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What should advisers be demanding of their technology?

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Advisers should be looking for smartphone-like, integrated advice technology systems, says Mark Loosmore of IRESS…

It is indisputable that in today’s world technology plays a central role in our daily lives, from the moment we are woken up by the alarm on our smartphones to when we check our emails often on the same device before going to bed at night. If we look at how we use technology now compared to a decade or two ago, there is a startling difference. The number of systems we use has decreased dramatically, whilst the efficiency level in the way we work has gone up. As advisers grapple with ever more complex compliance issues plus demanding clients this model is what advisers should be, and are, demanding from their technology.

If we cast our minds back to the 1990’s our working day probably involved a minimum of eight different systems or devices, ranging from a Filofax to a PC to a brick sized mobile phone, to just get us through the day. Fast forward back to 2015 and many of us now simply turn to one – the smartphone. Technology has essentially created a single, unified tool for multiple tasks that used to require numerous devices, making life simpler and more efficient. Now let’s apply this logic to the financial services industry and we will see what advisers need to be looking for from their technology – integrated advice technology systems, which are their equivalent of the smartphone. By unifying all the separate systems used for each stage of the advice process within one core user interface these systems give advisers a much improved user experience and make valuable time efficiencies, ensuring their time is used in the best possible way – focusing on the client. This can only be a good thing. 

Advisers need to embrace this and move away from using multiple systems, instead looking for unified technology solutions that allow them to conduct all elements of the advice process in one core system. By using different systems for client management, portfolio management, risk assessment, remuneration management, cashflow planning, sourcing product quotations, submission of business, compiling management information, case checking, regulatory processing, etc., then adding spreadsheets to manage “lists” such as complaints, CPD tracking, gifts and hospitality, and much more on top of this, then adviser firms are opening themselves to process inefficiencies. Firms are re-entering the same data into multiple different systems, taking up valuable time and risking the client becoming disengaged. With today’s increasingly sophisticated adviser technology solutions this is no longer necessary, or desirable. 

If we take this a step further, advisers should be looking to add further value to this unified system by choosing one that incorporates other software in deep integrations. This will supplement the core functions offered by the unified advice system, giving them access to additional options and data. These deep integrations surpass the two-way passing of data between systems by fully embedding one software solution in the other so that the user interface stays constant. Through these deeply integrated systems advisers gain access to a greater range of data without having to leave their core user interface. Advisers are becoming more switched on to the benefits of these systems and as a result technology companies are responding with ever greater levels of integration. By continuing to drive this development advisers will reap the benefits in terms of ease of use, time and process efficiencies. 

Furthermore, advisers need to look for a technology solution that offers them not just a single, integrated system, but one that is available across multiple channels. This flexibility of use is essential to enable advisers to work as efficiently as possible. In today’s fast paced world advisers need to be able to access their advice system across multiple devices, with all updates being logged and available when they switch onto a different device. The advent of the smaller, portable tablet and the smartphone have broken down the barriers technology used to pose. Being able to pass a tablet, or even a smartphone, around with easy to understand, high quality visuals enables advisers to better explain concepts to clients and ensure the client is more engaged in the process. Having all the same tools which are available on their desktop to hand on their tablet and smartphone gives advisers the flexibility to respond to the individual client’s way of working, as well as ensuring immediacy of response in communications. The result is not only a more engaged client, but a sense of trust and value for money. 

Technology is, and should be, a great enabler for adviser firms. It has moved on greatly over recent years and continues to do so. The unified advice systems now available to advisers provide efficiency gains, flexibility, an improved user experience and a consistency of service. But to get the most from it, advisers must also be open to being demanding of their technology providers to make sure they continue to match their needs and support business growth. Ultimately those businesses who make the greatest use of the technology available to them to streamline their processes will be best placed to react to market developments and prosper.

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