Existing business models are not sufficient to deliver advice to every Australian, according to ex-Labor MP and Map My Plan founder Bernie Ripoll, but the technology solutions that will make it possible are right under the industry’s nose.
The problem, he believes, is that principals of advice firms aren’t early adopters of technology and are reticent to bring new solutions on board.
“The technology future is already here, we’ve just been a little bit slow on the uptake,” Ripoll said via video link at the recent Professional Planner Digital Licensee Summit.
Ripoll made the point that often we don’t know what technology is available to us until we’re forced to adopt it, a dynamic made clear with the surge in adoption of video platforms like Zoom during the pandemic lockdown.
“There couldn’t be anything more stark than the COVID-19 crisis to show us that the technology already exists,” he said. “And when we’re forced to use the technology in new ways we find that it can work and do things we didn’t expect it to do.”
The problem, he continued, is that people tend to procrastinate when it comes to implementing new technology.
“It’s really easy with technology to just kick that can down the road just a little bit further,” he said, noting the proclivity of people to put things in the ‘next month’ basket.
Ripoll’s himself has an intricate view on the challenges facing advice. He is widely considered the architect of the 2013 Future of Financial Advice reforms and regularly speaks at industry events on the machinations of the industry. His current Map My Plan venture is a goals management software platform tailored to advisers and consumers.
“There are some existing technologies that we can use today in our practices to enhance the advice experience. I know people have different opinions on software like XPLAN, for example, but when you tune XPLAN properly in a practice it can do incredible things,” he said, before lamenting that there are “too few” examples of that.
Advice technology has had a long-term underinvestment problem, Barrett explained, because advice firms have traditionally been seen as a distribution channel. “And when your seen as a means to an end you don’t get the investment dollars,” he added.
However, if the industry is to make any progress in its efforts to put advice in within reach of more Australians Barrett says technology will need to play a leading role.
“There’s no question that some kind of mass market advice proposition to the community is required, no question,” he said. “Can technology solve it? I think technology has to solve it.”
Also on the panel was Macquarie Group head of client development, John Sullivan, who argued that while technology hasn’t been the “golden goose” that the industry hoped it would be, there are more solutions out there than is probably accounted for. Like Ripoll, he used the recent adoption of video to illustrate the point.
“While that hasn’t necessarily been a productivity game-changer I think what it can transform is businesses’ ability to broaden their distribution footprint both demographically and geographically,” he said.