Chris Davies: Harness technology to boost client engagement

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As I tour the country attending conferences, I am amazed at the fear factor that seems to be attached to incorporating new technology into a business. One thing I do understand is that technology is not magic.

Although it may appear to be to the end user, with instant information and services provided at the press of a button, the hard thinking and strategic planning that goes into applying it takes time and care.

It is apparent there is confusion as to what robo-advice actually is and whether it is a genuine threat or not. Any fully automated algorithm-based solution technically sits outside advice. Yet we would argue this is not mutually exclusive to an advised proposition that includes business and client management technology, such as cash flow modelling.

So how can firms begin to leverage the opportunities such technologies bring while ensuring minimal disruption and maximum client engagement?

  1. Start with the end in mind: Do not make the fatal error of mistaking business planning (a tour of operations) with strategic planning. Leveraging technology and resources, identifying threats and weaknesses, and setting short-term goals against long-term objectives will provide big dividends. It would help if advisers begin to understand how robo-advice (automated channelling into investment portfolios) and cyber-advice (engagement of technology within a face to face proposition) can co-exist. For example, designing a segment for robo-advice does not mean the end of the road: clients can then be streamlined into cash flow orientated cyber-advice.
  2. Map the client: Advisers and product providers alike need to answer the ultimate client question: “What is in it for me?” This can only be understood by mapping out the client journey through touch points, pain points and moments of truth, as well as by simply asking them what they want. This information is gold dust: it will provide all you need to know about client behaviours, their engagement preferences, their sensitivities to price and much more. Once this information is collated, advice propositions will be more meaningful and designed around the client needs.
  3. Due diligence: Next, you can structure a list of internal questions about the current proposition. This requires 100 per cent honesty and is normally best delivered on a three-tier basis: what works, what does not and what is desired. Roles and responsibilities also require attention to ensure the team is there to deliver the service. This process also requires a calibration against the regulatory rulebook, with the emphasis on when advice is actually offered and suitability is applicable.
  4. Gap fill: Once you have your due diligence questions, it is then a case of structuring a matrix of technology providers that can deliver the relevant solutions against the service proposition. An action plan can then be generated to identify issues and resources, and hold people accountable to implementation.
  5. Beauty parade: Once your gap fill matrix and action plan is in place, this is where the magic happens. One or a few technology providers will resonate with your strategic plan and it will be a no brainer in inviting them in to present their solutions to help you make your final decision.
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Of course there are teething pains that come with integrating new technology. However, if done correctly, the long-term benefits outweigh any short-term difficulties. By ensuring the technology does what it says on the tin, that costs are weighted against the expected returns of new business and, ultimately, that clients gain value, integrated technology will deliver great relationship and financial capital to the business.

The models are already out there and you only have to look at the current robo/cyber universe (see diagram) to see where the future lies. Indeed, there is great opportunity in adviser firms offering a blend of robo and cyber solutions. It is not a case of “them and us”: technology and human intervention can be very good bedfellows.

Chris Davies is managing director at Engage Insight