Financial advisory firms tend to be slow at adopting technology. As recently as 2018, the majority of firms didn’t have basic software for financial planning, portfolio management, or customer relationship management (CRM). Luckily, the tide seems to be changing. In 2019, adoption numbers jumped significantly, with 61% of firms utilizing financial planning software, 66% using portfolio management software, and 71% having a CRM tool. And once firms start using technology, research shows they experience growth in AUM. As more administrative tasks are automated, advisors can have more face-time with clients and more time to develop new client relationships.
There are a number of reasons why firms might be hesitant to adopt technology. But once your firm has decided to jump on board the technology train, there are still problems that need to be addressed, such as the successful implementation and internal use of the selected technology tools. In order for firms to gain maximum benefit from their technology, advisors need to actually use the tools.
Below are 5 steps that your firm can take to roll out new technology tools effectively to your advisors.
1. Get Advisor Input Before Selecting a Provider
What problems are your advisors dealing with day-to-day that could be solved by technology? Choosing, for example, a financial planning tool that doesn’t help your advisors, or worse, makes their job even harder, isn’t going to get you far in terms of internal adoption. Speaking to advisors at your firm about the road blocks and bottle necks in their day-to-day work will give you an idea of what kind of features you should look for in a financial planning solution. It also serves to make advisors feel like their voices are being heard, increasing the chances that they will be satisfied with, and actually use, the final product.
Once you have their input on what features will be most useful, reach out to tech providers and determine whether or not they have the features you require. Some technology companies even create customized solutions or welcome input on new features they should implement. But if you don’t have the features in mind that you will need, having a customized solution won’t do you any good.
2. Integrate with Current Processes
You could have chosen the best technology tool in the world, but if it doesn’t work in tandem with existing processes, it will be painful for advisors to use. An effective solution will fit like a puzzle piece into whatever process advisors are already performing. If an advisor has to manually key-in information from one system to another because they do not integrate, a tool may end up costing more time than it saves. Map the processes around where the technology will be implemented, and ensure they are compatible before moving forward.
3. Create a Pilot Program
There are bound to be a few tech-savvy and enthusiastic advisors at your firm who would jump at the opportunity to use a new tool. Providing these advisors with the technology early, before it rolls out to the entire company, serves multiple purposes.
A) You work out the kinks with less risk. There are often early hiccups with technology during initial implementation and integration with existing processes. By starting with a pilot, only a few select users will be affected. This is preferable to risking the chance that the wider advisor audience will reject the technology before it even has a chance to get off the ground.
B) You create internal advocates for the software. Early-adopters can become expert users of the technology, share the benefits to their colleagues, and help other advisors — who are perhaps less tech-savvy — learn the ropes once the technology is rolled out company-wide.
As with the first step, you want to make sure you are getting feedback from these pilot participants in order to ensure the technology is working as intended and having the promised benefits. If you are a larger broker-dealer firm, you may even consider having a pilot branch, to see how the technology works on a larger scale and gather more feedback before expanding it to other branches.
4. Train Your Advisors
This may seem like an obvious point, but many companies fail to conduct even basic training, opting instead to trust that employees will figure out the software for themselves. When you expand from your pilot program to a full-company roll-out, you want to give your advisors the best opportunity to benefit from the new tools. Selecting an easy-to-use solution with an intuitive user interface is a good step, but proper training is the best way to ensure that advisors are able to use the technology as intended. How the training is conducted is important too. Make it fun. Having a multi-hour training meeting where someone dryly demonstrates the technology is going to make it hard for your advisors to stay engaged. Some technology providers offer personal demos or have a built-in demo environment which would allow users to practice using the tool before integrating it into their daily routine. By providing something more hands-on and addressing questions as they crop up, you give advisors a better chance to learn how to use the tools you are providing.
5. Collect Ongoing Feedback
At the risk of sounding like a broken record at this point, the fourth and final step in the process is to continue to monitor how advisors are using the technology and how they feel about it. A new idea for how it could be better might spring up only after months of advisors repeating the new processes. That information can be taken to the developer and often a solution either already exists, or can be created. Keeping track of the effectiveness of a new technology tool can also help you establish whether or not it was a good investment, informing your choices in the future. Advisors may love the new process, but if it doesn’t result in meaningful time-savings, client satisfaction, AUM growth, or other metric increases, then it may not have been a good use of firm resources.
Technology has the potential to make significant changes to the financial advising industry. If you are purposeful in how you select and implement technology solutions for your advisory firm, you can reap the benefits of those changes.
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