At every conference I attend, someone waxes eloquently on the future of the profession—about millennials, artificial intelligence, scaling, fees, cryptocurrency. The experts make predictions that sound like facts and talk matter-of-factly on things they can’t possibly know. And we gobble it up, taking notes, rushing back to offices to prepare for these inevitabilities. But there is a huge difference among facts, inferences and opinions. Let’s look at what we actually know and what will not change.

Every client comes from somewhere else. None of our clients were created in our conference rooms. Each client came from a relationship with which they were no longer satisfied, a do-it-yourself approach with which they became uncomfortable, or a sense that it was time to do something. No matter what the future holds, this will continue to be true.

The reason this is important is that all of us are going to be making business judgments based on our belief about how things are going to play out. None of these decisions are unreasonable, but none of them are right. Right means that there is a wrong, and there generally is not a wrong, just a different.

For example, some of us will create offerings to attract people early on in their careers because we believe we can maintain those relationships indefinitely. We may use technology as a way to make these clients profitable, since they may not be paying enough fees for us to adequately serve them as individuals. This can certainly be successful. But if we believe that all clients come to us from somewhere, then these clients that you served when they were small may choose to go somewhere else as they grow. In fact, some of the efficiencies you created to serve them may have the unintended consequence that the clients will feel the service is not personal enough for them.

Slow work is not scalable; fast work gets faster. There is no doubt that technology is going to have a dramatic impact on how we serve clients. I have certainly seen this throughout my career where everything from CRM to investment reporting to Monte Carlo analysis has moved from longhand to spreadsheets to beautiful interactive programs we can use to directly work with our clients. I occasionally pull out my old TI calculator for a quick mortgage calculation, but otherwise it remains on my desk because of my sloppiness rather than need.

TurboTax has replaced some accountants, robos have replaced some investment managers, and online models on various websites have replaced some financial planning. We have to get really good with automation and decide whether that will be the crux of our business. We may be able to serve thousands of clients in this way, and there would be a market for those who want to be served efficiently and effectively. But there will also be a market for those who wish to be served personally.

Please don’t tell me how you can provide personal service through technology. Sending an automated text message to clients is not the same as sitting down with them and listening to their stories. When a client’s child enters treatment, her spouse contracts Alzheimer’s or she wants to know whether to move, an algorithm can’t handle this as effectively as you can. In golf, I can use a laser finder to tell me how far it is to the green, but it can’t hit the shot for me. The relationships we have with clients are the slow work that for some people is irreplaceable. Again, you get to make a decision about whether you want to work with those kinds of clients or whether you wish to scale. But there will be room for various models.

We can say that kids today don’t want interaction. They grew up with technology and that is their go-to way of working. But can we really believe that? Yesterday’s hippies and draft dodgers (I know that I am dating myself) railing against the establishment generally became it.

Clients will pay for the value they feel they are receiving. Not all clients perceive value in the same way. But as things get faster, more clients may feel that the value of fast things has diminished (if not disappeared). The value of slow things is generally more. If, for example, you are trying to justify your fees by the amount of taxes you save a client, then you have a relationship based only on this type of transaction. It’s not wrong to work that way, but as a result you will have to keep coming up with solutions to justify your fee.

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