New year’s resolutions are a tradition at this time of year, and while many advisors might plan to hit the gym, there are also opportunities to tone things up at the office.
From specialized document collaboration to workflow automation and financial planning tools driven by artificial intelligence (AI), advisors can spend less time on administrative tasks and focus more on clients’ needs, some experts say.
Here are some of the most promising new technologies that could make for a more efficient practice and a smoother client experience in 2022.
Document collaboration software
Jason Pereira, partner and senior financial planner at Woodgate Financial Inc., a financial planning firm under the IPC Securities Corp. umbrella in Toronto, has produced a well-known list of technology solutions for advisors. He predicts that document collaboration technology will gain more traction this year.
“These platforms allow you to send documents to each other in a secure format,” he says, noting that traditional e-mail-based document exchange is a security problem.
Advisors risk sending documents accidentally to the wrong people via e-mail, he warns. Even if they don’t, e-mails often travel unencrypted via your internet service provider, making sensitive information vulnerable to being compromised.
The storage of sensitive documents in e-mail inboxes is also a security risk.
Document collaboration services such as FutureVault Inc. allow advisors and their clients to upload documents to a secure server without travelling unencrypted over the internet. Each party can tag, organize, and search across those documents, then view them directly online.
Navid Boostani, portfolio manager and chief executive officer at Vancouver-based robo-advisor ModernAdvisor Canada Inc., says these services allow clients and advisors to share documents externally with subject matter experts.
“As an advisor, if you need to get a tax opinion from an accountant, you can share a subset of the client documents with an accountant securely,” he says.
ModernAdvisor also has a professional platform that it built for helping advisors manage their tasks. Guardian Capital Group Ltd., which acquired a majority stake in the company in 2020, now uses the ModernAdvisor Pro platform for its own advisors, Mr. Boostani says.
One of its capabilities is workflow automation, which digitizes administrative work to free up advisors’ time. He predicts that this will be a big industry trend in 2022.
“Advisors must spend less time on mundane tasks that can be automated and digitized, and more time on what delivers more value to our clients,” he says.
Workflow automation can help with tasks such as client onboarding, which involves multiple review steps to process client paperwork. Automation tools help to digitize this paper-based task, he says, sending those forms electronically to the right person for review.
Mr. Pereira points to tools like the Process Street checklist-based workflow software as useful automation tools.
AI-driven financial planning
AI will be a powerful technology underpinning advisor businesses in 2022, and one hot area for AI will be financial planning tools.
Reggie Alvares, executive vice president at Investment Planning Counsel Inc. (IPC) in Mississauga, says the company began using the AI-powered Conquest Planning software this year.
Traditionally, most of the effort in financial planning involves identifying strategies and applying them manually to each client, Mr. Alvares says. It’s a time-consuming task. AI automates that process.
“It has hundreds of strategies stored. Depending on the client and their situation, it prompts you on the best applicable to this investor that you’re working with,” he says. “It’s updated on a regular basis, and it measures how you’re doing with your goals.”
Using complex technology to crunch numbers behind the scenes is only one part of the story, Mr. Alvares says.
The other is making the results available to clients in intuitive ways that help them understand their position. The days of static paper-based reports are on their way out, and digital reporting is in.
IPC is deploying d1g1t Inc.’s portfolio management and digital reporting platform. This offers dynamic data analysis that generates detailed graphs on the fly from client investment data, enabling the advisor and the client to easily test out what-if scenarios.
Advisors can conduct this reporting at an individual client level or for multiple clients at the household level.
“You can have data at your fingertips instead of relying on someone from head office or an analyst to give it to you,” he says.
Integration is key
Perhaps the most important technology for advisors of all is the integration of what they already have.
“Having that integrated experience, making sure all these different systems and apps that an advisor might want to use talk to each other is really important,” Mr. Boostani says.
For example, a document signing system would ideally be able to pull in data from customer relationship management (CRM) software to pre-populate a form, he says. An appointment booking system could do the same, presenting the relevant information for the advisor in advance of a client meeting.
This integration will extend to communication systems, Mr. Alvares says. IPC, like many other companies, has already integrated video calling, IP telephony, and text chat via Microsoft Teams.
He sees a future in which advisors will integrate telephony with a CRM, logging call details automatically but also using AI to pull up relevant client information based on what’s being said.
These developments are all promising, but Mr. Pereira warns that many advisors still have to do the basic groundwork.
“The number one thing advisors should make sure is in place is a CRM, because the vast majority still don’t use one,” he says, adding that many are still behind the curve.
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