To drive adviser efficiency and control costs, we should embrace change, not resist it

This blog discusses why embracing technology to drive efficiencies in your adviser processes can benefit your business and your clients.

If you’ve tried to get any work done recently, you’ll know that, as any tradesperson will tell you, the cost of everything is going up up up. With inflation hitting 40-year highs, many people, including advised clients, are tightening their belts and looking at ways to control expenditure.

The current cost of living crisis reinforces the lessons learnt from the pandemic: to succeed in business it pays to be adaptable. Advice firms must look at ways to deliver advice that meets client needs and provides suitable outcomes while keeping fees low and profitable.

It’s a tough call, especially when firms have been facing pressure on margins since before the dreaded COVID-19. Regulations like PROD and MiFID II have already placed a heavy burden on advisers, and the onset of the FCA's Consumer Duty rules looks set to add further weight to the load.


Changing focus

Driving efficiencies in the advice process is essential. There’s a problem, however, in that advice firms have long sought to improve efficiency by integrating systems and software to streamline their processes, reduce friction and eliminate errors. In doing so, many firms have reduced the time devoted to each client, so the adviser can service a larger number of clients and manage greater assets. Certainly, advice firms are increasingly sophisticated and proficient in their use of technology, and many potential efficiency gains have already been realised.

So where do firms turn next? How can they drive new efficiencies and enable their advisers to continue supporting an increasing number of clients without compromising service or outcomes? The answer is to shift their focus from back office systems and admin operations to client-facing technology.


Embracing change

As an adviser, you might worry that using technology directly with clients will negatively impact your existing propositions built around people, conversations and face-to-face advice. But the feedback we hear from firms who have embraced technology is that the right software can enhance the adviser-client relationship.

Clients are well used to receiving a slick, transparent digital service to support their face-to-face interactions with businesses in different sectors, including financial services. Think how online banking has widely replaced branch visits. Clients accessing their financial information online is becoming an expectation, not a wish-list item. This access means they can easily add and update their personal information, review investment performance and keep an eye on the progress of their financial plan.

Think about this too: some clients with simple needs may be happy to increase their participation in the whole advice process in return for lower charges. A survey last year by Boring Money found that two-thirds of younger investors would opt for digital advice if this saved them money, as would a sizeable minority of older investors.

In either advice scenario, traditional or digitally-enhanced, you – the human adviser – remain at the centre of the process and the relationship, but technology smooths and improves the advice journey. The tech is there to help you stay adaptable and means you can control costs to meet the needs and preferences of a broad client group.


Going digital

You might think that this client-focused technology doesn’t apply to you and your type of clients, but opening up digital access to advised clients in at least a basic way is fast becoming a hygiene factor rather than a mere point of difference. Younger clients who have grown up with technology expect more interaction online. In comparison, the restrictions of the pandemic have also forced older clients to become more comfortable with web-based services. And they increasingly want the offering from their adviser to mirror the service they receive from other industries in terms of simple access, ease of use and transparency.

The good news for advisers unsure about how this would fit with their specific client base is that, with the latest client-facing tech from EV, firms can take a mix-and-match approach to resolve the needs of different client segments.

For all of us, the salutary lesson of the last few years is that circumstances can change almost overnight. To continue building long-term success, advice firms must be flexible and keep thinking about how to adapt their proposition to stay in step with client expectations, regulatory change and evolving business needs. Smart technology is on hand for those determined not to be immersed in old ways of thinking about ‘my client’.


So what next?

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