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Tailor Technology to Suit Your Clients — Not the Other Way Around

Virtual Certified Financial Planner Derek N.H. Notman, CFP®, recently shared an interesting post on LinkedIn.
 
With the following graphic, he posed the question, “Fellow financial advisors, what is wrong with this picture?”

 
The post spurred a thoughtful discussion about the role technology plays in the client experience.
 
Some wrote funny comments irrelevant to the main point of the graphic:
  • "For starters... is the guy in front of the computer wearing a short sleeve turtleneck shirt?"
     
  • "No one puts a mega cup of hot joe directly in the workplace in front of them while presenting and survives unscathed."
     
  • "The advisor's haircut..."
Others were perceptive, saying the image should feature a woman financial advisor. 
 
And others addressed the main point that Notman was getting at — whether or not financial advisors should fully embrace technology when it comes to serving their clients:
  • "I feel it is my responsibility (and opportunity) to embrace the tools available today and use them to meet clients exactly in the way they want to be met."
     
  • "The consumer is demanding a different experience. Either we provide it or they will go elsewhere!"
     
  • "There will be a growing demand for virtual advisory services in the coming years, but many folks will always prefer to shake hands with any consultant."
     
  • "Phone, webinar, webcam (and yes, the occasional face-to-face) all have a place in today's financial service menu."
And that’s what we want to talk about today: the importance of tailoring your technology use to what the client actually wants.
 
While some clients might want to leverage technology completely, others may want a combination of a more personal touch with some tech tools. Technology can enhance the client experience, but ultimately, it should be about what the client wants and needs at the end of the day.

What does this actually look like in practice, though? How can you possibly find a healthy balance between the personalized service that the advisory industry necessitates and the tools you need to create more efficiencies, enhance productivity and, importantly, accommodate a wide range of client ages and tech skill sets?

Technology Meets the Financial Advisory Client Experience

Whether you already use technology as a part of your client experience or are looking to ramp up your tech stack, here are some tools and best practices that financial advisors and experts recommend:
 
Use a client relationship management (CRM) system.

Systems like Salesforce, Redtail, or Wealthbox store client information that can be leveraged to build stronger and more personal relationships. CRM systems help you create detailed workflow processes for every activity, including emails, phone calls, in-person meetings, tasks, follow-ups, and introductions. Along with CRM-based workflows and any available integrations with other tools in your tech stack, use a tool like PreciseFP to gather client data and streamline onboarding. A workflow we see often is between the client data gathering tool, the CRM contact records, the meeting scheduling, and the email marketing platform (through an automated series of welcome emails).
 
Level up your financial planning and portfolio management software.

You may already know that financial planning software like MoneyGuidePro and eMoney can improve client satisfaction, retention, and convenience — but there is so much more to these tools outside of those benefits. Clients can better access and manage their own accounts and get a real-time view of their financial picture. These tools provide comprehensive financial planning, giving clients access to budgeting tools, spending analysis, goal-based savings plans, secure document storage, scenario planning, and decision-making tools.
 
The benefits for clients are ten-fold — but the positive for businesses is that these tools won’t cost you a lot of time and money. Plus, advisors can offer a subscription-based financial planning service to clients who don’t necessarily have the assets to invest yet, but may in the future — which can be a great way to connect with the next generation.
 
RIA portfolio management and reporting software by Tamarac, Orion, Schwab (Portfolio Center), and Black Diamond is also helpful for both clients and advisors alike. This software provides client reporting, portfolio management, account reconciliation, billing automation, and outside account aggregation.
 
Embrace the idea of anytime-anywhere meetings.

As technology has evolved, client expectations around service have also changed. Technology provides more flexibility for clients, letting them take Skype calls when they’re out of town, or schedule late-night appointments through Calendly if you offer that time slot. As Commonwealth Independent Advisor notes, “As the industry prepares for the transition of wealth, you will need to consider options that will make it easier and more efficient for younger clients to do business with your firm.”
 
Tools we recommend include online meeting/desktop sharing/video conferencing software like GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Skype, as well as online appointment scheduling programs like Calendly, TimeTrade, or ScheduleOnce.
 
Harness new and existing ways to share education and thought leadership.

All generations of clients are starting to leverage new mediums to digest information. Here’s just a snapshot of the gains digital platforms have made, according to HubSpot:

Video:
  • 55% of people consume video content thoroughly.
     
  • About 5 billion YouTube videos are viewed on average every day.
Podcasts:
  • Monthly podcast listeners grew from 24% of Americans to 26% year over year.
     
  • 27% of men and 24% of women listened to podcasts in the last month. 
Email:
  • 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. 
     
  • 91% of shoppers want to hear from companies they do business with via email. 
By creating videos or podcasts, you can better communicate your value proposition and reach new audiences who are short on time or attention. Email marketing platforms like Constant Contact or MailChimp are also great tools to use to send targeted email campaigns to your clients or prospective clients, set up automatic responders when a life event happens, or monitor client engagement.

Embrace the digital space.

Don’t forget to update your social media accounts and your website as well (check out the September edition of our newsletter for more social media best practices). LinkedIn, in particular, is a great resource for prospecting, filling open positions, and sharing company updates, and has the highest organic reach of the big platforms.
 
If you’re looking for more digital communication tools, try out a tool like MyRepChat, Redtail Speak, or CellTrust’s SL2, which let advisors and clients communicate via text while capturing and storing the information in compliance with regulatory guidance. Consider using an archiving system like PageFreezer and Erado to keep records of electronic communications.
 
Like the photo that accompanied Notman’s LinkedIn post, the way in which advisors serve their clients is completely different; the experience is completely tailored to what matters most to that client at that particular stage in their life. And the way in which your firm adopts technology will be different than the other advisory firm down the street. What truly matters is that you stay attuned to how your client wants to work with you. Ask for feedback. Think creatively. Do your due diligence. Vet solutions carefully, and don’t automatically take the word of the next tech vendor you meet. That client may very well prefer the paper and binders.
 
If you’re ready to scale your tech stack or review and integrate your existing solutions, let us know! You can reply to this email or get in touch by clicking the button below.
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