“The technology you use impresses no one. The experience you create with it is everything.” This quote by user experience expert Sean Gerety is an important one for wealth management firms to consider in today’s environment of accelerating transformation in the industry.
Undoubtedly, if you ask most people around the industry if technology is important to their business, you’ll hear a resounding “yes!” In fact, in Fidelity’s 2018 RIA Benchmarking Study, 71% of firms identified themselves as strong adopters of technology. But the reality is, just having the technology isn’t enough.
In the 20-plus years that I’ve been helping firms get the most out of their technology tools, I’ve noticed that the thing that separates those who are successfully using technology from the rest is the level to which those firms make it a part of their culture; they embrace technology. They understand that the technology itself isn’t “the thing” that’s going to solve all their problems, but rather it’s how they use it every single day.
Face it, we could all have the same list of tools (and many do), but there is a wide variance when it comes to achieving real, tangible satisfaction and business results. Firms need to truly embrace technology if they want to grow and thrive. And with changes in client expectations and the war for top talent, technology isn’t just important — it’s critical.
When you embrace technology, it is no longer just a cool set of tools that may or may not get used. It is a key to empowering your talent, driving your strategy and achieving your goals. Embracing technology comes from culture, focus and commitment.
Drive a culture of innovation.
You’ve probably heard of digital quotient, or DQ, which was developed by McKinsey & Co. and has four components — strategy, culture, capabilities and organization. Based on my experiences working with hundreds of firms, it’s the culture aspect that is most critical to get a firm energized to embrace the opportunities that technology transformation offers.
Firm leaders must ensure the firm’s strategy includes technology to empower all parts of the business. Encourage (require!) associates to use these tools to drive impact in all parts of their day — that means getting the most out of your current ecosystem by increasing user adoption, deepening integrations and implementing streamlined workflows. But it also means introducing time savers like collaboration tools, mobile apps and client portals.
Once you do this, you can make technology a central part of your recruitment story to attract new advisors and associates, helping them see that your platform empowers them to really focus on what they do best and what they are passionate about (which isn’t picking or configuring technology!). Bring clients into this culture too by encouraging them to share feedback on their experience (delivered through technology) and ideas around what would improve how you provide value to them. This is a journey, not a destination.
Focus on technology as an experience.
Technology in our industry has moved from being a “tool” to a “solution” and is now all about the “experience.” At Fidelity, we know that high-impact user experience (UX) research supports product management and development teams when identifying the right problems to solve, discovering the best solutions to those problems, and designing effective, efficient and delightful experiences that encourage desired user behavior and drive business outcomes.
Firms today must think about technology as driving a comprehensive experience for all users. Starting with the end in mind — for everyone, even prospects and the talent you are targeting for your firm — and implementing your best-suited technology ecosystem can help achieve greater efficiency, drive growth and deepen relationships. Associates and advisors can then focus on client service and delivering their highest value, as well as a more robust client experience. This will allow for deepening relationships and attracting new clients that will benefit from the unique value you and your firm provide.
Commit to continuous learning.
As William Pollard wisely said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient tomorrow.” Technology is transforming our lives — and those of our clients — faster than ever, and this is where we all need to have a “curious mindset.” Think about learning in two ways.
First, commit to continuous education and training around the tools you use — and those you might use in the future. When new features and integrations come out, take the time to understand how they work and what the applicability is. Second, explore new technologies (like virtual reality and artificial intelligence) and imagine how cutting-edge developments can help add more value for clients, advisors and associates.
Take these learnings and periodically assess whether the solutions in place are being used to their fullest advantage and really helping meet client, associate and firm needs. If they’re not driving the best experience for all stakeholders, internal and external, it’s time to make a change.
If you’re still not convinced that embracing technology is important, remember that it can have a real impact on your bottom line. In our 2018 Benchmarking study, we found that “embracers” (those who didn’t just score high on adoption, but also on their focus on technology as a strategic differentiator) had higher total revenues ($2.1 million for embracers versus $1.6 million for others) and higher organic growth rates (6.4% for embracers versus 4.4% for others).
Remember, it’s not just about the technology you have — it’s what you do with it that counts.
Tricia Haskins is vice president, digital strategy & platform consulting, Fidelity Institutional.