Praemium's Martin Morris (left) and RFS Advice's Paul Forbes

Advisers need to detangle their thinking on technology as they gear up for the next stage of growth after the Covid-19 crisis, according to Paul Forbes, CEO at Queensland-based RFS Advice and Martin Morris, head of distribution at platform provider Praemium.

The two got together to discuss the forces behind change in the industry during the fifth episode of Professional Planner’s Shape of Advice podcast series.

The impact of technology weighs heavily for Forbes, who warns that where it sits in the customer journey should prompt deep and meaningful internal questions about the role of the adviser for all firms, especially when a business enters growth phase.

“The role technology plays in the business has evolved dramatically in a short amount of time. And while technology creates business efficiency, advisers shouldn’t forget that a key stakeholder here is the client,” Forbes says. “Even 10 years ago, we had nowhere near the ability to utilise the technologies we have today. We couldn’t even foresee it.”

Despite this, the core advice business hasn’t really changed, Forbes adds. “It’s still about helping clients achieve their goals. That’s never been far away, and that goes right back to the early days of data collection. It’s always been there. But we can be so much more interactive now, with live information possible.”

Morris agrees that there are still practices in Australia grappling with technology, and businesses spending so much time on internal processes and procedures that are just too complex.

Morris likened the word of mouth effect of tradesmen and builders to that of financial advisers. Advisers mustn’t forget that traditional platforms were designed as business tools, not client engagement tools. It’s crucial to clearly understand your client engagement model.

“Technology can lose sight of that human contact in the process. But practices, if they understand that their business model, and their team understands what they need to do, it can cut through the noise and ensure that they understand their own client engagement iceberg,” Morris says.

“The key is for advisers to segment clients based on their engagement preferences. Millennials want a different service offering to older clients who are asking for more control and want more transparency in their portfolio,” he continues. “Some deliver too much information during times of pressure, and haven’t communicated in the right way. It comes down to who your client is and what you need to deliver.”

Morris insists that firms need to keep in mind that while software efficiencies have bolstered financial planning and advice processes, technology is merely a facilitator. Advisers still need a framework, client segmentation and an understanding of how to deliver their service.

“If you’ve got a technology stack that could end up with 13 to 15 different providers in the business, you end up being the tail that’s wagging the dog. Unfortunately, too much technology can have just as bad an impact as not enough technology,” Morris says.

At one stage, Forbes considered giving each client an iPad in reception so they can update their own details directly into the company’s CRM. And while it sounded efficient, he ultimately decided that it didn’t align with the firm’s values. “You can be efficient, but you need to remember what you’re trying to actually deliver at the centre of all of this,” Forbes says.

“The initial client experience needs to consider what a client hears, what they see in the office and what the office looks like, and eventually, a business needs to get really clear about what it stands for and how the service will be delivered,” he says.

Forbes reminded advisers that making sure clients feel cared for is key. “For example, we’ve built a business that’s very driven by service, with a willingness to serve our customers using various tools we’ve built along the way.”

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