Nick Bamford: Providers versus advisers on embracing technology

Nick Bamford

The Money Marketing Interactive event held in London a couple of weeks ago was a superb opportunity to network with other advisers and enter into some great debates about the challenges we face.

One of the sessions (of which I was fortunate enough to be part of the panel) looked at the use of technology to drive greater efficiency and effectiveness in adviser firms. I must confess I felt something of a fraud being on this expert panel. My experience of using technology can pretty much be summed up as i) leaving my iPhone on top of my car and driving off without it, ii) allowing my grandson (unsupervised) to run up a bill of £160 on my iPad buying in-game tokens, and iii) accidentally (and I emphasis accidentally) uploading Windows 10 on to my PC.

But – and it is a big but – I absolutely believe we need to embrace technology to improve our performance and the client’s experience in dealing with us. Fortunately, I have a team of people around me better equipped to understand and implement it. I believe technology should be used to solve problems. The example I gave speaking on the panel was that of obtaining information about existing financial products. If we are producing meaningful advice for a new client, we need to capture data about their existing plans.

The current approach is cumbersome. We obtain a letter of authority signed by the client and send that to the product provider. This then gets “lost” by the provider so we have to start the cycle again. Following the usual, but unacceptable, standard turnaround time we finally get the information some three to six weeks later. This is the complete opposite of client service.

Imagine if the client, subject to the usual password and security checks, could go online, change the agency details of their plan to their new adviser and, at a click of a button, allow the new adviser to access the data they were after? I fully appreciate a lot of legacy products might not support this kind of access but I reckon there are a lot of products that could. We could cut the time it takes to prepare and deliver advice by weeks, if not months.

The emphasis in terms of technology use seems to be skewed towards new business but servicing existing clients is just as important. Most advisers I speak with want to drive efficiencies and effectiveness in their businesses and are going to great lengths to integrate their back office systems with the platforms they choose to use.

I want our clients to be able to access valuation reports at any time they want, to be able to update us in respect of any important information that changes immediately and to be able to project and predict the benefits they might be able to get from their financial products.

But the adviser community seems to be moving quicker in terms of technology use than some of the traditional product providers. Technology that supports the adviser proposition and improves the client experience is essential for the successful financial adviser firm of the future.

Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice