The key to productivity “is in not spending time, but in investing it,” best-selling author Stephen R. Covey once said. So, why is it that the average financial advisor spends more than 53 hours a week working on many tasks that could easily be automated and free them up to focus on the things they would rather be doing, like building solid relationships with their clients?
Specifically, the U.S. research from which that figure was obtained suggests advisors spend an average of 4.2 hours a week on administrative tasks, six hours a week on client service tasks, and nine hours a week prospecting for new clients, all of which can be cut down significantly with new and emerging automation tools.
Yet, advisors’ role has changed dramatically in the past decade. Years ago, advisors were expected to provide guidance on financial planning and investment opportunities. Now, the modern advisor’s scope of work requires a broader level of expertise – from providing direction on budgeting and retirement planning, to even helping clients understand the larger role money plays in their day-to-day lives.
Those services have increased in importance since the COVID-19 pandemic began. That has resulted in a heightened pace of adoption of digital tools among advisors and their clients in which client expectations have shifted radically toward digital communications that make it possible to stay in touch frequently and with added convenience.
In fact, clients, both young and old, now say they prefer the flexibility of having meetings via videoconferencing as they eliminate the need to commute and meet in-person with advisors. Furthermore, these tools make it possible to schedule a meeting at a time that suits the client, such as lunch hour or between work meetings.
However, for advisors, staying connected with every client on an individual level takes up a lot of time. And with so many tasks taking up an advisor’s day, many are embracing digital technology tools that use artificial intelligence (AI) to take care of repetitive tasks and save time so they can focus on what matters most, which is fostering and strengthening relationships with their clients.
Some of these tools include videoconferencing and scheduling applications that will set up regular touchpoints with the client, ensuring meetings are routine and easy to join. A few video conferencing services will even transcribe notes and discussion points from the meeting, allowing for easier review and follow-up.
Other examples include powerful client engagement platforms that will send weekly updates to each client with content tailored to their individual financial and personal interests, and, in some cases, even tailored to their portfolio holdings.
These functions would otherwise be a laborious and largely manual process, but AI technology makes it possible for advisors to send out highly personalized communications that demonstrate each client is truly understood.
Beyond saving time, digital adoption provides a benefit that advisors are starting to realize could give them an edge over competitors that rely solely on traditional methods. Digitally savvy advisors are currently sitting on a gold mine of data that can be used to enhance the client experience and drive new business.
That’s because every time investors interact or click on the content they receive from an advisor – an e-mail, newsletter, social media, or blog post – they are communicating indirectly what they are interested in. These non-verbal cues can be tapped to understand what keeps an investor up at night, what topics are at the forefront of their mind, and ultimately what an advisor should discuss with clients to ease their mind.
Parsing through these data would be difficult for advisors to do manually, especially without expertise in data science. Automation platforms can help fill this gap by analyzing data in real-time to detect personal interests and key life events, which can spark potential new business and increased assets under management.
For example, a client who is expecting her first child might suddenly start consuming content related to parenting, which would tip an advisor off that it may be worthwhile to reach out to the client about planning for the child’s education and setting up a registered education savings plan.
Gone are the days of making financial assumptions about clients based on age or demographics; clients now expect to be treated as a “segment of one,” with every communication tailored to their financial situations and interests.
The average advisor has around 300 clients, and the only way to personalize their experiences is with the power of automation and AI technology. Thankfully, the technology to do this has become affordable and approachable to just about anyone – from the independent advisor to large firms looking to get more from their marketing and client-engagement efforts.
Kevin Mulhern is co-founder and chief executive officer of AdvisorStream, a digital marketing platform for advisors, in Toronto.