Technology serves, and it also drives change. A recent NTSA webinar focused on the ways technology is changing the industry and the new environment it is creating for financial professionals.
“We’re told that this is a contact sport,” said presenter Toni E. Whaley, a financial planner with PlanMember Securities Corporation of the way those in the industry have been told to conduct business. She observed that in the past, for instance, those who were trying to build their business with on-site meetings with donuts in a lounge have been “blindsided” by the pandemic, which has brought business as usual “to a screeching halt.”
The goals for automation, Whaley said, include:
- time management;
- using less resources;
- increasing client service;
- leveraging media for more impact and reach to other areas;
- increasing the value of the practice;
- documenting procedures; and
Whaley had tips for use and application of technology to business functions.
Digitizing. In digitizing, Whaley said, each option has pros and cons, and its own timelines. Whether one option is superior to another depends on who has and needs access to it, she said, as well as how it is updated.
Meetings. In holding virtual meetings, said Whaley, remember that you may need equipment, internet access and a virtual meeting platform. She also suggested considering how the office compliance team handles rules about meeting and webinars.
Client Relations. Electronic means of managing client relations have replaced the traditional Rolodex, Whaley said, and it has expanded beyond simply storing contact information on a phone. Now it’s about “really having information about each client.” Ultimately, she said, “It’s about establishing and maintaining a good relationship with clients.”
Scheduling. Whaley called electronic means of scheduling “a must have.” She noted that some people are reluctant to adopt electronic means of scheduling because they want to remain in control. But she reassured attendees that, “Calendar options do not mean one surrenders control.”
Project Management. There are “really good apps” that will assist in project management, said Whaley, and added that using them will help reduce confusion—especially when there are many steps in a particular function.
Electronic Signatures. This is “a big timesaver,” said Whaley. She recognized that there are people who are reluctant to use electronic signatures, but emphasized their advantages, such as making it possible to sign a document when time and location may make it difficult to sign a document in person and result in a delay. She added that they “get around lack of access to fax machines.” Whaley added the caveat, however, that “monetary transfers may still need ‘wet’ signatures.”
There are a variety of costs entailed in adopting and applying technology, Whaley observed, such as those for setup, subscriptions, app features and upgrades.
And there also are human costs. For instance, she noted, new systems require training. “All things new take time to implement,” Whaley said, adding that teamwork requires that procedures be practiced. Also, inputting data will require “some time on your and your staff’s part,” she said, adding that “there may be some time on the program creator’s part” as well.
Whaley cautioned that “sometimes support is not covered in basic costs,” and that one must determine what level of support one needs. “Understand that once you purchase new technology, you’re pretty much on your own. Don’t skimp on support. Technology is your friend until it’s not,” she warned.
The Bottom Line
You must adopt some technology, said Whaley, warning that if one does not, “you’ll be in the dark ages.” Will a business grow without technology? “Of course it will,” she said, “but not as well.”
And there is a positive, Whaley said: the experience of the last year has shown how technology can help with establishing contact and building business.