Integration. Four syllables that encapsulate where industry focus needs to be directed, at the same time as highlighting (by its absence) one of the most persistent blockers to reaping the efficiency and time-saving benefits digital adoption has long promised. With a growing number of providers - fund groups, life cos, platforms, CRMs, and fintech support functions - deployed in the average advice firm, making sure all the systems used in the course of the advice process talk with one another, with two-way, real-time data exchanges is becoming ever more key to ensuring a smooth client onboarding journey.
Over the next decade, the importance of technology integrations is unlikely to fade. One of the industry’s leading tasks is to bring together the various pieces of technology into one integrated ecosystem. As advisers, understandably, you will want to ensure your systems allow data to be transferred seamlessly, quickly, and truthfully. The big question, is, how do you achieve this?
A good starting place is to take stock of how your digital experience looks right now. Business interactions nowadays, whether B2B, B2B2C or D2C, generally take place online. Whether clients are buying travel services, clothes or banking a large proportion will be doing this on a computer, smartphone or tablet. If in financial services we’re offering something different, it could deter customers from engaging with us. We must put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, considering how they would prefer to interact with their financial matters. Examining your existing digital offering allows you to recognise how digital you really are and help you identify any areas in need of improvement.
You can also gauge your current digital experience by looking at how much paper is churned out, in both the onboarding and review processes. When securing a new client, it’s important to consider how they initially approached you - more than likely through digital means - and how their data is collected to enable you to deliver suitable investment solutions. Factfinding, attitude to risk assessments and understanding client needs and objectives are all key to this process. Collecting lots of rich data from your clients increases the likelihood of producing more paper. As an industry, we need to think long and hard about how to remove paper from all points of the advice journey.
The second part is looking at the review process. In between reviews, clients will inevitably seek to interact with their financial plans. It’s, therefore, crucial to think about how you can make this as easy for them as possible. This might involve several pieces of financial software all doing different things which can often appear disjointed. By creating a storyboard, mapping out how you want the data to transfer between each system will help you grasp the different pieces of technology that you need to create the experience that your clients want. In an ideal world, a single provider would take on all the heavy lifting. The reality, however, is a different and disjointed story.
This underscores the importance of integration, ensuring data flows seamlessly between different environments. Ultimately, this is about making sure that the data is driving the conversation and is processed accurately between each system. Updating information in more than one application runs the risk of inaccuracies, which may take up significant time and resource to correct, making the process less efficient. There is the additional risk of losing important client information along the way. You can navigate this by having one system as a ‘single source of truth’, that allows information to filter down to the other pieces of kit.
Constructing the ecosystem that you desire is all about putting together a storyboard, then either selecting best of breed tools or the holistic technology provider that do/does what you need it to do. You have the discretion to build your proposition and choose the partners that you wish to work with. And this where you want to make sure that any information travels to and from your single source of truth. If either doesn’t work properly, manual inputting may need to take place, slowing down the onboarding or review process. Two-way integrations are now very much a thing, meaning data can be both received and sent. By combing this with the storyboard creates a streamlined, scalable, and enjoyable process for onboarding and reviewing clients.
One of the big concerns you may have, is that with such a large amount of personal data moving between various systems, how do you ensure that it is secure? This is about making sure the information is captured securely, sent, and received securely, minimising risks of a breach – though if a breach were to happen, the system allows you can recognise how and why and make the necessary corrections.
The next five to ten years should see our industry shift more and more towards a digital-first experience. By ensuring that your systems and tools are transferring information seamlessly between one another, will ensure a smooth and enjoyable digital experience for your clients.