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Harsh Realities for Financial Services

Published on September 7, 2017

Most people spend professional breaks taking up a new hobby, traveling with family and friends, or just catching their breath from their every day “work life” routine. While I enjoyed my fair share of all those things, I also had the wonderful opportunity to talk with a lot of industry veterans and decision makers across the various facets of our industry. As I had these conversations, a few ‘realities’ about our industry became glaringly apparent and I thought I’d share these with you.

Reality #1: We are focused on the wrong problems. Many of the wealth management firms today are worried about having the “next best” software in place to appeal to new, and retain existing, clients. They try to solve for this by adding one more tool to their existing app stack. Unfortunately, our industry is now at a tipping point where advisors who were once served well by technology that actually helped scale their business, are now hindered by adding yet another disparate app that lives in a silo’ed environment and threatens to further complicate their entire ecosystem. I found out that I am NOT alone in this thinking, as I recently posted about this tipping point issue on LinkedIn. Not only was there a great digital dialogue about that topic but over 14,000 people viewed it!

Reality #2: As we chase our tails, clients are finding new solutions on their own to solve for their needs. Clients have very high expectations from every service they encounter, whether it’s in person or digital, and the experience they have with their advisor is no exception. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet an advisor who is fully equipped to respond to their clients’ demands for digital communication and provide the amount of transparency that is desired to drive a truly exceptional experience. Let’s face it, the financial industry is still recovering from some significant “trust” issues with the general public. In order to reduce continued skepticism of our industry, we need to allow more transparency to the investors. Our industry was built on “systems of record” and nearly every technology that serves the financial industry works with that system as the anchor. Starting with a ‘system of record’ mentality has held us back from creating true systems of engagement. A system of engagement, built right with design-first thinking, will actually tie the client and advisor more closely together so that they can have more meaningful conversations. Meaningful conversations build trust. Everybody is talking about improving the client experience, but no one is really doing anything impactful here to revolutionize the way that advisors and clients can interact in a frictionless way. Consumers expect more today and they aren’t going to wait around for us to get our act together much longer.

Reality #3: The Millenials are totally on to something with their mantra: “I want what I want, when I want it”. During my time away, I sat with two different advisors for a full day and you would not believe the number of manual and redundant processes for which they are faced with! It’s honestly incredible to me to see how many various hoops they have to jump through to get even the smallest tasks done. With fewer and fewer college graduates electing into the financial advisory profession and more advisors at, or nearing, retirement, we absolutely must make some critical and necessary changes so that advisors can serve more clients with the HELP of technology. Furthermore, research shows that advisors only use about 5% of each technology application they have access to, so to achieve the goal of giving advisors ‘what they want, when they want it’, it’s incumbent on us to bubble up the top 5% of their most frequently used functionalities across their entire stack in one easy-to-navigate portal. This part is key to creating productivity for advisors so they can actually serve more clients in their day.

I wrote this not only shed some light on our industry and the issues we face, but also to explain why I am so passionate about this mission. After thoughtfully reflecting on more than 50 other job offers I received over the course of the past 6 months, I decided to do what I really feel will actually have the most impact on our industry. As Investment News reported yesterday, my partner, Mike Zebrowski, and I are launching a firm that will take on these challenges and solve for these issues that our industry faces… because, well, because it matters. It matters for all of us who want to continue to see our industry thrive and grow, and it most certainly matters for all the investors who desperately need advisors to meet their financial goals.