Tech Hacks for a More Efficient Practice
Tech-Savvy Advisors Have More Clients, Higher Assets Than Old-School Peers
Losing an assistant after four years with a practice might leave some advisors scrambling to keep up with scheduling and meeting preparations. Not Billy and Nick Vail with Integrity Wealth Advisors of Granger and Carmel, Indiana. The father-son team is weighing whether they still need a full-time assistant or if the technology they’ve implemented in their practice plus a part-time assistant would be a better approach.
It started with screen sharing, a widely used technology in business settings. The 30-something Nick said his 60-something father doubted older clients would accept screen sharing and a conference call instead of a face-to-face meeting.
“Dad has clients in their 60s using screen sharing just fine,” Nick said. “We send the link to the client 15 minutes before the meeting. If you need to look up information during the meeting, you can pause your screen and pull up what you need in the background then hit play when you’re ready for the client to see your screen again.”
Screen sharing started the Vails on a path that research shows may lead to a more profitable financial practice. A recent study by Fidelity Investments examined how advisors currently use technology in their practices. The study referred to the 30 percent of advisors who use technology applications more frequently than their peers as “eAdvisors.” The technologies this group employs span all aspects of their practices, from prospecting to client service and operations. The typical eAdvisor:
- Enjoys a 40 percent higher AUM than non-eAdvisors’ median AUM
- Serves a higher percentage of Gen X and Y clients
- Serves 55 percent more total clients
- Has a higher percentage of millionaire clients
- Enjoys higher career satisfaction
According to Envestnet’s September 2016 survey, “Technology Integration Turbocharges Advisor Productivity: Making Time for Clients,” registered investment advisors (RIAs) that employ advanced technology integration enable advisors to:
- Serve 57 percent more clients
- Acquire more than 200 additional clients, increasing their practice by 291 percent
- Grow their book of business by 78 percent
- Achieve a 24 percent increase in their practices by adding more than $200 million in client assets
- Increase practice revenue by 46 percent
- Spend 19 percent more time on client prospecting and investment management
The advisor practice of the future will use technology for far more than opening accounts and moving money. Technology plays a strategic role in your ability to:
- Capture the next generation of clients
- Serve a multigenerational client base
- Serve more clients and manage greater assets
- Provide comprehensive, holistic planning
- Give clients on-demand access to current account values and their progress toward plan goals
- Meet a fiduciary standard of care through meticulous documentation of all client interactions, including investment recommendations and the rationale for those recommendations
Tech Tune-Ups for the Basics
The traditional client sit-down meeting offers many opportunities for streamlining the client experience. The flexibility of virtual meetings conducted through a web application that lets you share your screen, video chat or both appeals to clients of all ages, as the Vails found. With that success, the company added online scheduling, which Nick calls “a lifesaver.”
“We use TimeTrade, which has replaced the five hours a week our assistant used to spend scheduling appointments.” - Nick Vail, Integrity Wealth Advisors
“We use TimeTrade, which has replaced the five hours a week our assistant used to spend scheduling appointments,” he said. “We set how far in advance the client can schedule, and we limit the number of appointments per day. The app sends a reminder to the client the day before, and they can reschedule through the app if needed. It has eliminated all the back and forth of checking calendars with their spouse. We never have to call them.”
Industry regulations on communicating with clients typically lag behind modern social norms for technology use. Texting, for example, has become a preferred method for quickly communicating incidental information – like running late for an appointment. The introduction of technology such as CellTrust’s SL2™ lets advisors and clients communicate via text while capturing and storing the information in compliance with FINRA guidance.
“If you’re an advisor trying to work with millennials, Gen Y or Gen X, you’ll find a strong preference for text communications. Even baby boomers prefer to send a short, one-line text regarding everyday matters,” said Dan Grote, CFP®, a partner at Latitude Financial Group in Denver, Colorado, who piloted the CellTrust SL2 app for his broker-dealer, Securities America. “Simple things that don’t require an email, like ‘Running late’ or ‘Great article you posted today. I’d like to chat about it.’”
Creating a modern client experience requires optimizing your website, social media profiles, online account access, mobile check deposit and anything else clients can use without direct involvement from you or your staff. If these channels are outdated, inaccurate or otherwise difficult to use, potential clients may look elsewhere – without you ever knowing it.
Vail uses Recur Posts to manage social media, posting his own content on the channels and at the frequency he selects. He spends one hour a week reviewing articles and scheduling posts. He also writes a blog or creates a video every two weeks with a goal of having six weeks’ worth of evergreen content ready at a time. He stays away from market commentary and instead posts articles that are helpful to his clients – like how to opt out of getting credit card offers in the mail.
CRM: The Hub for Personalized Experiences
Thanks to companies like Amazon and Netflix, consumers today expect a personalized experience. According to a study by Walker, a customer experience consulting firm, by 2020, 88 percent of customers will expect a personalized experience – up from just 31 percent in 2017.
Personalizing the client experience – whether it’s their preferred beverage during an office visit or inserting their name in a happy birthday video – depends entirely on managing information. Client relationship management (CRM) systems offer the depth and flexibility to tailor every client interaction while keeping your business efficient and scalable. CRM systems also help you create detailed workflow processes for every activity, including emails, phone calls, in-person meetings, tasks, follow-ups and introductions.
When selecting a CRM for your practice, consider:
- Does your broker-dealer need to approve the CRM?
- Does the CRM have a documented information security protocol?
- What degree of integration can you achieve?
- How many people need access?
- What level of customization do you need?
- How much staff time can be devoted to customization?
- Is there mobile capability?
- If you choose a new solution, can it import your existing client database?
Use Technology to Increase Client Engagement
If you’re not already offering financial planning, adding it to your client service matrix can give you a deeper understanding of your clients’ life goals, help set realistic expectations of actions they need to take to achieve those goals and dramatically improve client retention. Modern planning software offers much more than a basic report of your clients’ financial plans. Many programs also offer client- access portals that include account aggregation, document storage, financial calculators, mobile access and more.
Account aggregation software lets clients consolidate information for the accounts you manage and almost any financial account they can access online, such as checking accounts, credit cards, fixed insurance or even airline miles. Offering this service gives clients a complete picture of their financial status in one login. It also gives you a clearer picture of their overall financial situation.
Integrity Wealth Advisors has been testing an account aggregation software called Wealth Access.
“In the past, for annual reviews with clients, we would ask them to send us copies of their most recent tax return, 401(k) statements and bank and investment account statements, and we would manually enter that information into our system,” Nick Vail said. “With the Wealth Access portal, the client can attach accounts, pull in holdings and upload data directly from Quicken. Full financial planning is the most powerful service in our business, but it can be hard to get clients to send documents. With this software, it’s easier for us and the client.”
Creating a scalable practice requires tools for quickly analyzing existing portfolios and making recommendations based on proven research. Portfolio analysis tools show allocation, sector exposure and other measurements of an existing portfolio, letting you make strong, fact-based recommendations faster than a manual analysis. A good research tool lets you quickly access accurate, timely information about a company or fund. Integration with your CRM helps eliminate manual data entry in the portfolio tool, saving even more time.
Building the practice of the future requires seeking out and adopting new technology that goes beyond simply opening accounts and moving funds. Today’s practices have access to technology that enables an Amazon- or Netflix-like personalized experience, creating long-term loyal clients eager to refer their friends and family.