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Tom Burmeister
What does integration really look like?
Integration has certainly become a buzzword and it definitely takes many forms. In addition to simplifying the retirement concepts to get clients to buy into savings strategies, we also have to make sure the technology is integrated to make implementation of those strategies much more straightforward. So, [integration] has to be aided by tech.

Forcing clients to struggle to implement those strategies is not realistic. When we talk about integration, where I think we’re going to see the most innovation is in implementation. We need to eliminate as many barriers as possible from when clients receive a financial plan to eventually bringing that plan to life.
How are financial plans evolving?
Only seven or eight years ago, a financial plan only existed in a PDF format. Unless you were meeting with your financial advisor on an extremely regular basis, that document had the potential to become stale very quickly. With digital tools, clients now have readily accessible and relevant information in a financial plan. They can see how the plan might have changed, how the market may have moved, see the impacts of retiring a few years earlier or what saving a little more before retiring might look like. Now, clients can continue the financial planning process as frequently as they like.

Historically, the episodic plan didn’t really have much stickiness the further out from the meeting with the advisor. That has changed.
What are ways to ensure clients follow up on financial plans?
We’ve seen multiple points of entry into a financial plan as being the most successful strategy — instead of trying to tackle everything at once. The more you’re able to start small and bite off smaller chunks, that will add value to the long term plan. Eventually, advisors can add breadth or depth or complexity. That’s what makes the financial planning process more approachable and less intimidating for a client to take on.
There are so many tech choices. How are advisors navigating the offerings?
It’s really around efficiency and how you manage your time. It’s great to say that "I can build my own tech stack," but advisors need to take a very calculated approach to the process to end up with a fully integrated set of solutions [so they] aren’t bogged down with additional data entry.
What’s holding back innovation?
Advisors are not technologists. All the technology that’s out there has forced the industry to become more tech savvy. For someone that breaks away and has to piece everything together, it’s very difficult and requires a much greater level of sophistication to end up with technology that is right for the practice and keeps the advisor as efficient as can be.
How is technology changing pricing?
AUM has been a mainstay in the industry for a long time. It will take a rather long evolution to get completely away from AUM. I’m certainly not in a position to predict it's going to be eliminated. But what we will see is the continuing client preference toward fee transparency and fees that are easily outlined and understood. The client wants to walk into the relationship and know what the fee structure is like. Clients should expect that from advisors.
How are advisors providing more transparency around fees?
One of the biggest trends that I’ve seen is a menu of services. AUM is not the only way that advisors can charge for advice. Now, many advisors are providing clients with a selection of services with different fees and fee structures. Clients can then create a customized relationship with the advisor that is focused on what they need — and not anything more. It’s easier to understand and promotes a great deal of trust.
Where will diverse fee structures have the most impact?
In the short term, mass affluent or HENRY (High Earning, Not Rich Yet) clients certainly have a lot of planning-related needs, but not necessarily liquid investable assets. Yet advisors are now able to now make financial advice more profitable, more efficient and more appealing to the type of client that otherwise might feel intimidated because they don’t have enough assets to bring to the table or the advisor. New fee structures open up more opportunity to work with younger folks with the potential to accumulate a significant amount of assets overtime but are in the early stages. This is where long-term client advisor relationships are really going to shine.
Where have you seen the most improvement?
Certainly there continues to be a lot of innovation around client-driven interactivity or advice delivery. And I don’t mean robo advice. Clients that are still in an advisor-driven relationship need tools to really transform that into a hybrid model so the advisor adds value. At the end of the day, the advisor is very core to the relationship, but the client is also empowered to interact with the advice. The advisor has now provided the digital tools to aid in the process of putting together the financial plan, whether that will be a digital data-gathering tool or account aggregation. And making it more independent so the advisor can be more efficient. Our industry needs to embrace that hybrid model and very strategically outsource some parts of the financial planning process to the client.
What should advisors emphasize when bringing on new tech?
Adoption is what is holding back innovation. There has been plenty of innovation from tech companies and financial institutions, but how easily can advisors drop that new technology in without having a Ph.D. or a large tech department on hand?

When it comes to design, it's about the ease of implementation for advisors. No matter how great the client collaboration tool is, if it's not easy to implement, then the benefits eventually won’t matter. So, you’re not getting as much amazing innovation going on. That being said, it’s the most exciting time right now — maybe ever — to be a part of this industry and it makes it easy for advisors get these great tool in front of themselves, their staff and their clients.