Big Tech companies have long since expanded from their initial industries, such as e-commerce, communication, social media, marketing and search engines. Many of these entities have begun building a presence in the financial industry — bringing with them troves of customer data and capital reserves to develop and invest in technologies that are disrupting the industry.
Tech giants have thrown their weight and capital investments into key technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, machine learning, software-defined security and other potentially disruptive innovations.1 Facebook parent company Meta has its blockchain-based Diem Association payment system. Amazon’s lending arm offers business loans. Google Cloud is used by major financial services companies.
The presence of these big names may have advisors feeling concerned about how to stay competitive when the financial services landscape sees so much change in such a short span of time. But as financial professionals look ahead and evaluate opportunities, it may be equally helpful for them to look back, at least as far as the lessons they learned at the onset of the pandemic.
Pandemic Lessons in Innovative Client Service
Many, if not all, financial advisors experienced abrupt and wide-ranging changes in client expectations over the past couple of years. Technology played an outsized role as advisors and clients alike adopted innovative ways of connecting, accessing information and executing transactions.
The pandemic helped to accelerate the wider adoption of technologies that otherwise may have proliferated more slowly, especially among older generations. Fully 90% of U.S. adults said the internet has been essential or important to them during the pandemic.2
Think about it: from grocery shopping and medical appointments to worship services and even weddings; when the world went into lockdown, life swiftly moved online. In some contexts, going digital was nearly seamless while in others, it left much to be desired.
The key to advisor success in the “new normal” may be less about trying to compete directly with tech giants, and more about discovering your individual strengths and using technological innovations to make the most of them in service to your clients.
Deliver Value to Clients Using Technology
Eventually, as the pandemic wanes, some clients may be thrilled to return to in-office, face-to-face appointments. But just as many workers have discovered that the time-saving benefits of remote communication can make virtual visits hard to give up. Consider practices you can adopt to help you and your clients make the most of technological possibilities and the convenience they can deliver:
- Consider the value your website offers, and how well it communicates the full scope of your services, in terms of financial planning, retirement planning, investments and more. Ask your clients how they use your website, and how they would like to be able to use it. Then, invest in creating the digital experience you know your clients are looking for.
- Continue offering virtual visits. Don’t assume that your older clients will want to go straight back to in-person meetings. Some clients, especially those with mobility challenges, caregiver responsibilities or other concerns, may be thrilled with continued remote appointments. You may even find that a balance of remote and in-person appointments enables you to improve productivity and efficiency.
- Make it easy to schedule an appointment. Online scheduling can help you spend less time booking appointments and more time with clients.
- Expand beyond geographical limits. Online access offers a great opportunity to improve your retention rate, even when clients move too far away to see you in the office. Don’t miss out; be sure to inform clients about the option to keep working with you, even if they relocate.
- Individualize client presentations and communications. A few personal touches on a slide presentation or personalization in a newsletter can go a long way toward making clients feel valued, understood and cared for. And, data visualization applications can make it quicker and easier to customize content — while also making it easier for clients to understand.
Technologies Can Provide Value to Advisors, Too
Just because tech giants are making leaps and bounds in AI doesn’t mean you can’t reap its benefits, too. Predictive analytics and automation can help you in your prospecting, marketing and even client retention efforts, as you monitor contacts’ interest in your website content, marketing emails, blog posts and more.
Tap into the wisdom of the old saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and consider the value of prospecting for new clients on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Social media offers a way to leverage the power of your own professional network to reach out and make new connections with potential clients. Advisors can use social media to promote marketing content, comment on industry news, spotlight your own volunteer service and expand your reach.
Your Human Touch Adds Value
Even as technologies continue to advance and client expectations for an online experience become more sophisticated, some aspects of the advisor role remain unchanged. After all, clients are only human, and as much as they appreciate the value of immediacy and convenience that technology offers, compassion and empathy still go a long way toward really connecting.
Advisors who emphasize the importance of holistic financial services, who acknowledge major life milestones for clients and their families, and who go above and beyond to help guide them are likely to find they aren’t so easily replaced by technology.
Just as you’ve adapted to continue serving your clients’ best interests, CUNA Mutual Group has embraced change to bring the knowledge and insights of financial industry leaders to you, no matter where you are. We launched our Impact: Learning from Leaders webinar series to help keep advisors informed and confident about serving clients in a changing world. See our full guest lineup and register to attend. Just click the link below.
1CNBC.com, These are the top priorities for tech executives in 2022, survey reveals, December 20, 2021.
2Pew Research, The Internet and the Pandemic, September 1, 2021.