The only competitive differentiator today for financial advisors is to be customer focused

Cecilia Storniolo, Director, Advisory
Cecilia Storniolo, Director, Advisory

The age of the customer has well and truly arrived. A time where machines or technology (yes it’s their time too) is an enabler of customer-centricity; a partner to any business seeking to efficiently put the customer at the centre of their service offering.

This isn’t new to financial advisers – whose businesses have always been a people business and will continue to be despite the rise of new technology such as robo-advice.

Indeed, Australian financial advisers have largely driven tech innovation in Australia. Platforms like Asgard, planner software like Xplan, and investment optimisation tools were developed specifically to enable advisers to better service clients. They increase efficiency freeing the adviser to spend more face time advising, assisting with regulatory compliance and overall reducing the cost of servicing.

But what of robo-advice?

One could either fear the change digital advice is creating or ignore it – both very human reactions.

I, for one, don’t think it a binary proposition. Technology isn’t a threat.

It continues to be an opportunity.

After all, the only competitive differentiator today is to be customer focused – obsessed ideally, and that means delivering offerings customers will engage with and value.

No doubt many if not all of the 20 percent of advised customers will continue to use traditional face to face advice. But that leaves 80 percent of customers without advice (consider the opportunity). This includes the next generation of customers who are unlikely to stay ‘unadvised’ – especially as millennials, for example, are a generation that values frictionless choice.

The real opportunity lies in embracing digital or robo-advice such that an adviser broadens their service offering to a wider audience. It’s not about either face to face or robo it’s about the “and”.

Digital advice, however defined, enables a customer to access services ranging from simple information or education to full blown financial advice – when and how they want at a price they’re happy to pay. No doubt, bionic-advice, which is providing a customer the comfort of a human to assist them through the digital process, will be welcomed by many.

And if the digital advice service is offered under the same brand as that of the adviser (the Licensee/Authorised Representative), seamlessly integrated with another enabling technology, the CRM. This results in the creation of a centralised customer data hub. If this is then combined with data analytics (they needn’t be complex), the CRM can support a customer experience that is not only slick but substantive.

The key is to partner with a provider that can assist and advice business to integrate a true open-environment CRM with their other in-house systems (such as customer and diary management, planning software, workflow processes, investment platforms, book keeping/accounting software).

In a world where affordable advice delivered to a consistent quality matters, and advisers are being asked for more at lower cost – can you afford to ignore technology?

Cecilia tweets @Cecilia_St

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