This week I’ve got a special guest blogger talking about the changes they made to their tech stack, and how it’s dramatically improved both the client experience and speed of engagement.
In the latter part of 2018 I had a conversation with Matthew Walne of Santorini Financial Planningand he described to me how he’d transformed the onboarding process for his clients and himself.
The comment that stood out for me was how he’d reduced the time it takes to onboard a client.
How did he do that?
I’ll let him explain that shortly, but first let me outline the challenge as I see it for all modern businesses.
Love them or hate them, Amazon have revolutionised the way we shop, and they’ve done it by reducing the friction that can be involved in purchasing online.
What do I mean by friction?
Just try ordering from someone other than Amazon and you’ll work it out for yourself.
- Clunky, difficult to use websites
- Being out of stock
- Long delivery times
- Annoying delivery methods. For example, using a delivery service where you need to be home to take delivery of, or sign for the goods.
Over a long period of time Amazon have tried to remove these seemingly small hassles from online ordering. A bunch of small wins has created a competitive advantage.
If I go to buy something from any other website and I run into any of these hassles, I just close the browser window and go to Amazon, often asking myself why I didn’t do that in the first place.
Large retail brands, many of whom are under pressure from Amazon, just don’t seem to be able to get a hassle free online presence up and running. That surprises me, because I would have thought it’s one of their biggest competitive threats and they’ve known about this for about 20 years. It’s not new news.
I’m sure you get my point with retailing. You’re a consumer, you’ve experienced this for yourself.
What if I told you that the same issue applies to financial planning?
Most advisers I know don’t employ and pay for, their own Financial Planner. So their empathy with customers in this area is not always as high as it could be.
Where do financial planners create friction for clients in their attempts to get advice?
Here are a few areas, but it’s far from an exhaustive list:
- If a prospective client calls to make an initial enquiry the adviser probably isn’t available to speak then and there, so someone takes a message and says they’ll get the adviser to call back.
- If a prospective client emails with an initial enquiry, hopefully one of the team responds quickly, but usually that’s to set up a call at another time.
I also know in some firms, that email could sit there for a while if it has been emailed straight to the advisers inbox. Advisers are often busy doing other things.
- I’ve called advisers where the phone rings out; it doesn’t even go to a message bank. Let me be clear, going to a message bank would be terrible. No message bank is worse.
Matthew’s adventures with technology
Here’s how Matthew Walne attempted to reduce friction, improve the client experience, and speed up the time it took to take a client from first enquiry through to completion:
“A few years back, I decided to try moving toward a paperless office, partly due to running out of space storing bulky client files.
The decision itself was easy. However, finding the tools to help me do that wasn’t so easy, as basically they didn’t exist yet.
I tried using Precise FP which is a US based software package, but I couldn’t really get on with it. I’ve been using Finametrica for risk profiling for about 9 years and found that it worked really well. My clients have found it easy to use and to complete online. I wanted to keep using this as part of my tech stack.
Then I came across Advicefrontand their ‘Onboard’ module. I was more than happy to give it a try. It consisted of an online Client Agreement, online Fact Find, ready made links to Finametrica, and a payment option via GoCardless.
I’ve found that ‘Onboard’ has dramatically improved the client onboarding process and made things so much easier. The fact find data can be pulled through to CashCalc, which saves a lot of time and effort. I can send secure messages and share documents too. Client’s seem to like this a lot. The added bonus is I no longer have to find a post office I can post a load of paperwork from in the hope that it all arrives back together and fully completed.
I’m also now part of a small group of advisers who are helping to shape and improve the functionality of the software. So far, so good, and I’ve been impressed with how many improvements have been made and how quickly they’ve occurred.
There is still some way to go until it’s fully complete. They’ve integrated EBI Portfolios into the software and there are other modules coming that should save me even more time. Once the ‘Execute’ module is complete, it’ll be a gamechanger. There will be online client ID verification and they will have eliminated the need for re-keying of data and wet signatures for account opening on wrap platforms.
I’ve used Zoom to do a few video client meetings and to screen share the clients lifetime cashflow forecast. The meetings are recorded too, which is great from a compliance and learning point of view.
Probably the best bit of kit which I haven’t yet signed up to is Abraham Okusanya’s Timeline App. (Note from Brett: I’ve only heard good feedback from advisers using Timeline.)
The various pieces of technology I use probably save me the cost of their subscription fees on paper, ink and postage.
Soon I hope to be able to deliver a fully streamlined, consistent advice process from beginning to end, without having to use paper.”
The future isn’t coming – it’s here
Any new entrants to the financial planning space will be designing their client engagement and onboarding processes with no friction in mind, just like Amazon. As a profession we need to be trying to do the same, otherwise we’ll become too hard to deal with too, like some of the brand name retailers I mentioned earlier.
And whatever you do, don’t just throw up your hands and blame the regulator for all of the friction in the financial planning process. I get it, they are responsible for some of it, but they’re not going to innovate and think laterally to solve this problem for your clients; that’s on you I’m afraid.
I’m hoping Matthew’s example spurs you on to thinking about how you might use technology to start reducing the friction in your own advice process.
Let me know how you go.
Disclosure: Brett Davidson is an investor in Advicefront.