CGI has initiated a number of global efforts to gauge the pandemic’s permanent technological impact on business. As part of that initiative, we’ve engaged in active dialogue with executives and their frontline teams across the Canadian wealth management landscape. Specifically, we’re seeking to gain perspective into the financial advisor behaviours, trends and tools that will lead best practices moving forward.
In service of this pursuit, we recently launched our inaugural Voice of the Advisor survey. In evaluating the advisor responses we received, we’ve identified three contemporary themes that revolve around the actions Firms can take to help advisors deliver on their business objectives.
1. Firms need to drive efficiency and scale
Advisors want firms to adopt new, data-driven technology to enable greater capacity. However, advisors also need firms to champion effective change management when implementing the digital capabilities that will allow them to focus on higher value work.
When 33% of an advisor’s typical work week is spent on administrative tasks, it creates a significant burden on time and efficiency. Our survey was able to pinpoint specific tools and processes that advisors would like firms to adopt in order to enable greater capacity. Starting with the top response, they included: streamlined integration between applications; replacing legacy systems with intuitive technology; greater automation of core business activity; better utilization of existing software; and more intuitive and dynamic applications.
Yet, in order for any transformation to add value, firms must effectively prepare, train and continuously support advisors who will be using it. However, only 48% of advisors surveyed believe their company is effective at introducing new technology. From the survey responses we gathered, we’ve identified three key characteristics that successful rollouts tend to have in common. In order for new digital tools to benefit the various facets of advisors’ business, advisors must be given:
- A clear understanding of the need for the transformation
- An intuitive experience that lessens the disruption of the change and effectively increases their capacity
- Sufficient training and ongoing support for new tech
2. Firm support for multi-faceted businesses
When it comes to delivering their growing array of services to clients, no two advisors are the exact same. That’s why firms that want to keep their existing advisors—and bring in top talent; must have the functionality to facilitate all aspects of the wealth advisory trade.
At the industry level, client demands are driving a trend toward more holistic wealth management. Our survey responses show advisors’ core offerings today often go beyond traditional investment, financial and education planning services (philanthropic giving guidance, stock option diversification and trust services). This broader set of services starts to shift advisors from a fee-for-product paradigm toward more of a fee-for-service business model.
Our survey results also show that advisors expect revenues to increasingly come from multiple business practices, including fees based businesses both discretionary and non-discretionary accounts, as well as commissions and trailer fees. That means a firm’s digital capabilities need to support a diverse mix of revenue profiles and business models.
While most firms do have a technology roadmap in place to support these aspects of their advisors’ business, it’s not always communicated effectively to the front line. Our survey found that 32% of advisors surveyed have little, if any, awareness of their firm’s digital strategy. This indicates a significant opportunity for firms to improve communication about how their transformation plans can ultimately support an advisor’s multi-faceted business—as long as the transformation enables an end-to-end, integrated advisor experience.
3. Prioritize firm-wide application and platform integration
A significant amount of advisors surveyed believe these three changes would have the greatest impact on their ability to more efficiently deliver on client expectations:
- Better integration between the applications they use (e.g., limit double keying)
- Enabling an investor-centric approach by leveraging innovative technologies (e.g., self-service client portals enhanced by advisor-driven, data insights )
- Greater automation of their core activities (e.g., streamline the onboarding process)
Still, advisors don’t always find that firms prioritize those initiatives. Only 48% view their firm as being ahead of the curve regarding technology and automation. Just 37% consider their firm’s business applications to be successfully integrated. These responses indicate a clear opportunity for firms to more effectively incorporate technology to support their advisors. However, there are also certain common pitfalls they must avoid.
Aside from the top qualities shared by successful rollouts, our survey also uncovered the main characteristics that advisors believe contribute to a firms’ unsuccessful technology rollout. Advisors generally believe the most common features of an ineffective rollout are: insufficient training, new tools that don’t fit into advisors’ existing business models, and a lack of understanding regarding the need for the new technology
Smoothing out tech transitions and triaging legacy processes shouldn’t be the responsibility of a firm’s advisors (who are already focused on adapting to meet evolving client demand). That’s why, as firms seek to introduce capacity-enabling digital tools, it’s essential to keep their advisors and clients at the centre of their efforts. The firms able to attract and retain top talent will be defined by the successful integration of new tools and technology with both advisors and investors at the centre of their strategy.
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