Who are the key stakeholders in determining the technology a firm utilizes, and what impact do the tools an advisor uses have on end client engagement?
These questions were at the heart of the panel discussion “Technology, Financial Services and the New Gatekeepers” held Monday at the T3 conference in Las Vegas, with a panel including Jeffrey Concepcion, founder and CEO of super OSJ Stratos Wealth Partners, and Steven Wallman, founder and CEO of Foliofn, best known for services including Folio Investing and the SRI Conference.
As advisory firms grapple with disruptive technologies such as robo-advice platforms, not knowing whether to embrace or differentiate from a growing array of self-service tools flooding the marketplace, Concepcion suggested that successful firms will become "bionic advisors," leveraging innovative technologies where needed, especially for the increasingly millennial audience that won’t be bothered with the time it takes to interact with a live advisor.
The choice of technology solution — whether for CRM, planning, or practice management — is often fraught with peril. Panel moderator Matt Lynch, managing partner of the consulting firm Strategy & Resources, said that as a rule, six months after a tech rollout at an advisor firm, the new technology has a negative Net Promoter Score (NPS), meaning most users dislike the new tools.
Firm like Stratos are adopting the "new gatekeeper" role, developing a staff of experts whose role is assisting in matching technology providers to advisory firms, with the goal of enabling better decision-making when it comes to applied technology throughout the practice. This enhances technology adoption in several dimensions, including facilitating build-or-buy decisions and providing guidance in modifying commercial off-the-shelf software to meet an advisor’s needs without building a solution from scratch.
One sticking point raised during the panel was the lack of a common data language for fintech software and services, which can raise barriers to integration between different offerings. Since most advisory firms rely on a variety of applications and services in their practice, the lack of an industry-specific application program interface (API) puts a greater burden on internal IT, often requiring multiple calls to a vendor’s support staff to achieve the desired integration.
This problem is being addressed by new gatekeeper teams as well. For example, the Stratos team also acts as intermediary between advisory firms and vendors, fielding first-level support calls to further reduce friction between vendor and firm.
As clients increasingly rely on their mobile devices to electronically interact with financial advisors, the mobile user experience increases in importance, and is rapidly becoming a differentiator when advisor services are otherwise roughly equal. To that end, advisory firms of all sizes will need to develop strategies for adopting and integrating new technology as it reaches the market, and may find that relying on a "new gatekeeper" partner can quicken the adoption of the next big thing in fintech, whether AI or support for the latest iPhone.
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