By Brian Emde
Technology is changing the landscape of many professions, and financial advisors are no exception to this change. However, knowing how best to leverage these advances, and understanding the way they can help grow your business, is one of the biggest challenges. To help you get started, here are a few guidelines to follow as you consider how, when, and what technology can help make a difference for you and your firm.
Trust in the role of in-person advice.
It’s important to understand that the world of technology is not replacing your role as a financial advisor. We live in a world now where almost anything can, or should, be available on demand—either online or through a mobile app. But, even with digital advancements and greater access to self-directed planning tools, many Americans still prefer to make major financial decisions with the support of a professional. As an advisor, building an in-person relationship is something that still remains important to many clients. It’s not only because of the human interaction, but also because of the complex aspects of planning that are involved in their relationship with you. This is especially true as it relates to planning for health care costs, taxes, estate planning, Social Security strategies and overall retirement-income needs. It’s my belief that personalized financial advice can really only be garnered through discussions with a true and trusted financial professional—and that’s not something that is going away.
Make sure technology delivers value.
When it comes to technology, it’s important to know what’s available to you to deliver the best outcome for your clients. In many cases, having the right tools and systems in place can continue to demonstrate your value and only help build relationships.
For example, do you spend hours using spreadsheets and creating custom reports? Maybe this isn’t the best use of your time, so consider options that can help streamline some of your processes and tasks—such as analytics programs or financial-planning software. The growing number of financial-planning resources out there can provide an easy assessment of your clients’ full financial picture, all in one place. They can also provide an opportunity for you to counsel their holistic financial-planning needs and help grow your role as their advisor through enlisting trust in your relationship.
It’s also important to understand how to make some of these tools and platforms work within your existing practice. Just because something is the latest and greatest available doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the best fit for your business. While you might be anxious to try something new, do the proper due diligence and ensure that any new solutions will work with what you are already using. Try to keep in mind that it’s more important today to utilize technology that works seamlessly. Your clients and your staff expect what you’re using to be intuitive and easy.
Understand how “face time” is changing.
When it comes to client relationships, satisfaction is often dependent on the quality of your interactions and the level of your accessibility. Nowadays, technology can help you engage clients in a more dynamic and collaborative way. For example, as I mentioned, even though the role of the advisor isn’t going away, the concept of face-to-face meetings is evolving. Live meetings will probably always be preferred to those held over the phone, but the reality of life and busy schedules can often get in the way. Thankfully, technology today allows for the ease of face-to-face interaction without physically being in the same location. Leveraging tools that allow for virtual meetings and video conferencing can also help make the best use of time—both for you and your client. These communication tools can allow for more frequent and consistent interaction without having the inconveniences of unexpected life events get in the way— an added bonus to continue building your relationship.
Manage your digital footprint.
It’s no doubt certain technologies can help enhance your brand as well as connect with larger groups of prospects and peers. Utilizing social media or keeping up with your website can only help to increase your internet presence. While the world of social media may seem endless, picking one or two platforms to manage is a good place to start. You might try creating a presence by posting organic content, or consider cost-effective advertising tools on Facebook or LinkedIn to help to expand your digital footprint. These platforms can also be used as a social-listening opportunity by following industry professionals and keeping up with the latest conversations.
Remember, many of your peers and potential clients will look to research you online before picking up the phone, so maintaining a web and social presence that properly reflects your core values is important. I’d encourage you to consider what options might be the most cost effective and manageable for you.
Our world is changing rapidly, and there’s no denying that technology is playing an important role in how advisors serve their clients. While you don't have to grab onto every trend, be curious about what's happening and understand how it can help you achieve your goals. What you may be hesitant to try today could ultimately benefit your success in the long run.
Brian Emde is the director of platform strategy and product deployment for Voya Financial Advisors, Inc.