Financial Planning Archives - Genivity
Blended Business: Embracing Technology to Provide Client Support

Blended Business: Embracing Technology to Provide Client Support

In talking with many financial advisors and institutions over the years, groups have evolved at different rates in how they use technology in their practice. Some shun it completely beyond the bare minimum of portfolios and modeling. Some are excited about what technology can do and know they should be trying to do more digitally, but aren’t sure where to start. And there are some, albeit a smaller group, that have fully embraced a blended business of digital and in-person experiences.  

And beyond the traditional financial advisors and institutions, there are companies that have popped up in the last handful of years that are fully digital and, in many instances, driven not by people directly, but by machine learning or AI. These companies are often referred to as ‘robo advisors.’  

There’s no right answer for how and to what extent you should use technology in your own practice, but recent events have shown us that those who innovate and test new strategies now will be better equipped to handle shifts in the market later. 

Control and Stability 

Even amidst a pandemic, people are signing up for robo advisor services in droves. But what are people truly searching for? A way to manage their money? Sure. Though managing money is one piece of the puzzle, we believe that the reason people have flocked to advisor platforms is because they’re seeking a sense of stability and control in these uncertain times. What they’re really after, however, is comfort. A robo advisor has become a stand-in for a source of comfort and stability when people cannot leave their homes and have no existing relationship with a financial professional.  

In times of crisis, it’s not really the money management’ that people are seeking, nor is this what they’re seeking in times of calm and prosperity. The best way for traditional financial advisors to hold their ground with the emergence of robo advisors is to embrace technology in a way that supports their underlying mission and provides a point of leverage for client support. 

Software +  Human Interaction  

Technology isn’t the competitor, it’s the secret weapon. Managing money might be something that can be automated but a person who has experience and compassion cannot be. Clients want to be soothed and reassured during significant life or world events and that’s not something that technology can provide on its own.  

Now is the time to seek out ways to integrate more technology in your daily practice. It’s an exercise in finding creative and relevant ways to stay connected to clients when you can’t meet with them in person. There’s never been a better time to test and iterate on ways you can use technology to improve your client experience for when things shift back to ‘normal.’  

Solutions such as Genivity are a great bridge between the in-person and digital experience. During this time of shelter-in-place or quarantine, advisors can use solutions such as our HALO assessment as a reason to reach out to clients and keep them engaged even while they’re not able to come to your office. This provides a way for advisors to stay top-of-mind with clients while also creating value for the client through their HALO assessment.  

You can then either use it as a talking point when you’re able to have an in-person meeting or you can expand your digital experience further by having a video call or conference with your clients. The human element of any experience has never been more valued than it is today, so your clients will likely welcome a personal interaction, even if it is remote.  

One Step at a Time 

Small steps such as this can make dealing with times of uncertainty easier and it can also set up action items for the next time you are able to meet in person. It’s not always about the money, it’s about what money provides your clients: comfort and stability. Nothing is more important than that in times like these.  

As the author Robert Greene is fond of saying, you can be in situations you can’t control, but what you can control is whether you use that situation as ‘alive time or dead time.’ Make this time of uncertainty ‘alive time’ for yourself and for your practice by researching new digital solutions and getting creative with how you can implement them with clients now and into the future.  

If you’re unsure about how you can best leverage technology for your financial practice, we’re available to chat. Simply book a consultation today and we can discuss the best ways to help you stabilize and grow your practice through digital solutions such as HALO.  

What your clients need to know about sustainable retirement income

What your clients need to know about sustainable retirement income

As a financial advisor you know that Social Security likely won’t cut it in the future. The political situation around the long-standing pool of money is anything but stable and the cost of living and healthcare keeps going up. This likely is a very real, very stressful aspect of retirement that your clients are facing— even for the affluent.

The most imposing part of this challenge is that most people who are approaching retirement age who have a retirement plan think they’re set up for their lifestyle into their retirement years. But one question that continues to go unanswered for many is, “how will I create lasting, sustainable income in retirement?”

Starting the Conversation

If you’re an advisor, you may recognize this but have clients who are convinced they will be ok and they don’t want to talk about it any further— especially when it involves their health.

One solution that many retirees have found is that they can take a part-time job or only partially retire to supplement their income. If your clients think they’ll be able to continue to work, it’s important to have the conversation about their health early, because chronic illness can derail otherwise solid planning.

What is Sustainable Income?

