The advice sector has seen some radical changes over the last 30 years. From commissions to ongoing adviser charges to the ever-increasing and onerous regulation – not to mention the spiralling costs of such! And what about the events that no one could have predicted – like a COVID Lockdown!
The advisory business landscape is ever changing. I think it’s safe to say that just because it has worked up to now does not mean your business is not vulnerable if you cannot adapt quickly – past performance is not a guide to the future, if you will.
Advisory firms are rapidly changing how they deal with their customers, the speed at which they do so and the products and services they offer – as well as the channels through which a customer can interact with their firm. I’ve heard firms say that they will continue to provide face-to-face advice – ‘because that’s what my customers want. Is it, though, or is that the adviser’s perception? Look at the technological leaps and bounds we made during Lockdown when changes were forced upon us – and our customers rose to the occasion, and some of them preferred this new way of working.
It's essential to listen to your customers and not rely on the old, tried and tested ones. If the customers engage and interact with advisers differently, we need to respond accordingly. None of us can afford to get left behind – at the danger of becoming irrelevant.
Ultimately, we need to protect the longevity of our advice businesses – and their associated revenues. There is a real danger of being left behind whilst others adopt new ways of working and become more efficient through technology (remember DVD rental stores?).
It may be a bit of a cliché. Still, early adopters tend to become market leaders, and this may even be an opportunity to engage with an entirely new segment of clients opening up new revenue streams.
How to Invest in Future Proofing Your Advice Business
It’s easy to say that technology is the answer – but what does that mean to you, your firm, and, more importantly, your clients?
Before trying to implement a new solution, you must first identify what exactly it is you are trying to achieve. Don’t let the technology define your client experience – it should be the other way around – define client experience and find the right technology solution to deliver it.
That is an investment in your firm, your people and your future. Don’t try and do it as a side project in between other things. That is an essential piece of work that will ensure your business's future success. Hence, you need to treat it as such – allocate the appropriate time, people and money across the business for maximum impact. The best solution in the world can fail if not correctly implemented. It’s also essential to get the buy-in of everyone involved – get input from your advisers, your back office team, and your clients before going ahead!
Firms often ask whether they should build their own or buy off the shelf. That needs careful consideration as building your own solution can require expertise you may not have and be incredibly expensive. On the other hand, leveraging off existing technologies can often be cheaper and less time consuming – but will they deliver what you want?
Ultimately you want to work with a partner who will allow you to perfect your customer experience and enhance your business strategy, but be flexible enough to allow you to retain control of the client relationship.
In summary, you must first identify what you want to achieve and how this will benefit your business. Then, take the time to research the available options, getting input from the key areas within your business and your clients! Finally, find a technology partner who will help drive what is important to you, not them.
Head of Business Development