Rapid advancements in consumer technology are putting the pressure on advisers to match what clients see in the outside world according to Finura director Peter Worn.
For reasons in and out of their control, however, that may not be so easy.
Speaking on Professional Planner‘s Principals in Practice podcast, produced in partnership with BlackRock, Worn explained how the modern age was changing the expectations many clients have when they seek advice.
“Our guys have been reading a lot about this concept of ‘liquid expectations’,” he said. “When certain aspects of our lives improve in a certain way… how we consume content on video, how we engage with other professionals, like accountants and doctors virtually now… they reasonably expect those improvements to sort of cascade into other areas of their lives.”
Many advice clients have an “analogue” advice experience, Worn believes, but are expecting advisers to improve their digital capacity due to their liquid expectations.
“And that’s a really important thing, particularly for advisers who are maybe resistant themselves personally to technology, but need to understand their clients might be on a different wavelength.”
Also on the podcast, GPA Financial Services director and principal adviser Jason Poole said advisers often fall into the trap of failing to update their technology because their legacy system is functional – despite better solutions being available.
“It’s kind of a conundrum mentally, because the old saying ‘if it ain’t broke…’, that kind of thing doesn’t actually hold in this space,” Poole said. “You constantly need to be looking for better efficiencies or better ways.”
The adviser gave the examples of switching to using e-signatures and dropbox in his practice. Even though the old way of getting client signatures and saving documents in file was functional, there was a better and more efficient way to complete the tasks.
“Most of the technology we change is already working really well, it’s just that we found something that will do it a little bit better,” he said. “So don’t wait ’till something is broken.”
Waiting on a game changer
Worn says part of the reason advisers struggle to catch up on the latest technology is simple inertia, with cost and lack of expertise acting as common barriers.
“We’ve seen a lot of firms that have probably embarked on a tech stack project, and it becomes a tech pile pretty quickly because they’ve just embraced a lot of solutions that don’t necessarily connect to each other,” he recalled.
The other issue is that while innovation exists in the sector (with managed account platforms being a prime example), the industry has lacked that ‘giant leap’ that advisers can latch on to.
“Advisers are probably frustrated because they look at other areas in their lives and go ‘how come our software doesn’t work this way?’,” he said. “I still think this game-changer everyone’s kind of waiting for just isn’t quite there, because I’m just not yet to see real evidence that someone’s throwing significant effort at it.”
The declining adviser workforce is partly to blame, he acknowledged. Finura estimates the addressable advice market in Australia at approximately $150 million, whereas the market for other verticals such as accounting can top $1 billion.
“If you’re a software developer looking to build software for this industry, the market has been shrinking in Australia, which obviously makes it less attractive to throw huge amounts of capital into those businesses,” he said.
Nevertheless, advice is becoming a global industry, with more and more capital flowing into the sector.
“We’re certainly hearing all the right things for the major technology companies… which gives me a lot of comfort that there’s a lot more capital coming into these into these businesses.”