Financial advisors were once behind the times when it came to adopting technology to drive client engagement, but they’ve caught up quickly, said Dave Christensen, chief product office for FMG Suite, a digital marketing automation, website, and relationship management platform for advisors

“Until recently, there was a lot of inertia to overcome,” said Christensen. “Now there’s a lot of training and a lot to teach advisors. Necessity is the mother of invention—when the pandemic struck, inertia broke free, and the industry just had to go digital and remote.”

Christensen said that in 2020, FMG Suite saw a five-fold increase in advisor engagement with its products. Whereas advisors previously saw many digital tools, especially those around marketing as “nice-to-have” additions to their capabilities, they came to rely on them completely as most people were forced to work from home.

In March of last year, in-person events “disappeared,” he said, which meant that events in general weren’t happening. Then, during the summer, they returned.

“More events are being held today than were being held before the pandemic, but almost all of them are now digital,” he said. “People have shifted to being very comfortable in front of a camera and a screen, and that’s exciting to see because their activity can now be tracked, and their content becomes reusable.”

Even though the world is gradually being vaccinated against Covid-19, some of 2020’s changes represent a “new normal,” said Christensen. In particular, he said, there are five technology-related trends that will continue to impact advisor-client engagement during 2021 and into the future.

1. Traditional client interactions are dead.
“Advisors who did all their work one-on-one and face-to-face are quickly playing catch-up to digital natives and early adopters,” said Christensen. “When the pandemic struck, they didn’t have the right tools in place, but they scrambled in the aftermath—and that’s when we saw our sales and our growth explode.”

Clients, too, have become comfortable with digital interaction, said Christensen, which gives advisors the opportunity to connect in new ways like podcasting and video blogging.

Advisors are also interacting with centers of influence through digital means, and sharing space on blogs, podcasts and videos with CPAs and attorneys, where each can act as a subject matter expert on the other’s digital media.

“Referrals are also moving digital, we’re seeing more e-mails, timely communications and video blogs being shared from one person to another,” he said. “You’re no longer building the primary relationship on the golf course, at a football game or over dinner, introductions are happening more personally, but digitally.”

The shift towards more digital and multimedia interactions has some interesting quirks, said Christensen. For example, FMG Suite introduced an online chat in addition to phone and in-person customer service, thinking it would reduce the number of service calls the company received and that it would be able to reallocate staff away from its phones—but that didn’t happen.

Instead, overall interactions with its clients increased, and FMG Suite had to hire more staff to handle chat and phone support.

“Investors will want a relationship, but they also like being served digitally and in a higher-touch manner, and they’ll want it to continue,” he said.

But as the number of touch points with clients increases, compliance departments will struggle to keep up with the tide. That’s one area where artificial intelligence may assist advisory firms.

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