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How Advisors Can Give Clients Amazon-Like Service

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The world’s three renowned digital-platform giants — Apple, Amazon and Google — have, sort of, spoiled consumers. Indeed, when it comes to financial services firms, investors are craving that same simplicity and speed.

So says Brian Bichler, head of platform experience and a managing director at Atria Wealth Solutions, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor. “Clients have now built a benchmark in their minds that they want technology services in the same manner that Apple, Amazon and Google have established,” he argues.

To some extent, this is already here from firms such as Atria. “Technology [for financial services] in 2022 and beyond isn’t just cool and [offers] not just great service but [is] a blend of those in order to help financial professionals grow their business,” says Bichler, a 2022 ThinkAdvisor LUMINARIES award finalist in the category of executive leadership.

In the interview, he provides a peek inside Amazon’s construction, which has helped make the company super-successful. More than that, he highlights what types of technology and benefits clients want, and the top four tech capabilities advisors want, including linking up with “great [tech] partners in the wealth management industry.”

A specialist in designing and developing digital platforms for financial advisors and their clients, Bichler has been with Atria, which serves independent advisors, credit unions and banks, since 2018. 

Based in New York City and San Diego, he creates tools for Atria subsidiaries Cadaret Grant, NEXT Financial Group, Western International Securities, SCF Securities, CUSO Financial Services and Sorrento Pacific Financial. His previous experience includes roles at Morgan Stanley, Fidelity and Goldman Sachs, among other firms.

ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Bichler, who was speaking by phone from Salt Lake City. Addressing the “unprecedented level of change” in technology, he notes that “there are now more smart devices on the planet than people.”

Here are highlights of our interview:

THINKADVISOR: What do clients consider the most important things they want from technology to make them happy to use it?

BRIAN BICHLER: Clients have now built a benchmark in their minds that they want technology services in the same manner that Apple, Amazon and Google have established. 

They want a mobile app and a desktop experience that are simple and easy to use. They want to be able to go into those and take an action, like updating a piece of information. 

Also, they want to have more connectivity with their financial professionals through texting and video conferencing, in addition to face-to-face meetings and phone calls.

You just identified pressing buttons on a computer device as an “experience.” That makes it sound bigger than it is. What’s so experiential?

There are now more smart devices on the planet than people. The level of change in technology is unprecedented.

Technology [for financial services] in 2022 and beyond isn’t just cool technology and not just great service, but a blend of those in order to help financial professionals grow their business, build strong relationships and trust with clients, and have the insight to make decisions rapidly.

Is your firm providing those?

Yes. Our platform design isn’t a traditional financial services company design. It’s designed much more like a Silicon Valley company — Apple, Amazon or Google. 

It has a very simple user interface that people can work with without prior training. But it’s very sophisticated underneath in the type of algorithms and data that we present.

We’re the stewards of the data and have the ability to extend it to its full potential for [advisors] to run their business.

So is your platform experience as simple and fast as that of Amazon?

Yes. If you were to break down Amazon’s underlying parts, it’s actually composed of [numerous] smaller companies that play a role in the process of choosing a product, purchasing it and shipping it to your door. 

There are 2,000 or so companies underneath the surface, [but[ Amazon has made it such a seamlessly integrated, simple experience.

We follow the same principles and hire similar engineering talent. 

What is it that financial advisors want foremost from technology?

Four things: The concept of data ownership matters to a financial professional. They want to be able to own the data they have and see it utilized to its full potential. They want the data to be entered once and to show up in reporting so they can understand where they need to take action.

The second thing is that they want simplicity and a friction-free environment. They don’t want to have to be trained on how to run a report. They want things to be really quick and compressed in the number of clicks they have to make in order to complete an action. 

Thirdly, they want to tie into great partners in the industry. There are a number of partners in wealth management that are making investments similar to ours [in the areas of] data accessibility, user interfaces, meaningful insights and how to integrate them in the ecosystem.

The fourth piece is the ability to call, email or text to connect with [a company rep] to show them how to do something or give them an idea of best practices so they can use the platform to its full potential.

Is there anything that advisors want but aren’t getting?

More tailoring. They have ideas about how they could really take their business to the next level [via] technology. They want to go further with deeper integration. 

They want other partners to be on board and to be accessible. 

What types of “partners”? 

[Advisors] are saying, “How do we do more to create even more insights around planning and things like goal achievement?”

[Tailoring] is about ideas that financial professionals have about what they think will build strong relationships with their clients.

Using our platform, [advisors] can sign on to any number of partners we have available, like Riskalyze or Albridge.

We do deep integration, such as bringing data from those partners into our system and marrying it with data that we have in order to get unique insights.

You were with Morgan Stanley earlier in your career. There were big tech challenges with the merger of Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney. What was your role?

I came in afterward to help improve the technology, given the struggle they had in the transition.

It was the biggest [such] merger in history, with [18,500] financial professionals using legacy technologies.

At the same time, you were seeing that shift we just talked about — clients’ expectations of wanting the Apple, Amazon, Google experience for services — together with the financial professionals wanting to keep up with that shift. 

So we were really at the crossroads, and [Morgan Stanley] brought in talent to build out that environment.


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