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What Financial Advisors Can Learn From Silicon Valley

Leaders in the financial services space must welcome disruption but only in its capacity to better serve clients. Here’s how financial advisors can learn from emerging tech giants to put the client experience first.

By John Pierce

Silicon Valley tech companies have led the way in disrupting traditional industries and creating new value for consumers. Take, for example, the way Uber transformed the way we think about transportation. Or how Netflix made streaming video a part of our everyday lives. While the tech that powers both of these companies is no doubt sophisticated, their category-redefining success has largely been fueled by an unprecedented customer-centric approach.

Technology can personalize and streamline the customer experience. This is the most important lesson financial services leaders can learn from Silicon Valley. But not everyone in our industry interprets that lesson the same way. In fact, many firms consider it a mandate to de-emphasize or replace interpersonal interaction in favor of slick client-facing tools. But ultimately, technology can never replace the personal touch of a truly excellent financial advisor.

A Balanced Approach to Technology

Experts believe that we’re in the early stages of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” In a few short years, technology has made its way into every aspect of our lives. As a result, all industries, in one way or another, must adopt new systems in order to evolve with consumers’ changing mindsets.

Some firms may react to industry disruption by eliminating jobs or relying on automation. This approach, however, is typically unsustainable and bad for clients. Instead, leaders must work to use cutting-edge technology to evolve the client experience—similar to Uber’s use of a simple, transparent interface that makes life easier for customers. It’s important to remember that the service Uber offered wasn’t new or shiny—cabs have been around since the dawn of the auto industry. It was the delivery of that service that set Uber apart as a category disruptor.

To successfully navigate this new paradigm, financial advisors must continue to focus on providing clients with exemplary advice and service. We must embrace disruptive technology not to transform or redesign our offerings, but to optimize the way we interact with and serve clients. This, in turn, will help advisors develop a deeper understanding of client needs.

Client Experience Is Key

The success of Silicon Valley tech companies has shown that people value good service. In fact, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey shows that customers are willing to pay up to 16% more for a better user experience.

At Stifel, we believe technology best serves its purpose when providing new ways to connect people and resources. We embrace innovation that serves our entrepreneurial mission, understanding that it is never a replacement for the knowledge, expertise and personal touch of our financial advisors.

John Pierce is the head of recruiting at Stifel. 

TAGS: Technology
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