By now, we all understand as fact that the average advisor is in their mid 50s. What we’ve failed to realize is that this actually creates two problems. The first – which we hear about a lot in the fintech world – is how to start attracting younger advisors who can take over assets under management (AUM) and keep clients with the firm. What firms have been conditioned to think is that “sexy” user interfaces and mobile experiences should be used to rip & replace the advisor’s everyday systems (i.e. CRM, Portfolio Management, Financial Planning, etc…) in order to attract younger, tech-savvy advisors. But the second problem, which may incorrectly seem unimportant, is that the average advisor in their 50s has different needs from their systems, and a client base with equally different expectations. The fundamental problem is this dichotomy of needs; the modus operandi for a young tech-savvy advisor is different than an advisor nearing their own retirement – each will have different methodologies and patterns of technology use. So, how can firms continue to support and retain their aging advisor population, and at the same time attract younger talent with new tools?
The first step is to understand that it’s not a presentation, or user interface problem. New paint will not fix a broken house, nor will it turn it into a chic new downtown condo. Yes, you’ll have one group that wants a new Google Material Design-inspired application; and the other that wants a familiar and traditional interface. Certainly theming and user personalization will help, but fundamentally this isn’t a skinning problem.
The best example I can think of to illustrate the problem is the annual review process. I’ve worked with several firms on revamping this, and there’s a common peculiarity when rolling it out. The older advisors nearly always preferred to print the performance reports and review forms, take the bundle with them, come back with everything red-lined and hand it to their assistant to update on the different systems. Quite differently, the younger advisors always asked for everything to be on a tablet – preferring not to print and not to go through an assistant for updates. The digital transformation leader in me is silently screaming at the paper-based approach because it puts too much emphasis on the advisor running the show. But what does the aging advisor care about that? If their current client is near the same age, and they’re approaching retirement themselves – all the trends in customer experience driving digital transformation aren’t important to them. Leave that for the younger advisors who have their whole career ahead of them to bear the pains of change. The problem, therefore, is making sure that both methods of operation (regardless of how we might feel about them) are supported. Stop trying to change your aging advisors (I can hear my father’s voice in my head as I write that). Digital transformation is the right strategic objective, but it doesn’t need to come at anyone’s expense.
Once you think about it like that, the solution becomes clearer: you need systems that decouple process, interface, rules, and functionality in order to allow different ways to get the same job done by end-users. Yet, they still need to respect compliance and business requirements. Sounds like a model-driven approach to customer management to me! If you can separate what a customer is, where the data comes from, what a review is, what is required from a review, and how to complete the review – then you can develop solutions for different approaches. You can keep your existing way of operating the same, and in-parallel start enabling newer mobile-friendly, customer-driven/advisor-assisted approaches. We’ve been helping firms do that with a combination of our Customer Data Management, Customer Process Management, and Customer Relationship Management solutions – which provide a mix of abstraction required for complex enterprise solutions, and agility to adapt with changing needs.
Let me know your thoughts on this dichotomy, and how your firm is addressing it. I encourage you to contact me directly to find out more about how we’ve helped firms solve these and other challenges.