As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the TV over the past few months and saw more than my fair share of commercials. One, in particular, has stuck with me because of its message: Technology can transform an amateur into an expert.
I'm not the most technological sort, but I don't dispute its influence. We enjoy the benefits of technology every day in automated processes, increased productivity, instant access to information and real-time communication with people around the globe. And there's no question that technology has impacted the way we service clients. Despite all that, the bedrock of our business remains unchanged-the very delicate, sometimes mercurial, personally fulfilling, and extremely powerful client relationship.
Wealth management is a business built on relationships. Why? Because money is a highly emotional and personal topic. For some, money is a symbol of their success. For others, a memory of ancestors. For many, it's synonymous with providing for their loved ones. For most, it's a means to an end, whether that manifests itself as retirement, education, a legacy or something entirely unique and unexpected. And when it comes to such personal matters, staring at a computer screen simply won't do.
All clients, but especially wealthy ones, want another person to be part of the equation. A human, someone they can relate to, who they feel understands them and their priorities. A professional that has the intimate knowledge of products and regulations, techniques and services that will enable them to prosper. A person who will return their stare with a level gaze because they have nothing to hide, and take the time to explain the things they want to understand. Someone who will make the right decisions, not the most lucrative ones, and lets them know they are valued. And yes, sometimes, a person to blame.
I'll concede that in certain situations (like filming my niece's third birthday party) technology can do miraculous things. But I don't believe that technology will ever be able to transform the uninitiated into a high-functioning financial professional with lasting client relationships. Exceptionally talented wealth managers fill invaluable roles for their clients, ones that can't be replicated by technology no matter how advanced. That privilege takes time, experience, more than a few mistakes, and a deep-seated love of working with people.