Technology Enables, Not Replaces

Fidelity Investments recently teamed up with Amazon to create a virtual reality bot, as a proof of concept, to help you analyze stock charts and pull them up. Although the chatbot is undoubtedly impressive, what’s most striking is the undeniable rapid advancements in technology that allowed for a technology behemoth to partner with a leader within the financial services space.

As advisors, we often see this rapid advancement in technology and get overwhelmed. It leaves us with questions like, “How is this going to affect my job today, should we be using it, how would we incorporate it, would our clients adopt it,” etc. To be frank, what this latest technology revolution has done for the financial advisor industry is created a bunch more questions than answers. And let’s face it, we were never technologists in the beginning. And yet, now we’re left analyzing our “technology stack” and determining what the best way to stay ahead of the rest and not get left behind in an industry that is pushing innovation.

Ultimately what this all leads to-being the creatures of habit we all are-is sticking to our current technology and waiting for the right sign or time to advance our technologies. To put it in terms that we see daily, it’s similar to our clients that read everything on the internet about what they should be doing in regards to their financial situation. They have an abundant amount of resources and articles and access to news regarding the financial markets and what they “should” be doing. They get overwhelmed. So they end up making the easiest choice: do nothing. Then, after a while, they realize they need help. Usually, this leads to them turning to us when it’s too late and we, as advisors, don’t have enough magic in our toolkit to save them. Thus they are left getting passed by their peers that took action by pushing forward with testing and then iterating on what worked best for their situation in regards to saving and investing.
My question to you is, what happens to those people that come in and are too late to the game and we aren’t able to help? Well, that’s precisely what will happen to us as advisors if we don’t figure out this technology game.

To be clear, integrating new technology shouldn’t be scary, but it should be an urgent matter. You shouldn’t be fearful that technology will replace you, but you should move urgently in knowing that the institutions that do adopt technology will ultimately serve your current and future clients. The advisors of the future are spending time now understanding technology and integrating it. They’re doing this not only to make their back office and operations more efficient but also to utilize it to make their client experience enjoyable.

Too often when advisors read a headline about AI, chatbots or Fidelity creating a VR chatbot, we think one of two things. We either conclude that our jobs are at risk or that these technology people don’t understand our business. So on one end of the spectrum, we worry about something that isn’t going to happen. Technology is an enabler, not a replacement tool. People will always want humans to interact with when it comes to their money. However, they will require a more digital/on-demand experience with their financial situation and advisor going forward.

And then on the other end of the spectrum, we fall into the dismissive trap. We dismiss it because it is not normal and there have never been any examples of it in the past. This is a lousy trap that always brings up the correlations with Blockbuster, Toys R Us, Kodak. These were once all industry leaders that said the same thing.

So, for you, as a leading edge advisor, you should take time to understand your technology stack today. Analyze the technologies you’re using to determine whether they’re for efficiencies for your internal team or if they are for client experience. Also, take time to understand how the technologies could be used to the best potential to meet the goal you have for each of them. If they aren’t reaching that potential, you must ask whether the technology is right or if you should look for others.

The biggest mistake that we can make with technology is not failing to add technology but instead, adding every “cool” tool out there. This leads to our technology stack becoming heavy, and we don’t tend to use these tools to their fullest extent. Also, this leads to low adoption by your team and by your clients.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, not more burdensome. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work that must go into getting the technology to work the best for us. It’s like anything else in life, the more work you put in upfront, the more value you get out of it long term.

Finally, be open-minded about new technologies. The technologies you are currently using don’t have to be the only ones you use for their particular purposes today. More modern technologies can integrate together creating a cohesive technology stack that delivers back office and operational efficiencies while scaling the advisor and creating a more dynamic client experience.

Don’t be afraid of technology replacing your job, and don’t dismiss what is going on in regards to innovation.
Start committing time each week to better understanding your technology stack and company technology needs by talking to others
Breakdown the percentage value that each technology you have is dedicated to back-office/operational/compliance efficiencies and that which is devoted to the client experience.