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How technology is transforming the financial planning space

The future of financial planning: part two

Published: 13/05/2021
With the pandemic spurring on rapid and widespread innovation, here Insights Hub highlights how five innovative trends are currently impacting the working lives of financial advisers.

Close to nine in 10 independent financial advisers (IFAs) are using some new form of technology as a result of COVID-19, according to recent VitalityInvest research1. Of the 202 advisers surveyed in February this year, 89% said they were more dependent on technology, with many expecting these changes to become permanent fixtures.

In light of these findings, we asked financial planning experts to highlight five trends they are seeing and how they are impacting the way they do business with clients.

1. Online communication

As in other sectors, video conferencing has been a lifeline for IFAs over the last year or so. “One of the most obvious changes brought about by Covid is the increase in usage of technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams,” said Paul Fynes, an adviser at City Capital Financial Planning.

VitalityInvest’s findings suggest the majority (74%) of advisers now expect virtual meetings to remain a part of their day-to-day operations.

“It’s clearly been an extraordinary year where every business has had to adapt and accelerate their use of technology as never before,” said Justin Taurog, managing director of VitalityInvest. “Financial advisers are no exception and while, traditionally, conversations would be rarely anything but face to face, IFAs now tell us they are increasingly moving to communicating with their clients online on a more permanent basis.”

Where possible, most IFAs still plan to see clients in person at least once a year, however. “Face-to-face meetings are less formal and are still a better way to really build a relationship with a client in my opinion,” Fynes added.

2. Paperless processes

Back in 2018, consultant EY found that UK financial services firms were failing to communicate the benefits of swapping traditional paperwork for digital communications, with only 28% of customers electing to go paperless and the industry missing out on £1.3bn of cost savings annually as a result.2

The research identified three key barriers to a move to paperless processes: legacy systems, customer demand, and the introduction of new regulation.

Now though, just like the acceptance of remote working among business leaders was fast-forwarded, the COVID-19 pandemic has also forced financial services providers to up their game with regards to the paperless office.

And for advisers, being able to interact more with providers online is one of the major bonuses to emerge from the difficulties of last year.

Of the IFAs surveyed by VitalityInvest, 45% said paperless processes, such as enabling clients to sign documents online rather than having to print, sign, and either scan and email or send them back in the post, were a big advantage of using more technology.

“The pandemic has forced many advisers to reassess their technological capabilities, and for us, the changes we’ve made have become central to our business model,” said Chris Green, managing director of SG Financial Services.

3. Digital platforms

Digital platforms help IFAs to manage their workflow, hone their recommendations by accessing comprehensive data and analysis, centralise their client databases, and even communicate with clients.

Little wonder then, that they are becoming an increasingly popular way to do business. “Taking a digital approach to managing their clients’ money is becoming more common and advisers welcome the ability to interact with providers on digital platforms,” Taurog said.

“Clients are now expecting more in terms of technology, and the integration of digital tools such as Vitality’s Adviser Hub, has allowed us to efficiently and effectively manage our clients’ money and provide them with a fantastic service, which is absolutely integral to what we do,” Green added.

But many IFAs believe digital platforms will offer even more benefits in a few years’ time. “I expect the existing platform technology to continue to be enhanced,” said Julian Strauss, senior financial planner at Bigmore Associates.

4. Timesaving technology

With technology playing a more prominent role in advisers’ lives due to the pandemic, a lot of companies have become more open to taking advantage of specialist IT tools – especially those that save them time.

According to the VitalityInvest figures, more than half of IFAs (56%) would welcome cashflow modelling tools designed to help them manage customer outcomes, while 40% are keen to see better integration of back-office tech.

The growing demand for such technology is now tipped to trigger a wealth of new programmes designed to make advisers more efficient and therefore better able to meet their clients’ needs.

And advisers are keen to see how such programmes will help them do their jobs. “I’m in favour of any technology that helps clients to feel in control and that enhances our relationship with them,” Strauss said. “We are already using Intelliflo software that allows clients to update their own information prior to a meeting, which saves a lot of time and allows us to provide a better service to our clients.”

5. Alternative investments

Experiencing a global health crisis has changed the way many people think about money. “I think the amounts people have saved during the pandemic have made some of them reflect on how they spend usually,” Strauss said. “It’s also made them appreciate things they may previously have taken for granted.”

Trends to emerge as a result of this include putting a higher priority by individuals on looking after themselves and the planet which, in turn, has led to greater interest in environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) funds.

Recent research from Triodos Bank indicated that close to four in 10 (39%) people in the UK felt sustainable investments would prove a key way to address climate issues and avoid future pandemics.3

To help you and your clients make the most of VitalityInvest, we’ve invested in a state-of-the art digital hub.



Sources:
1. 202 UK advisers surveyed in February 2021 by Opinium
2. Going paperless and digital adoption, EY, 2018: https://www.ey.com/en_uk/financial-services/ey-is-paper-the-elephant-in-the-boardroom
3. Covid-19 fuels demand for impact investments, Triodos Bank, October 2020: https://www.triodos.co.uk/press-releases/2020/covid-19-pandemic-fuels-demand-for-impact-investments

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