By Dr. Andy Aziz
About a decade ago, many within the industry debated whether advisors fully embracing technology was a do-or-die proposition, with many taking the position that it wasn’t.
Of course, we’ve come a long way since then. Now, virtually everyone appreciates how much value tech brings, whether it’s a small advisor team operating on Main Street, a large RIA aggregator with tens of billions under management or a broker-dealer with national reach.
Driving Scale for Wealth Management Firms
Good tech creates scale, allowing firms to operate more efficiently, which helps to elevate the client experience and create opportunities for growth. But an equally important consideration is that an increasing number of investors of all ages are unwilling to work with anyone who hasn’t embraced it – almost as if it’s a proxy for how serious an advisor takes their business.
Because of all this it should be hardly surprising that 51% North American financial advisors have thought about leaving their firm in pursuit of better technology and that 77% report losing business because of inadequate offerings, according to Broadridge.
The “Do No Harm” Rule for WealthTech
With fintech offerings constantly evolving and many firms looking to upgrade their tech stack, much of the focus tends to be on the differentiating features of the various platforms. It could be anything from advanced analytics and risk management tools to having the capacity to put fine art or other types of unique alternative investments into perspective for ultra-high-net-worth investors.
As valuable as some of those added bells and whistles can be for firms and advisors, it’s all for naught if firms cannot provide clients the same digital services they already get. In other words, while you should always strive to improve your technology offerings, it’s important to never be in a position of delivering less while trying to do that. Consider it the “do no harm” rule for wealthtech. Here are some examples.
Reconciliation of historical data. Clients will naturally want to access old statements, sometimes going back years, and they won’t care how a firm’s technology has evolved during that time. This puts the onus on choosing a provider that can reconcile historical data, allowing advisors to produce statements as far back as the relationship began. Otherwise, clients may think a firm has mismanaged its responsibility to retain essential records – which is essentially an invitation for them to switch advisors.
Consistent reporting capabilities. Of course, it’s almost always possible to improve processes and procedures, so just because something has been done a certain way in the past doesn’t mean it’s the best approach in the future. At the same time, when a client opens a monthly or quarterly statement, beyond knowing how their investments have performed, they want to see something familiar and easy to navigate. To that end, any provider should be able to replicate the appearance and layout of a client’s previous statements, including incorporating a firm’s branding and logo. Beyond that, this is also an opportunity to see whether a platform can do more in this area, like perhaps offering clients a robust suite of risk and analytic tools to better make sense of their investments.
Mobile app. Nearly 15 years after Apple launched the first version of the iPhone, firms offering a mobile app to clients doesn’t represent a nice-to-have perk. Instead, it’s a prerequisite in a day and age when relationship management and delivering a great client experience are as important as any set of services firms provide. Importantly, any client-facing app must be more than a glorified balance checker. Not only should it have some level of interactivity, providing clients the opportunity to exchange messages with their advisor in real-time, but it has to offer all the functionalities as an advisor-facing platform or web-based client portal. Keep in mind, there’s a possibility that clients will not have a laptop or computer given the ubiquity of smartphones.
Enterprise-wide. As alluded to above multiple times, delivering exceptional service is the foundation of any wealth management business. Doing that involves an entire firm, from the CEO to the portfolio manager to the advisor that acts as the relationship manager and the administrative staff. Tech platforms, therefore, must be integrated across an organization, making it possible for firms to manage not just the business but the entire advisory life cycle through a seamless, intuitive and easy-to-use workflow that encourages maximum collaboration.
Mastering Simplicity and Complexity
Many Americans aspire to live in a bigger home in a better neighborhood. Maybe they want a game room, a bigger back yard or a nicer kitchen. But none of those things will do you any good if the roof is leaky or the central plumbing doesn’t work.
That’s a bit what having a wealthtech platform that offers all the latest tools and features but can’t master some of the simpler things that clients need.
Dr. Andy Aziz is the executive vice president of business development at d1g1t, a Toronto-based enterprise wealth management platform