As many of us know, technology is quickly evolving. With such a dynamic and changing landscape, financial advisors must adopt these technologies in order to stay afloat. But, using the same technologies becomes trustworthy, and many professionals want to stay with what will give them success.
We chatted with Taylor Schulte, founder and CEO of Define Financial, to discuss why taking the steps to adopting the newest technologies will help your business prosper.
LH: From a technological standpoint, where do you see the world of financial advising heading?
TS: Whatever you do for 100 clients today, you’ll have to do for 1000 clients (or more!) tomorrow. That might sound daunting, but technology will help you solve this puzzle.
Our adoption and integration of technology will create what Michael Kitces calls the “cyborg” advisor. Like Michael, I’m not convinced that technology or AI will completely replace comprehensive financial planners. But I do think technological advancements will help advisors provide more value, reduce costs, deliver better services, and serve more people.
LH: In order to embrace the ever changing technological landscape, what must financial advisors do to stay afloat?
TS: Educate, test, and adopt. Yes, the fintech landscape is a maze but you need to figure out a way to navigate it. If you don’t have the passion to learn about the latest and greatest technology in the marketplace and how it will integrate with your practice, find someone who does. This could be in the form of an internal hire or a third-party expert. Technology consultants like are a few to consider.
The challenge is that there is no one-size-fits-all technology solution. What works for me might not work for you. And what worked yesterday might not work today.
For instance, we’ve changed document storage platforms three times in three years. During that same time period, we’ve tested four CRM’s, adopted two, and settled on the one we are using today. E-signature tools? I think we’ve tried them all.
Every day, we look at our technology and ask ourselves “how can we get better?” We aren’t afraid to try new solutions if it means a stronger, more efficient practice. Like a financial plan, your technology is a living and breathing thing. It’s constantly changing and evolving. It needs ongoing attention. If you’re not learning, testing, and adopting, you’re falling behind.
LH: Why is it important for financial advisors to embrace these technology advancements? What benefits does it bring advisors?
TS: As noted above, technology will allow you to provide a better service to more people. It will improve efficiency and allow your business to scale in this rapidly changing industry so you’re still in business 10 years from now.
I’ve also witnessed technology allowing us to spend more time on the things that matter most – like face time with our clients. At Define Financial, we’re at the point where clients schedule their own annual reviews. This was an actual email I received last week from another financial advisor: “Clients really schedule their own reviews? Interesting. Lol.”
He might be skeptical, but it’s true. We email every client a hyperlink to our online scheduling system during the annual review window and they choose their meeting type (in-person or virtual) and date and time. The fact that we don’t have to chase down each individual client and swap twelve emails or play phone tag for four days to find a common date means I have more availability on my calendar to meet with clients. I also have more time to dedicate to the problems in their lives that matter most. Clients are paying us for our advice and expertise, not scheduling skills.
LH: What is the biggest issue among advisors who refuse to adopt the latest technologies?
TS: You’ll lose business. Maybe you aren’t interested in growing, and that’s fine. If that’s the case, this isn’t directed at you. But if you’re not adopting the latest technology, you won’t grow in the future and you’ll lose business to advisors who keep up-to-date with available tech.
We were recently in competition for a client with another financial advisor. The other advisor gave the prospective client a 20-page packet for him to fill out so he could collect all the relevant data for a financial plan.
Us? We sent him a hyperlink to our cloud-based financial planning software where he could answer a series of questions on his iPad and link up his financial accounts through the account aggregation tool. Later, our new client shared that our on-boarding process alone was the reason why he hired us and not his country club buddy he plays golf with every Friday. Whether you believe it or not, the adoption of technology is critical to a growing practice.
LH: Anything else to add?
TS: Technology is fun. Sometimes, it’s a little too much fun. Be careful not to let the excitement of new technology prohibit you from growing. It reminds me a little of when clients get overly excited about the investments in their portfolio. They want to know what percentage of emerging markets they own or what we think about Bitcoin, but they still haven’t purchased an umbrella policy.
Technology is important, but it’s not going to pay the bills. Your asset allocation is important, but you might not have assets to allocate if you don’t protect yourself. Don’t neglect the things you should be doing because you’re too busy geeking out over the latest risk questionnaire technology.
Taylor Schulte, CFP®, is founder and CEO of Define Financial, a fee-only wealth management firm in San Diego. In addition, Schulte is the owner of StayWealthySanDiego.com, where he is dedicated to helping consumers maximize their wealth. He has been recognized as a top 40 Advisor under 40 by Investment News and a 2017 “Young Advisor to Watch” by Financial Advisor Magazine. When he’s not perfecting financial plans, you can find him traveling with his family, searching for the next best carne asada burrito or trying to master Adam Scott’s golf swing.