[The key distinction between an invention and an innovation is that—while an invention may be interesting; addressing a need; is all bright, shiny and new—unless it is widely adopted, it is not an innovation. True innovation is disruptive by nature and function. It is geared to change things. It is built to change ways of doing things to a better level of experience, results or client engagement. FinTech companies, in particular, are geared to improve the way advisors approach and perform their current activities and the best examples take the greatest care in making implementation and adoption as easy as possible. The history of innovation uncovers that finding that spark between invention and innovation comes from your design process and making sure that you are building from your target customers. For many successful innovators, the process is evolutionary and iterative. This is where the rubber truly hits the road.

To best illustrate this truism about innovation, we sought out Institute member, Corey Westphal, CEO of Mobile Assistant Inc., who has been determined to develop the needed tool or bridge in his advisor dictation technology to propel greater usage and adoption from financial advisors. We asked him to share his real-world experiences in building his FinTech company’s new enhancement, the Assistant, into a beneficially disruptive service for advisors. This experience sharing can also provide a good road map and thinking process for advisors that are looking to develop new products and services for their clients.]

Bill Hortz: Tell us more about the disruption you saw that was needed and how the new enhancement you just launched, the Assistant, addresses that problem?

Corey Westphal: When it comes to using dictation to help capture and document client meeting notes, the dictation process has been mostly unchanged over the years: meet with your client, get somewhere quiet afterwards, then call a dictation hotline or press the record button on a recording device and speak your notes. That was the process 20 years ago and the same process exists today. The challenge for many advisors, like it is for anyone who tries to incorporate dictation into a note taking process, is that the ability to organize thoughts and speak in a structured, coherent format doesn’t come naturally at all. That type of ability and preparedness is not only helpful, but is required from advisors if the goal is to receive a detailed note that accurately documents the client interaction and can be effectively used as a compliance and client relationship building tool.

A change is needed in the way advisors think about and implement dictation into the note taking process. Mobile Assistant believes a dictation disruption is needed. We are proud to announce an enhancement to our popular mobile app called the Assistant which is designed to help guide advisors through the dictation process with the use of pre-designed templates. The Assistant simplifies the process of capturing dictation and provides the structure that has been so lacking in voice-to-text solutions making the new process: Dictation, simplified.

Hortz: How exactly does your enhancement address the main problems you saw with the current dictation process?

Westphal: The new Assistant enhancement disrupts the traditional dictation procedure by changing the way advisors approach the process. The concept was born from an identified problem that until now has gone unsolved by either dictation companies or software solutions—how to remember all the important questions that need to be addressed after different types of client meetings? With the Assistant, Mobile Assistant now transforms the typical procedure of free-form dictation, with no guidance, into a conversational process, laying out stepping stones to navigate from a client meeting to a highly detailed, organized, accurately documented interaction.

Hortz: What was your thinking and design process that you used in building out this enhancement?

Westphal: When the idea for the Assistant was first discussed, there was an immediate focus on design simplicity.  If we created a built-in template guide Assistant as part of our mobile app, it needed to be easy and intuitive, or advisors would never use it. The Assistant needed to be a feature that could be accessed quickly, templates easily chosen, with the ability to customize questions to suit personal needs.

A very interesting direction for the design of our Assistant came at the early stages of prototype testing. This was the first time we partnered with an innovative, new technology company, Enok Collective, for the mobile app design. Their development process included a prototype feedback component in the early stages that had a very important role in the direction of our Assistant design. This prototype feedback and testing proved to be invaluable as it was accomplished with a group of advisors before any development work was started. I believe companies often make the mistake of designing products based on what they think customers need, instead of learning from them directly and developing based on their actual needs.

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