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT AND DIGITAL MARKETING
Social media participation is a must for anyone in business today. However, I encourage you to outsource the actual management of your messaging to independent specialists. You still can be responsible for content, but try to avoid allocating a significant part of your day to “keeping up” with your blog, LinkedIn, Facebook and other online activities.
In the same way that there always has been a close link between your traditional referral generation and other business-development activities, there is a fine line between social media management and digital marketing. Whether you hire someone to manage these online business activities or do that yourself, there are several applications that can coordinate your digital marketing activities, repurpose content across various media and track your audience analytics.
6 PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT
For many advisors, portfolio-management software is in the “essentials” category. I placed it in this group, however, because use of this type of tool in Canada still is limited.
I would welcome your recommendations of any independent or non-legacy platforms.
7 ONLINE CALENDAR
One of the most useful technologies I adopted last year was an online system that enables people to schedule their own calls and meetings with me directly. This eliminates the back and forth of emails or telephone calls. This technology notifies me of any bookings and integrates automatically with my Outlook calendar.
The meetings can be via telephone, video or face to face, and I can set the parameters, such as time slots available, appointment length and buffers between appointments. Reminders are personalized and generated automatically. The systems I looked at are:
– Book Like a Boss (booklikeaboss.com)
– Calendly (calendly.com)
– You Can Book Me (youcanbook.me)
8 VIDEO CONFERENCING
Another huge time saver is video conferencing. Today, about two-thirds of my coaching and consulting calls are video-based, which saves travel time and costs, but also preserves personal relationships. I can engage with multiple participants, share screens, record calls and send a participant a copy of the recording. The most popular video-conferencing tools are GoToMeeting (gotomeeting.com) and Zoom (zoom.us; my choice).
9 SURVEY TOOL
Advisors have long used surveys to gather feedback from clients regarding their satisfaction with service and other matters. We recommend using short surveys to test new ideas, solicit interest in new products, etc. These questionnaires can be as short as one or two questions and, because they aren’t time-consuming, can be used frequently without annoying clients. Free survey tools include Google Forms (gsuite.google.com), Survey Gizmo (surveygizmo.com) and Survey Monkey (surveymonkey.com).
10 PROJECT PLANNER
Many advisors have great ideas or intentions for their business that never get implemented fully due to lack of planning or proper implementation. I find project planners and “mind maps” to be a big help in designing even a simple project and tracking its progress.
Some applications are very comprehensive, but unless you are trying to reinvent your world, consider a simpler (and less expensive) option. The ones I use are MindManager (mindjet.com) and Monday (monday.com).
Technology enables increased efficiency, more focused application of resources and will free up your time. The phenomenon is accelerating and irreversible. I encourage you to board the technology train before it gets too far down the track. IE
George Hartman is CEO of Market Logics Inc. in Toronto. Send questions and comments regarding this column to firstname.lastname@example.org. George’s practice-management videos can be viewed on investmentexecutive.com. The writer did not receive payment from companies mentioned in this article.