By John Horneff
When it comes to financial advisor technology, 2016 may go down as the year of data. Data analytics and account aggregation rose to a level of prominence and potential that had been overlooked for a long time - an exciting development. But 2017 may be even more exciting, as it could be the year that data evolves into true features that optimize advisor and client interactions. To help get a sense of steps that advisors can take to make the most out of this evolution, here are four tech initiatives that should be a focus in 2017.
Adding Personal Financial Management Tools to Your Client Portal
The importance of a client portal is perhaps old news - but whereas in the past simply allowing your clients online access to their financial information provided differentiation, today’s more innovative advisors are enabling their clients to better interact with their data online. One example can be found in personal financial management (or “PFM”) tools. These PFM modules populate client dashboards and allow users to perform a variety of common personal finance tasks that in the old days would be done with a calculator.
These tasks could include everything from creating a budget, to setting up spending limits, to implementing a goals-based savings plans. A robust PFM system also helps advisors expand their value proposition: rather than exclusively concerning themselves with their clients investments, advisors can now focus on their client’s ongoing financial health.
Monitoring Held-Away Accounts
According to a November survey conducted by SEI, only 11 percent of financial advisors believe they are prepared for the new DOL rule, which is set to go into effect next April. Although recent political developments have increased uncertainty around DOL, one thing is certain: it will become more important for advisors to demonstrate their commitment to clients’ holistic financial well-being. Though we may be biased - account aggregation for advisors feels like table stakes for the next generation of advisor-client tools, and its importance should not be overlooked.
Timely, Relevant Alerts
Why is it that smartphones can notify you the moment there’s a sale at Target, but if a client’s retirement plan goes off the rails it won’t be addressed until a quarterly review? Such a significant delay between an actionable event and actual action will become ever-more painful in a fast moving, mobile world - particularly for Millennial clients who are true digital natives. In fact, mobile alerts and push notifications have been used by tech companies to increase user engagement for years now, but the wealth management industry has been slow to adapt to this trend.
As data analytics and aggregation provide more insights than ever for both clients and advisors, the pressure to transform those insights into timely calls to action and prompts will grow stronger over time. For example, these mobile alerts can tie into an advisor’s PFM and aggregation initiatives to notify clients when they deviate from their personal finance targets across their financial accounts.
Implementing a Responsive Website
This one is a little different than the others on this list, but no less important. It’s no secret that a financial advisor’s website is an important tool for conveying his or her brand. It’s the first thing that a prospect sees when they research you on Google and the last thing a client sees before logging into their client portal.
According to research conducted in 2015 by SimilarWeb, 56 percent of online traffic comes from mobile devices, up from 49% in the prior year. As your clients increasingly use their smartphones and tablets to access the internet, advisors will need to make sure they’ve implemented a responsive website that can adjust to fit a variety of devices. By taking the initiative to implement a responsive website, advisors can ensure that clients and prospects have a seamless online experience and don’t get distracted from the advisor’s story and value proposition.
John Horneff is the Director of Marketing at Quovo, a data platform providing insights and connectivity for financial accounts across thousands of institutions.