Technology and the customer experience

The financial planning industry is undergoing a significant transformation and according to Francois du Toit financial advisors and planners should look to technological advancements to improve the customers experience.

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Photo of Francois du toit_ Founder and Head of Content and Sales_Propulsion
Francois du Toit, Founder and Head of Content and Sales, Propulsion

In today’s fast-paced digital era, the financial planning industry is undergoing significant transformation. With the advancement of technology, financial advisors and financial planning professionals face both challenges and opportunities. The key is to use these technological advancements to improve the customer experience, ensuring that clients get the best of both worlds: the efficiency of modern tools and the irreplaceable human touch.

Douglas Adams’ technology rules

‘The Salmon of Doubt’ is a book that was published after Adams’ death. The book contained an essay he wrote titled, How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet. For context, Adams was an early adopter of technology and was the first person to buy a Macintosh in Europe back in 1984. He is also the guy who wrote ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

Adams suggested in this essay that there is a set of rules we can follow to describe our relationship with technology:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re between 15 and 35 is new, exciting and revolutionary. You could get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.

I have a theory that, as we get older, most of us start losing our sense of curiosity and our energy for learning and exploring new ideas. However, that does not make the world stand still.

The evolution of customer experience

Traditionally, financial planning was dominated by face-to-face meetings, paper-based processes and manual data entry. While these methods had their advantages, they were often time-consuming and lacked the scalability and efficiency that today’s clients are looking for.

Enter the digital shift. With the introduction of online platforms, mobile apps and automated tools, the financial planning landscape is being transformed. Advisors can now interact with clients in real time, provide instant updates and provide a more streamlined service.

The key is to use techological advancement to improve the customer experience

Key technologies

Several technologies stand out in their ability to improve the customer experience in financial planning:

  1. Financial planning software. Modern software solutions provide real-time financial projections, scenario planning and risk assessments in many cases. These tools provide clarity and understanding, allowing clients to make informed decisions about their financial future. For example, Asset Map provides a great way for clients to not only see the big picture through informative visualisations but also to engage in the financial planning process while the Wealth Integrator tool from Old Mutual Wealth enables advisors and planners to make changes in real time while in conversation with clients to help them make appropriate decisions.
  2. Client portals and dashboards. These secure platforms provide clients with a clear view of their financial data. They can easily track their progress, set goals and communicate with their advisors. Clients trust such platforms because they have constant access to their financial information and can see the impact of their decisions instantaneously. Most of the financial planning and advice CRM providers now offer some form of client portal in South Africa.
  3. AI and chatbots. While receiving financial advice from a machine may seem impersonal, AI-powered tools can provide instant responses to basic client queries, schedule appointments and even offer preliminary financial advice. However, it is critical to strike a balance. While AI can handle routine queries, complex financial planning necessitates the nuanced understanding that only a human advisor can provide. Also, I want to mention that chatbots are getting a major upgrade through generative AI. Such virtual agents can have human-like conversations with context to what is being discussed. No longer will a chatbot be reliant on the right keywords.
  4. Virtual and augmented reality. Imagine a client being able to visualise their financial future through an immersive experience. VR and AR tools can provide interactive scenarios ranging from visualising retirement plans to understanding the potential outcomes of various investment strategies. Such tools can make the financial planning process more engaging and relatable. With the introduction of the new Apple Vision and Meta’s Quest 3 that was just introduced, you can expect amazing experiences in the future. For you and your client.

Personalisation and data

Financial advisors have a wealth of information at their disposal in the age of big data. By analysing client data, advisors can gain valuable insights into their clients’ financial behaviours, preferences and needs. This data can be used to personalise financial advice for each client. However, with great power comes great responsibility. The security and privacy of client data is critical. Advisors must be aware of regulations such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and ensure that they are compliant.

The human element

Despite the abundance of technological tools available, the human element remains critical in financial planning. Clients seek advisors who understand their emotions, aspirations and fears. They value human interaction, the ability to ask questions and the reassurance that comes from speaking with a real person. Hybrid models, which combine the efficiency of technology with the personal touch of human advisors are becoming increasingly popular. These models provide clients with the best of both worlds, ensuring that they receive personalised, tech-enhanced advice without losing the human connection.

Future trends and predictions

The financial planning industry will evolve alongside technology. Emerging technologies, such as blockchain and advanced data analytics, have the potential to improve the customer experience even further. Furthermore, as clients become more tech-savvy, their expectations will shift. Financial advisors must stay ahead of these trends by constantly adapting and learning to meet their clients’ changing needs.

Finally, technology provides financial advisors with a whole universe of tools to improve the customer experience. However, it is critical to remember that technology should be used to supplement, not replace, the human touch. By striking the right balance, financial advisors can provide their clients with a service that is both efficient and deeply personal.

Stay curious!