A turbo-charger makes a car go faster because it packs extra air into the engine, so the engine can breathe more and deliver more horsepower. The technology used by financial advisers is doing a similar job, by creating more ‘air’ which allows the adviser to more fully explore their clients’ financial goals, fears and ambitions.
These are critical issues when giving financial advice or making a broad financial plan, and crucial to forming the long-term relationships that underpin successful financial advice businesses. But they are not, perhaps, the benefits that might first spring to mind when we think of technology.
The common initial response is that technology equals scale – we will use to allow each adviser to handle more clients. That is true, to a point. But you quickly hit a ceiling when chasing scale, that technology can’t necessarily solve. Because while technology does an awesome job at ‘busy work’ tasks, it is not always those types of tasks that are tying advisers’ hands.
An adviser only has so many work hours in a week, be it 20, 40 or 60. Recent research from prominent US adviser and blogger, Michael Kitces, has shed new light on how those hours are spent — and the results are surprising! Even with all the latest tech, most advisers spend less than 20% of their work hours in face-to-face client meetings and just 50% of their time on client-related activities.
The research covering more than 1,000 US advisers reported the average working work was spent this way:
|8.8 hours||Meeting with clients|
|5.3 hours||Preparing for client meetings|
|6.6 hours||Financial planning support and analytical work to answer client questions|
|6.0 hours||Follow-through client servicing tasks from analytical work|
|26.7 hours||Total direct-client activities|
|9 hours||Trying to get new clients, including 4 hours of meetings|
|5 hours||Marketing related activities|
|3.2 hours||Professional development|
|4.7 hours||Business operations and management|
|31.6 hours||Non-direct client activities|
The first thing you notice is that this represents a 58.3-hour week — almost five 12 hour days a week. Advisers are busy people!
But it is confronting to then drill-down to see that less than one of those days is spent actually eye-balling a client! Only 8.8 hours on average is spent with clients — which is slightly less than 15% of the working week.
Financial advice is a relationship business, and relationships with clients are built, reinforced and extended largely during these face-to-face moments. Clearly, it is critical to ensure that every second with a client is used to maximum advantage, and that is where technology steps forward to really help!
Technology creates the conversational opportunities that allow suitable advice to happen.
Suitability means that the advice or investment meets the client’s needs. Let’s unpack how technology helps us ensure that happens.
To truly understand a client’s needs the adviser must know their goals, risk profile, timeframe and level of understanding of finances. Technology efficiently processes the data attached to these matters, so that the adviser can talk more deeply with the client.
As the client and adviser engage the technology can instantly report on what the discussion could look like in real-life.
For example, the adviser asks, ‘Have you thought of delaying retirement for two years?’ and the technology instantly shows the revised graphs and projections that go along with that. In the ‘old-days’ that would have taken an afternoon’s manual work and could only have been prepared ready for the ‘next meeting’. But, by then, the moment and, perhaps, the momentum has been lost.
Or, a risk tolerance test result might throw open the door to previously concealed matters of importance, as it can trigger a discussion about the client’s relationship with risk and money that had never previously crossed their mind.
These are sometimes called the ‘soft-skills’ of advice, but they are quickly becoming the core-skills as ‘picking great investments’ fades as an integral skill for financial advisers.
The most successful advice firms have nailed this process of really knowing their clients and it is making them money. Often, instead of chasing scale with the clients they trade-up to wealthier, more complex and more profitable clients — because they can show that they understand their goals, fears and ambitions.
Commonly, that understanding is being driven by the technology the adviser is using which helps them more fully explore their client.