In an interview with Barrons, Nobel-prize winning economist William Sharpe tried to give some insight into what sustainable retirement income would look like. One of the more interesting strategies he illuminates is “buckets” of annuities and investment for each year of retirement instead of drawing a fixed percent from a single large investment.

However, he does warn that navigating a complex situation like retirement income might be more than the average retiree is willing to handle. This, obviously, is where you come in. There is no right or wrong way to handle the flow of money in retirement, except to make sure that there is enough to align with the desires of your clients.

Annuities and investments can be overwhelming even to financial advisors at times. Helping to create income retirement that your clients can count on is what they’re relying on you to do. Likewise, it’s what can make the difference between (hopefully) a relaxing and joyful retirement and a stressful, penny-pinching one.

It’s important to keep in mind that not every client will keep you on indefinitely either. They may seek your services only to help create their plan and then manage it on their own. While it’s never fun to lose a client, these people can help hone your skill set of creating lasting retirement income for future advisees.

Beyond Income

Discussing sustainable retirement income with clients can’t happen without a discussion about long-term care and health care costs. Michael Valdez, CFP®, AIF, CLU, from Synergy Wealth Alliance says that a conversation with clients about “wealth preservation is also about who they are and what they want to do with their life— their big-picture purpose.”

Valdez also believes that wealth preservation and retirement income comes down to early planning and leveraging available tax-advantaged funds. Rather than pulling from planned income to pay for long-term care or other health care expenses, early planning and asset reviews can ensure clients have a steady income for the entirety of their remaining lifespan.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world today, markets that go up must come down and any time your clients are reliant on government programs for income could spell trouble. Be aware of those clients that are approaching their retirement years and be sure to have a real, transparent conversation about how they plan to fund their retirement regardless of the uncertainties.

What Advisors Can Learn From Retailers

What Advisors Can Learn From Retailers

The media has been tireless in reporting on the new state of retail in the United States. Some call it a “retail apocalypse” others see it as an evolution of traditional brick and mortar. Whatever the hot take of the day is, one thing is for sure: retail is changing.

What does retail have to do with financial advising?

As an advisor, you should be focused on creating an engaging client experience. To that end, it’s good to ask yourself “what can I learn from the changing landscape of retail?” While retail and financial advisors work in very different segments, that doesn’t mean there’s no overlap. Retail successfully generates billions of dollars in sales every year and cements customer loyalty along the way. In the same way, building trust and loyalty with your clients is incredibly important.

The new push in the retail arena is “retail experience.” It’s no longer good enough to just set your wares out on a shelf and hope passing customers jump at the deals, they need to be invested in the shopping experience itself as soon as they set foot in the store.

The same thing rings true with your firm. What are you doing to make sure that your advisees have a great experience when talking about their financial future? You probably won’t be able to invest the same type of resources that a retail giant would, but you can scale appropriately.

Easy steps to building a great customer experience

Simple gestures like offering beverages or snacks to clients that sit down in your office go a long way. Likewise, taking clients out for lunch now and again (especially if they have sizeable investments with you) is a no-brainer. Even simply calling up and checking in on clients to see how they’re doing, allowing them to talk to you about their financial lives, can go a long way.

Allowing your clients to interact with you and their money in a way that they feel comfortable is a must. Whether that’s face-to-face, more or less digital, or somewhere in between, making sure that your clients feel heard and accommodated will build trust and give them the ultimate financial advising experience.

Try brainstorming some ideas to improve your customer experience, you’ll be happy you did and it might just be the investment you needed to take your firm to the next level.

Three Insights for Better Client Experiences

Three Insights for Better Client Experiences

Everyday, whether you actively acknowledge it or not, you’re fighting with every other firm out there to manage clients’ wealth. The question you should be asking yourself each day is what separates you from your competitors. Why would a client choose you? If you’re struggling to find ways to get a leg up on your competition, we’ve put together some solutions based on how Amazon thinks about their customers and what you could learn from them.

1. Be Obsessed With Your Customers and Listen to them 

Amazon, as you know, is in the business of selling physical things. There are some products that you can pass on to your customers, but largely you’re in the world of management. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn anything from your customers, however. Every little piece of feedback you get, you should be documenting and revisiting. Likewise, be proactive: ask your clients what you could be doing better or what would make their experience with your firm better. Maybe you don’t respond to emails promptly, or your desk is always messy, even small things like this can have a big impact on who stays with you and who jumps ship. 

