09/12/2019 Feature Articles 5 minutes to read Back to all News & Insights
Author Adam Pointon
Adam is Praemium's Chief Technology Officer.
With the many challenges facing advice firms, an innovative technology strategy may not be at the top of your business objectives. However, with consumers quick to adopt new technologies and an increasing expectation for new innovations and digitised services, financial planning firms need to have a strategy that allows them to evolve with this landscape and an innovative culture that makes embracing these changes a seamless and natural process.

So where do you start in supporting innovation within your business?

At Praemium, we’ve articulated 49 factors that contribute to our innovation philosophy. In this article, we will focus on three key factors which you can implement relatively easily and that could have a marked impact on innovation in your practice.

Culture

All businesses, even small ones, have an intrinsic culture. Implementing a few simple changes to the way you work can help to foster a culture of innovation.

Trust is imperative for innovation. In fact, we know from experience that without it, progress slows drastically. Ensuring the team are aware of the business vision, understand the firm’s purpose and more importantly, feel empowered to think independently and creatively to delivering outcomes aligned to that vision, not only builds trust but maintains a culture where employees care about the business and are personally invested in its success.

Trust also creates a psychological safety net for employees to easily share ideas and improvements, some against the grain or completely outside the norm, which in turn fosters innovation.

A culture focused on continuous improvement will create a business capable of always moving forward. Consistently reviewing your processes, learning from any challenges and encouraging new ideas for improving service delivery are all ways to help the business progress and improve.  

Use your data. The data your business generates can be a great source of new ideas, and importantly it should be used to remove bias or help validate ideas and concepts. A data-driven organisation will have a more solid foundation from which to move forward.

“Dogfooding“ is a Silicon Valley term that essentially translates to “you won’t know how good or bad it is, until you try it yourself”. For example, to get a real understanding of your client’s experience, take your family, friends or employees through your advice process and get honest feedback on their experience. You may find insights you would never have considered.

At Praemium, we encourage our team to open their own investment accounts so they understand first-hand the customer experience. This kind of experience enables team members at all levels to contribute to innovation. For example, one weekend a junior developer was viewing his investment on a mobile device at night and found the display too bright. On Monday morning he suggested the idea of night mode and it was quickly introduced, way ahead of major websites such as YouTube, and first in the investment platform space.

Delivery

Having innovative ideas is one thing, delivering them is another. “Agile” delivery is used increasingly by large corporates to deliver ideas and innovations quickly and efficiently, but smaller businesses can create their own form of agile delivery, with a continuous improvement mindset. Small adjustments made often can be more effective and less risky than making large, sweeping changes, and this goes for any type of change from technology to organisational or strategic.

The quality of output can be improved by empowering the people driving or delivering change to take ownership of the entire process. And don’t forget the client! Taking a customer-centric view, and not just looking at things from a business viewpoint, will help ensure your changes will make a tangible contribution to business growth, customer value and experience.

Finally, not every idea will come to fruition, take failures as a valuable learning experience and be confident to move on from them.

Technology

A key source of innovation for your business can be derived from the technology partners you choose, who should also be upholding the same innovation standards that you insist upon for your business. The best partners will share your vision and culture, and can actively contribute to your business innovation, products and services, and ultimately your customers’ experience.

Therefore, when choosing a technology partner it’s important to question everything. How innovative is the provider and how regularly do they deliver new features or products? Are they ahead of where your business is today? Is there evidence of continuous improvement? Are they a technology partner that you can grow with?

Consider who else uses their technology or services today - are these the types of companies you aspire to? Do they align strategically to where your business is heading? Do you have access to all features created or are new changes based on project fees? What APIs or integration opportunities do they offer, what types of businesses are using them and what is the underlying architecture? Who are they reliant on, what is their own technology supply-chain and are they unable to innovate or progress because they are built atop others technology? Finally try before you buy, sign up for a demo, experiment and try new things to see what works best for your business.

Innovation is ultimately about solving problems creatively. Encouraging open discussion and new ideas from everyone across the business will foster trust and inspire innovation in your practice. Reviewing your business proposition and honestly assessing the service you provide can also generate ideas. Lastly, ensuring your technology partner is aligned with your vision will help deliver innovation to your business naturally. These small steps will allow you to adapt easily and to offer a leading customer experience for years to come.

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