Nearly half of affluent investors are not provided metrics covering fees, return, goal progress, investment risk and benchmark comparison from their advisor. Or, perhaps worse, they aren’t sure if their advisor is providing them this data.
One-third of affluent investors aren’t highly confident that “an unbiased third party would get the same result as [their] advisor if they were to calculate” these important investment performance metrics. Considering these findings from a recent Phoenix Marketing International survey of more than 2,100 affluent investors, you can begin to see where a trust gap might exist between financial services providers and their clients.
Technologies abound to help advisors perform almost every aspect of their jobs, including relationship and trust-building. However, one of the ironies of placing more trust in technology to help us drive efficiencies and growth is that investors themselves are also placing more trust in technologies to assist them in every aspect of their lives, including financial decision making, which can cut into our growth.
I point this out to underscore that technologies are often looked upon as a panacea for nearly any challenge facing the financial services industry, when instead they should be recognized as tools to assist you with addressing those challenges. Addressing the trust gap implied by the stats referenced above can be facilitated through smart technology usage.
Tech Augments Human Capital
While technology can help streamline processes and significantly improve efficiencies, in relationship-based businesses it should not be viewed as a replacement for humans, but rather as an additional asset to help do our jobs better.
What, after all, are the drivers of trust in the advisor-client relationship? I’d argue they boil down primarily to your consistency (delivering what you promised when you promised it), your accountability for your actions/advice (admitting when you are wrong and explaining why and how to fix), and your client focus (listening closely to and understanding your individual client’s needs and fears).
Once you’ve dispelled the myth that technology holds all of the answers, you can then begin to realistically judge a given technology to determine how to incorporate it to accentuate and strengthen your consistency, accountability and focus.
Tech Should Be a Bridge, Not a Wall
Adding a new technology to your business without taking the above into account can, in practice, create more problems than it solves, especially if your reliance upon it alienates you from your clients rather than strengthening the client-advisor bond. Fortunately, there are a wide array of tools in every category that, if incorporated wisely, can help bridge the distance between you and your clients.
If, in the past, you’ve had a difficult time directing clients toward an appropriate level of risk relative to their financial health, there are risk assessment tools available to facilitate those conversations and give your clients greater confidence in the work you do behind the scenes for them.
If, in the past, you’ve been sporadic and/or slipshod with your marketing or educational efforts, there are marketing tools available to assist you with streamlining and scheduling those efforts. There are also CRMs available to help with segmenting your client base to ensure what you send is appropriately targeted and sent at the right time.
If, in the past, conveying to your clients the financial impact a given decision might have on their retirement plans proved contentious, there are collaborative financial planning tools now available to help you run through multiple scenarios in real time to bolster clients’ appreciation of your ability to parse complex scenarios to their benefit.
Of course, these three situations are just a small representation of the myriad of challenges you face every day in relation to establishing and/or rebuilding trust with your clients. But, my intent here is not to catalog a list of reasons on why the advisor-client relationship may be broken, but instead to trigger the desire to sit down, think deeply about your client experiences (particularly situations in the past which may not have ended well) and take a look at your current technology platforms. Do any of them provide a way to handle those situations in a way that might end up strengthening the client relationship instead? If not, are their platforms out there that would?
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
You may simply not know the answer to the two questions posed above. In that case, talk to your existing technology vendors and work with them to see if their solution provides a way of dealing with a specific challenge you’ve faced. If not, there’s a good chance they can steer you toward some vendors that might have the answers you need. Alternatively, you might pose the question in appropriate LinkedIn groups or industry forums. Chances are there is a tool of some sort to help you, whether you are looking to strengthen trust with existing clients or to regain the trust of a client currently on the fence.
Brian McLaughlin is the CEO of Redtail Technology, a leading provider of client relationship management (CRM) solutions for financial services firms.