Tech revolution: time to take advantage

Blue Chip sat down with atWORK’s Chief Technology Officer, Werner Koekemoer, to discuss the biggest IT challenges (and solutions) facing financial planners.

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Werner Koekemoer, Chief Technology Officer, atWORK
What role will technology play in the future of financial planning?

It’s common to hear people saying that the robots are coming to take our jobs. But nothing could be further from the truth. The robots – or rather, technological advancements – are going to make our jobs easier and more profitable.

The theme of this year’s FPI Professional Convention is “The Future is Human” and you might ask yourself how that reconciles with the predictions that tech is replacing human connections. The simple answer is that technology should be seen as an enabler that gives us more time with clients and to do the human things that financial advisors signed up for, like building trust and giving great advice. We’ve been saying for years that robo advice will replace humans, but I think we all know how that has worked out. Robos have largely cost more and failed to deliver the goods for most planners.

The beauty of open systems architecture is that one software system can tap into all of the latest developments in fintech and bring those developments together in a single, easy-to-use package. Human relationships are at the core of financial planning, but tech can greatly accelerate success by saving time and increasing profits.

Human relationships are at the core of financial planning, but tech can greatly accelerate success.

Can you give an example of how tech can do this?

There are so many examples. Simply using a modern Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system will slash the time and money you spend on administering your practice. But if you want a specific example, look at the people still doing Financial Needs Analyses (FNAs) on Microsoft Excel – it’s almost medieval.

atWORK has carefully designed South African-specific planning solutions that are built into our system, and which can save advisors loads of time and ensure far more accurate results. Doing an FNA properly ensures that the client is properly covered. It can also help the advisor to formulate budgeting and tax strategies that can result in significant long-term savings.

So, it is all about having the right tool for the job?

Yes, that’s half of it. There is so much software available; advisors have no excuse not to benefit from the latest innovations from around the world. But the other half is taking advantage of a nifty thing called an API, to integrate all of these innovations on one platform. The latest version of atWORK is built using open systems architecture, which means that integration can happen in both directions: we can add third-party applications to our system; or your in-house CRM can quickly and easily pull any aspect of our software (our LISP data, for example) into that ecosystem.

Using the API platform, we have already incorporated a risk profiling tool (Finametrica) and an e-signature application (QuicklySign), to name a few. And we have our eye on emerging services like anti-money laundering software and ID verifiers.

Would you agree that many advisors understand the benefits, but resist new software because they are afraid of change?

Absolutely, and that’s completely normal. Humans are resistant to change, but a good software provider who really wants your business will bend over backwards to make the transition as seamless as possible. No matter how big or small your business, atWORK will always offer free training (when signing up and on an ongoing basis) and we will assist with transferring data to the new system.

What is the one thing you would say to convince an advisor who is considering new software?

Simple. It’s time to start thinking of IT as an investment, not a cost. This is especially true when you consider the benefits of future-proofing your system with open architecture.

Finally, what are your thoughts on cybersecurity? Is it a core consideration or a side note?

It’s central to everything we do. Advisors store so much sensitive personal information that you have to take security seriously. It’s a way of respecting your clients. In my opinion, POPIA is a fantastic piece of legislation as it protects each South African’s privacy. Some advisors think POPIA means more work, but atWORK is ISO27001 certified so we already had most POPIA bases covered.