(Photo credit: Wealth/Stack)

Dani Fava, TD Ameritrade Institutional’s head of innovation, is all about making the complex world of technology easy to grasp for RIAs, and that’s just what she did in her talk on artificial intelligence Tuesday at the inaugural Wealth/Stack conference in Phoenix.

Want to get more tech help in your front office from artificial intelligence and other tools? No problem, Fava explained to the crowd of 700-plus advisors and other guests, before outlining the four ways advisors can make this happen.

The reason to move closer to this technology? The survival of your business, the self-proclaimed futurist said: “What comes next has so much to do with client experience and the front office … and AI is the way to get there.”

Robo-advisors “have really forced us to name [our] value propositions, as they’ve commoditized investing,” she said. “Where is the value? Client experience, and … that is where technology [like AI] can help you.” 

Reality of AI 

Before getting into the four ways tech can better serve advisors and clients, Fava acknowledged the AI is both “a major buzzword” and a work in progress.

Analysis by CB Insights found 170 mentions of it on corporate earnings calls in the second quarter of 2016. That figure rocketed to 1,300 mentions in Q2’19.

While lots of firms want to embrace AI, an MIT Sloan study cited by Fava found that 81% of businesses do not know what data they need to build and and access AI — though 83% think AI is a “strategic opportunity,” she said. 

Fava framed AI as computer intelligence that performs or decides things without a human, versus automation, which requires humans to build in a set of rules. AI “figures out patterns on its own,” she said. 

4 Areas for Action

1. AI can boost advisors’ efforts at prioritizing clients and prospects, so they spend their time effectively.  

“We do that on our own now. But AI can predict who exhibits certain behavior and patterns, who makes the best clients and prospects based on your data,” Fava said. 

She pointed out that Brinker Capital’s Daniel Crosby is working on such a tool, Tulip, to score clients on the amount of effort advisors will need to work with them. It was part of Wealth/Stack’s tech showcase.  

2. AI can help advisors better communicate around clients’ top concerns.

The focus here is “on really personalized content,” Fava said. “Like how Netflix and Amazon scoop up data and make recommendations on what you can watch and buy, technology will give you recommendations on what to send clients as content.” 

It’s a “a natural next step,” Fava said, giving a somewhat-awkward example of how an advisor seeing (via social media) that a client just joined a divorce-support group might want to reach out to offer relevant financial advice.

The objective, she explained, is to contact clients based on their online and other tech-tracked behavior — in ways that are helpful but not obtrusive. 

“Social media knows what a person is more likely to open — a blog on taxes or a video on vacations,” Fava shared. 

3. AI can provide insights into how, when and where to communicate and meet with clients and prospects.  

Neura software, for instance, uses AI to collect data from devices in order to build a profile of an individual’s daily routines, schedule and even locations. 

“It can help you bucket your [clients] … and tell you what they do and when,” Fava said. 

This means advisors can identify the right time to send out a client notice about how he or she is doing on meeting a financial goal, say, as that person is walking into a casino. “This might be an [opportune] time for a nudge or reminder,” she explained.

As for how to best talk to clients, Fava pointed to Contently software, which uses AI to read a blog or other content and evaluate it for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The innovation insider says this resource “is spot-on and shows me where I can get ‘softer’ in my content,” Fava said, noting that she is generally a “no-nonsense communicator.”

“This is AI that you can layer onto your blogs, tweets and other client communication,” she explained. 

To help advisors figure out where to meet clients, Fava mentioned Financial DNA, a behavioral finance tool that can send surveys to prospects and tell advisors what type of personality and preferences they may have on where to meet. 

“This is really important,” Fava said. “In the future, I think that AI will use email, social media, anything to do this. And your phone knows where you are in so many ways [already].”

4. It’s all in the follow-up. 

This is another area where using AI for insights on client and prospect predictability can prove powerful, she says. 

There’s technology to transcribe conversations — like Temi’s speech-to-text transcription app — that also can “pull out the follow-up items and [even] put that into your calendar,” Fava explained. 

She pointed out that if advisors print a transcript then it becomes written communication with a client and needs to be handled in accordance with a firm’s compliance rules.

“These platforms are just getting better and better,” Fava said about developments that are both potentially helpful and intrusive. “All you say can be tracked and recorded.” 

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