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The 361-Day Challenge

Use financial technology to move beyond quarterly meetings and monthly newsletters and stay relevant to clients during the 361 days they’re not in your office.

My daughter and I were walking through midtown Manhattan a few weeks ago and I was blown away by advertisements for Betterment’s robo advisor on top of almost every cab. Later that evenin, while running on the treadmill, with CNBC on mute, Ken Fisher was pitching his money management acumen. Mint, our family’s budgeting technology, texted me that we were butting up against our monthly travel budget. Every day, unrelentingly, our clients are exposed to and influenced by the articles they read, the TV they watch, conversations with friends and online retargeting campaigns, all promoting alternatives or improvements to the services we provide as traditional advisors.

Generally, advisors meet clients two to four times a year to engage, build trust, instill confidence, help solve problems and ultimately, earn the fees clients pay us. That means clients pay roughly $2,500 per meeting based on their annual fee. The overarching question is, in this age of “information at our fingertips,” are we doing enough to stay relevant in our clients’ lives with the two to six hours we meet per year? 

Thus, the 361-Day Challenge summons us to stay relevant in our clients’ financial lives on their terms, in real time, all the time: leveraging and integrating financial technology to move beyond the traditional quarterly meeting, the monthly newsletter, client appreciation events and email. Instead, we would provide them a personalized, on-demand client experience on their terms — one that addresses their entire financial lives, not just their money.

Between family, work and hunting for snow powder days, I have little to no interest in meeting with my own advisor quarterly. Our financial lives do not ebb and flow to match a quarterly or semi-annual schedule. My wife and I are not focused on a retirement number, but rather, knowing if we are living true to our financial values and if we are OK; our meetings often take place at 10 p.m. We’ll have our phones out, we’ll log into our GuideCenter (client portal), adjusting assumptions and benchmarking our ideal life index that our advisor can then upload into an updated plan for us the next day. If we need a serious conversation where we need judgment and empathy from our advisor, we’ll schedule a meeting in person or via video, whichever we prefer, over the coming days.  

Don’t Underestimate the Boomers

Generation X can’t get enough of their smartphones. But 72 percent of boomers with income over $75,000 have smartphones, and 44 percent of these consumers download apps at least once a month. Rob Sinclair, director of accessibility at Microsoft says, “Baby boomers are savvy consumers who expect technology to be safe, easy to use and flexible enough to adapt to their individual needs. When new technology products enter the market, they are enthusiastic early adopters who help lead the way.” The financial services and wealth management industry is taking notice of these trends and deploying new ways to connect with clients on a daily basis — offering relevant and practical tools to engage them during those 361 days they aren't in your office. Ignoring this obvious trend could be limiting and negligent. 

Fintech continues to grow. In the first quarter of 2016, investment in global fintech companies was $5.4 billion, up 67 percent over the same period in 2015, according to Accenture.

With this unprecedented investment in fintech, RIAs have the technology available to improve client experience, scale the middle and back office and operate more independently.

You may only meet with clients a few times a year, but they depend on your guidance every day for every financial decision they make. If you aren't there for them those other 361 days, you can be confident that some other firm — powered by the next level of fintech — will step up. It’s time to accept the 361-Day Challenge: Make your firm even more present in your clients' financial lives before someone else does.

Matt Brinker is head of national partner development at United Capital.


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