Most advisers are using technology in their business but the adoption of automated advice is limited according to new Platforum research. The survey, sponsored by JP Morgan Asset Management, found that only 3% of advisers are offering an automated advice proposition, although more advisers are now using digital financial planning tools and digital marketing platforms.The survey was fielded in September with 162 responses by advisers from a broad range of firms.
Over half (55%) of advisers say they are offering a client portal – the most widely used digital planning and communications tool among advisers.
Platforum analysis reveals that all platforms offer clients online access to their portfolio but the functionality is usually limited. Advisers are sometimes reluctant to promote these platform portals, as they often report assets held off platform. Some also tell us that many of their clients don’t need this feature. We think client portals will become more important as more advisers use the portals to securely confirm trading instructions.
The next most commonly offered of these tools are secure messaging, financial planning calculators, Skype/FaceTime meetings and online fact find forms for clients to complete. About one third of advisers are offering each of these tools.
Which digital financial planning facilities do you provide to your clients?
Source: Platforum/J.P. Morgan Asset Management September 2017, Base 162 financial advisers
Some advisers are looking for personal finance apps and e-signatures, but their demands are usually for rather more run-of-the-mill functionality. Advisers emphasise that they aren’t necessarily looking for flashy new tools. What they want are good tools that work and integrate well with their existing systems.
While robo advice and automated advice propositions capture a lot of column inches, only 3% of advisers say they are offering any automated advice proposition. A further 14% say they plan to introduce such a proposition in the next two years.
Advisers who are reluctant to offer automated advice assert that their businesses are based on face-to-face relationships. They also say that robo doesn’t fit with either their profile of clients or their proposition.
“I have always preferred face-to-face.” - Financial adviser
“I think the demographic of our clients being the older generation with an average age of 67, it’s not suitable for them. It's a plan that needs talking about and discussing and a decision-tree of some form.” – Financial adviser
The minority of advisers who are planning to introduce an automated advice proposition are doing so to improve or diversify their propositions and to capture clients with smaller portfolios.
“We are considering it for top-up business such as ISAs.” - Financial adviser
“We want it to capture low net worth clients, to give them a chance to start investing.” - Financial adviser
Nevertheless, advisers are avid users of tools to facilitate the advice process. In particular, more than half of advisers are using tools for risk profiling, valuations and benchmarking, income and cash flow modelling, portfolio management and customer communications.
In which areas is your firm is using technology or automation as part of the advice process?
Source: Platforum/J.P. Morgan Asset Management September 2017, Base 155 financial advisers
It can be challenging to integrate these tools into existing business processes and with other tools. Advisers told us that the greatest barriers to their adopting digital solutions are operational and financial. The time needed for due diligence was the biggest barrier, followed by security concerns, integration challenges and cost. Lower down the list of barriers is lack of appetite from clients and relatively low levels of expertise among advisers and other staff.
All of this suggests that adoption of tech will rise as tools become more mainstream and streamlined with business processes.
Rank the main challenges your firm faces in using automated or digital solutions in your advice process in order of importance
Source: Platforum/J.P. Morgan Asset Management September 2017, Base 144 financial advisers
The up-coming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules have generated worries among business owners generally. However, our survey found a mixed picture of the level of concern about GDPR among advisers. Nearly one quarter (24%) of advisers are not at all concerned about GDPR and an equal share are either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned.
Our research suggests that advisers at larger firms are generally less concerned because compliance will be managed centrally.
Most individual advisers work with 100 to 150 clients. Technology should offer an opportunity to increase these client numbers. This should help address the advice gap, and at the same time it should be good for business.