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Two recent studies have found that around 9 in 10 investors want their advisors to use the latest technology tools and provide cutting-edge digital experiences.

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Following the rapid integration of new technology at many wealth management firms during the pandemic, client preferences have shifted toward working with tech-savvy financial advisors. For newer advisors, that means they should aim to hit the ground running with a combination of advanced tech skills and the ability to connect with people online.

Before the pandemic, many firms viewed incoming advisors’ tech skills as something that could be developed in time, and perhaps not as important as other factors, says April-Lynn Levitt, a business coach for advisors with The Personal Coach in Oakville, Ont. She adds that’s no longer the case. In the past year, technological know-how has become a focus for those hiring associates and advisors.

“You have to have that as a given, it’s almost table stakes,” Ms. Levitt says. “There was an office in Saskatchewan looking for an associate, and it did come down to the difference between two advisors. The one it ended up hiring had a higher comfort level with technology.”

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According to an an Edward Jones survey conducted earlier this year, 95 per cent of investors said it’s important for their advisors to use the latest technology tools when advising them.

Similarly, an IG Wealth Management study released this spring found that 87 per cent of Canadians who currently work with an advisor say it will be increasingly important for advisors to provide cutting-edge digital experiences for clients in the future.

“It’s not just technology, in general, that’s important, [but] we are really seeing that ability to do financial planning in real-time, adjust projections or illustrations with clients live while you’re talking to them. It’s a big advantage if you’re able to do that, and you have to be really comfortable with the technology,” Ms. Levitt says.

Although new advisors still receive training on firm-specific tools, she says advisors now need to enter the business knowing how to hold a meeting through a variety of media, prospect for clients online, navigate client-facing technology, and, in some cases, have advanced Excel skills. Proficiency with contact management systems and processes has also come to the fore.

“It’s an advantage if someone has some experience in [using these tools],” Ms. Levitt says. “That’s really evolved in the past year.”

The good news is many new advisors are prepared to meet these challenges. As post-secondary institutions that educate prospective financial planners made the switch to a virtual model in 2020, some, such as Seneca College in Toronto, increased education around technology into the curriculum.

For example, courses began including skills on how to set up, lead and troubleshoot online meetings with colleagues and clients, ensuring the newest cohort of financial planners are proficient in the use of this technology.

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The reality is that the more tech-savvy advisors are today, the more efficient and successful their practices will be, says Ann Felske-Jackman, principal and head of advisor talent acquisition at Edward Jones in Mississauga.

“Once [these technologies are] introduced, there’s no going back. Clients begin to embrace them and they expect to be served [in a tech-friendly] way. So, we’ll need to make broader investments in this space,” Ms. Felske-Jackman says.

So far, she says the transition to new technology at Edward Jones has led to a trend of “reverse mentoring,” in which younger advisors have been supporting industry veterans to ensure they’re up to speed on the new tools.

Indeed, advisors of all experience levels should be well-versed in tools such as videoconferencing software by this point, says Mike Ankers, director, national sales at Richardson Wealth Ltd. in Toronto.

“That’s certainly something that people would have to know coming into this business, because not only do we expect it as a firm, as an essential communication tool, but clients are now expecting it now too – and they didn’t have a large expectation of that before,” he says.

In addition to advanced skills in using technology, new advisors have to ensure they’re effective communicators and are able to build trust when meeting with clients online, Ms. Levitt says.

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“You’re going to be able to do your job a lot better if you’re comfortable embracing technology, but you still need to be able to be able to connect emotionally with clients,” she says

Specifically, Mr. Ankers says the pandemic has highlighted the need for advisors to focus on emotional intelligence (EQ), or the ability to gauge clients’ well-being during virtual check-ins.

“This profession is very technical, but it’s built on very solid relationships with clients,” he says. “The need for advisors to ramp up that EQ portion has been really, really large and that that’s going to carry through with a lot of relationships.”

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