One of the loudest tech-related conversations in financial planning today is the debate over robo-advisors. Seemingly everywhere I turn, there’s a new take on its industry impact, especially when it comes to younger financial planners. What is better? What will the future hold? Will this technology help or hurt newer firms?
While I agree it’s a hot topic (and well worth the debate), I believe there's a lot more to technology in the advisory field than robo-advisors. There are a number of great tech tools that can drastically impact one’s business by optimizing operations, contributing to growth and enriching the client experience.
We live in a connected world, with device and software manufacturers continuously unveiling new products to simplify our daily lives—why use a smartphone when you can get a watch that does it all? As an industry, we can’t afford to lag behind connectivity and emerging technology. Coupling technology with expertise and a personal touch adds greater value to your client services and, in turn, drives innovation and growth.
When I started my practice in early 2014, I knew that, in addition to being a key industry differentiator, technology could enhance the client experience and help grow my company. To date, I’ve implemented a number of great tools, which have made a significant impact on my business—some more than others.
While user-interface preferences may differ, here are a few picks that may be worth considering:
Financial Planning Software. From a technology standpoint, financial planning software is the core of our business. It enables us to do our daily jobs and service our clients. Existing tools include eMoney and Morningstar ByAllAccounts.
Given the amount of chatter regarding eMoney’s recent upgrades (and wanting to explore a company with a large San Diego presence), I transitioned to the software earlier this year. In addition to its industry-leading financial tools, the platform includes a client vault and a customized and secure client portal, which aggregates all client data into a single location for real-time updates and use.
Having all the data in one online location enables me to run accurate and timely reports at any moment. So, if a client asks us whether or not they should pay off their mortgage, retire or take out another loan, I have all the necessary information at my fingertips. This data centralization is invaluable. In addition to giving us the best information for financial planning, it also makes the process more enjoyable for planners and clients, who can log in at any time, from any location, to easily see their financial picture.
Additionally, eMoney’s client vault creates a secure place to store client files, such as driver’s license numbers, passports, Social Security cards, performance reports, etc. Clients love the accessibility and I see it as a great tool for estate planning. And naturally, all of this can be done on a desktop, mobile phone or a tablet.
Operational Tools. While our firm caters to successful and busy professionals, I, too am a busy professional, working hard on servicing clients and growing the firm. As do all financial planners, I need tools that will effectively and efficiently manage my practice, eliminate manual processes and save time. From an industry standpoint, there are a number of customer relationship management (CRM) tools that streamline and manage client information. So far, I have utilized Weatlhbox CRM and Tamarac to keep me connected with clients, prospects and staff. Other popular CRM tools include Redtail, Junxure, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.
Additionally, I found a number of applications to help with day-to-day processes. Some of my favorites include Dashlane, a password manager and secure digital wallet, Dropbox for document storage and Momentum to eliminate distraction and keep me focused. Coincidentally, some of these are also great for client use. For instance, Dashlane or LastPass can be useful in estate planning: Should something happen to the client, his or her beneficiaries can use the tools to access to critical login information, files and documents.
Client Education. As advisors, our common objective is to help clients succeed financially. To me, this means understanding our client’s goals, putting necessary plans in place, helping them make the right financial decisions (while avoiding those that will jeopardize their finances) and empowering them to have greater control over their financial life.
Many clients are well-versed in the financial realm—they understand the market, investment strategies and keep up with the trends. Some may just be diving into finances or are continuing to learn the market nuances. Regardless of the stage, I want to improve the learning curve by offering resources and streamlining relevant information. For instance, in addition to hosting a regular blog on my site, I’ve also invested in digital content technology, Vestorly, which creates customized client newsfeeds. There is a lot of information out there—so much, that it can be overwhelming for current and potential clients. This technology helps create one location for our clients and prospects to read articles we think are trustworthy, timely and useful.
We live in a mobile world, with technology shaping the lifestyle of our clients and the next generation of financial planners. As people continue to infuse technology into their daily lives, it’s only natural that we should be implementing industry-leading tech tools to make the financial planning process easier and more enjoyable. And while we’re creating that optimal experience and helping clients work towards their goals, we can use such tools to optimize our operations and better serve our clients.
Taylor Schulte, CFP, is founder and CEO of Define Financial. Schulte helps clients create successful financial plans, accumulate wealth and plan for retirement. While he works with a range of individuals and small businesses, Schulte understands young professionals’ financial needs and infuses industry-leading technology into his practice to optimize client results and experience.