2. Invest in Relationships

There’s an old adage that says “If you do something well, your customer will tell 10 people, do it poorly and they’ll tell 100.” This is true in every single market, but few more so than yours. In a relationship-based market, you need to make sure those clients think the world of you. We don’t need to tell you that a lot of wealth management work comes from referrals. Make sure you take this to heart and go above and beyond to keep these relationships strong and trusted.

3. Deliver More Value Than Your Customers Expect

Speaking of above and beyond… Hopefully, we don’t need to tell you that underpromise and over-deliver are hallmarks of any good business, but just in case, here it is. If you have the opportunity to deliver more value to your customers, do it. This one rule encompasses the prior two points as well. You can strengthen your relationships by doing 110% and it’s a great way to show that you’re obsessed with customers. This can be as simple as showing them a better account to invest in or showing them extra options for a retirement fund. Any way you want to deliver this value, figure out what your client wants and then exceed it.  This is not an overnight fix, but if you start thinking like a world-class customer experience business, then you can increase your book of business and provide greater value to your clients.
The Role of Technology in your Practice

The Role of Technology in your Practice

Technology is a little bit like the story of goldilocks. Every firm has their own preference in how much technology they’d like to use. Some firms might prefer to be on the cutting edge, constantly examining how they could use more tech to benefit their customers. While others might prefer more paper and hardcopies so they know their data can’t be compromised.

Technology is no longer just a nice-to-have

Whatever you think the role of technology in your practice will be, one thing is for sure, it’s here to stay. For the tech-averse firms out there, the time is coming that you will have to implement more software into your practice to be able to stay competitive. There are too many options and too much information out there that simply can’t be parsed by human minds in an efficient manner. Onboarding new technology to help you with this simply is a must. But that’s not to say that all financial technology is right for you or your clients’ needs. 

Change certainly is difficult, but if a firm wants to have any chance of moving forward and staying competitive in today’s marketplace, the adoption of more, not less technology, is critical.

Know before you adopt

Firms that go “all in” on tech should take heed, however. Advisors that try to stay on the up and up with technology might quickly find themselves isolating clients who are less trusting of our technological world and prefer things a bit old fashioned.

Likewise, certain clients may simply not understand or not care to understand how to use software and computer related financial management systems. Forcing them to adopt something out of their comfort zones may push them to find a different advisor who is more accommodating of their preferences. 

Whatever you view the role of technology in your firm as, there’s no escaping it. The financial planning industry, like every other, is becoming increasingly automated and tech-oriented. You may find yourself adopting more technology than you ever thought you would, or this fundamental shift might be a dream come true. However you view the role of technology in your practice, make sure of one thing: that it benefits the client and helps secure the future they’ve been dreaming of. 

Evaluating New Technology for your Firm

Evaluating New Technology for your Firm

We don’t need to tell you that technology in financial firms and businesses is exploding. It seems like every day, companies are coming out with new technology and new ways to manage your clients’ wealth. This can be a confusing maze to navigate, what to buy, when to buy, and how to integrate that technology into your firm can make your head spin.

This article will help you answer the biggest question when it comes to fintech: Do I even need new tech in my firm?

There are a couple of questions you should ask yourself, and maybe your clients, before pursuing new technology for financial management.

Realistically, would my clients benefit from new tech?

Technology can often have a “keeping up with the Jones” effect. Business owners often times buy new technology simply because a competitor is doing it or they just think it’s what “needs” to happen. You need to be pragmatic and rational; would anyone in my firm, clients or employees, really benefit from this technology? How will the technology help improve the client experience?

Are you trying to use technology as a “magic bullet?”

Technology can’t save outdated practices, but it can make good ones better. If something is off in your firm, don’t think that upgrading the technology is going to solve all your issues. A hard look can determine if you’re simply falling behind because of a lack of technology or it can uncover fundamental problems with how you are engaging with your clients.

Make sure you have audited your own business practices or ask an outside observer to do something similar before going all-in on new tech. 

Will the tech be supported in the years to come?

This is one of the most critical questions that are usually overlooked. New technology is great, until it becomes old technology and can’t be updated and/or support for it has been terminated.  If you’re going to dive into new tech, make sure that it has longevity. Your firm and your clients won’t want to switch tech and learn new software soon after mastering the old one. 

If you decide to invest in new technology, it’s important that you ask yourself these questions before pulling the trigger. If your clients are trusting you to invest their money wisely, you should do the same with your own.