Like many others, our local Blockbuster closed its doors for the last time in 2011.
The company failed to adapt in time to new technology innovation while Netflix transformed how films are consumed. They removed costly stores and introduced a subscription model that meant no late fees. With machine learning to understand our habits and preferences, Netflix delivered an easy and convenient way for us to access entertainment. Not a human being in sight.
The same could be true of Financial Planning right? Automate, streamline and use AI and machine learning to deliver slick, efficient financial plans at a fraction of the cost of face-to-face advice.
Well not quite. Computers can beat us at chess, but we humans are better at empathy, kindness, gratitude and humour. All these things are critical to building trusted relationships, something at the heart of Financial Planning.
Robos have failed to gain any real traction precisely because they lack the human touch that is so valued by clients. Where machines are brilliant at following rules, humans use judgement, reason and emotion in making decisions. You can’t code a computer to feel empathy or to get creative when things don’t quite match the inputs and outputs they expect.
But this doesn’t mean Financial Planners should ignore technology innovation in favour of sticking to the old ways of doing things. Recent research from Refinitiv found that across Baby Boomers and Millennials, 89% have a strong preference for mobile app engagement. The same research also showed that 47% of Baby Boomers and 46% of Millennials have a preference for face-to-face meetings in future.
Financial Planners must find the right balance between human contact and digital experience. The planning process can be supplemented with good technology, giving clients and planners a secure way to communicate and access to information 24/7 on all the devices they use on a day to day basis. When used to complement human-to-human connections this builds loyalty and improves profitability.
Clients love the personal touches they get from their Financial Planner and that needs to translate into digital interactions too. Just like WhatsApp, secure messaging can be much more conversational than email. Digital client experiences should be personalised and matched to different types of client with varying needs and preferences.
With the right balance between human and digital experience, technology is an essential tool that supports Financial Planners rather than threatens to replace them.
These are new times we live in. Financial Planners must learn to work with technology if they are to remain relevant to today’s clients and fit for the future.
After all, Blockbuster were so busy making money renting out videos from stores that they did not accept new ways of doing things until it was too late. There’s a lesson here for all of us.
Tessa Lee is managing director of fintech and adviser support firm moneyinfo