Research earlier this year by US research firm Aite Group for Pershing found that digitally-enabled adviser practices grew assets more quickly than traditional practices over the last twelve months.
The survey, of just over 400 US-based financial adviser practices, found that over 90% of digitally enabled advisers increased their assets under management over the last twelve months, compared to 54% of traditional advisers. Over the same period, 70% of digitally enabled advisers increased revenue by 5% or more, compared to just over 50% of traditional advisers.
The research defines ‘digitally-enabled’ as providing information via tablets, video conference, client website, chat or co-browsing software, and mobile devices.
In Australia, digital technologies and client servicing capabilities are widely available, with investors able to view their superannuation statements, holdings and transactions via mobile technology including smartphones, iPads, tablets and other mobile platforms. Investors can interact with calculators and tools as well as securely message wealth managers.
However, in the UK, although the technology has been available for some time, the whole investment management supply chain has been been slow to embrace digital. Asset managers in particular are incredibly low-tech in the way they provide information on products, performance and fees to advisers, with for example, little change over the past two decades to the way factsheets are delivered.
Platforms as well, despite being largely online based systems that have changed the administration of investment transactions enormously, are also taking time to upgrade to mobile. Research by the lang cat for Zurich earlier this year found that only four out of fourteen platforms had a mobile app for client accounts. Perhaps more surprisingly, only eight of the fourteen had a platform that was fully optimised for mobile access.
While you could argue that having an app is not essential for advisers, having a platform that can be viewed on a mobile device should be a crucial tool for advisers to ensure they can access information while they are on the road. For direct investors, both apps and mobile access are becoming indispensable. According to the 2016 Deloitte Mobile Impact Survey, four out of five UK adults (81 per cent) now own a smartphone.
People are using their phones to browse the internet, bank and shop online, for social media and for research. Not just for personal use, mobile access is becoming crucial for work as well. With the continuous improvement of networks and devices, it seems likely that mobile will become an increasingly important tool for interacting with providers across all sectors. It will be interesting to see in a year, or even six month’s time, how many of those six platforms are still not fully optimised for mobile access.
It is also notable how people switch between devices, both for work and personal use. On the train to work someone might use their phone to check emails and browse the internet. They might switch to a desktop computer once in the office and then a laptop on the road. Back home in the evening, they might pick up a tablet for ‘second screening’ while watching television.
The way we interact with technology is profoundly changing our expectations of how brands should communicate with us and financial services companies need to wake up to this multi-device world. Customers might want to interact with them at any point during their day and have a growing expectation that websites will be suitably enabled to accommodate their needs regardless of how they are accessing them. Companies that do not embrace their customers’ evolving access requirements may well see those customers quickly moving elsewhere.
And it is not only the financial services companies themselves that need to move with the technological times. By accessing digital information from asset managers and platforms, advisers will be better equipped to pass personalised information to their clients. As the research by Aite proves, embracing mobile functionality can support business growth by enhancing the adviser-client relationship, providing more compressive portfolio management capabilities and enabling efficient service.
In an ideal world, an adviser would be able to take a tablet to a client meeting and pull together dynamic, real time, personalised information based on the client’s individual needs. The adviser would be able to give clear examples of different outcomes based on different scenarios, create a list of next steps, produce a permanent record of the discussion to share with the client and also use as proof of compliance with the regulations. A far cry from carting around a folder full of paperwork.
With the heightened focus on savings and investment in the UK, thanks to auto-enrolment and pension freedoms, it is important for platforms to provide greater access and engagement for advisers and investors. As we have seen in other industries – the emergence of Uber or AirBnB for instance which are completely reliant on mobile tools – there is huge potential to embrace digital solutions to present data in a clear, personalised and easy to digest format and in turn fuel business growth.
By Rob DeDominicis, CEO, GBST.