Collaborative planning software allows more client input

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It was once the norm for advisors to do all the planning and then explain their reasoning to clients, but now they can use collaborative software to reason together.

“It used to be that financial advisors were the experts. It was about, ‘we have the information on what you should do, and we look smart in front of you by giving you access to all of this insight,’” says Kendra Thompson, managing director of Accenture’s wealth management practice.

“But that’s not what investors want anymore,” says Thompson, who is based in Toronto.

Clients want to “touch and feel” advice, she says.

And “by having a guided planning experience, equipped with digital technology, they’ll more likely feel like they ‘get it,’” Thompson says.

Highly intuitive collaborative planning tools, coupled with inexpensive 70-inch flat-screen televisions, allow for a completely new planning experience, says Mark Schoenbeck, a CFP and the executive vice president and national sales director at Kestra Financial in Austin, Texas.

“No longer does the client need to painfully collect statements, fill out long paper-based data intake forms and wait weeks for an advisor to deliver a paper-based plan that is out of date before it is even finished,” he says.

Steve Williams, a CFP and a senior vice president and the national head of financial planning at BMO Wealth Management (U.S.) in Chicago, says that collaborative tools allow clients to more clearly observe various financial scenarios, and then have what-if discussions with their advisors about how certain life decisions could affect their financial futures.

The tools also get clients’ spouses more involved.

“In the old days, when a 70-page brick was given to the client, it was difficult to ensure both spouses were engaged,” Williams says. “By running through scenarios live and in person, both spouses have an opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns.”

Anjali Jariwala, a CFP and the founder of FIT Advisors in Chicago, says that if clients have questions or want to make changes during meetings, she can make updates on the spot and show them revised numbers.

“This allows a much more collaborative approach to the process, since my clients are able to give direct input and see right away what impact these changes have,” she says.

Next year, planning software will be linked to automated investments, with advisor oversight, says Mike Kerins, founder and chief executive of RobustWealth in Lambertville, New Jersey.

“Clients shouldn’t have multiple portals, and the experience should tie into actionable investments that are implemented using the same technology,” he says.

“With this, clients can adjust goals, risk tolerance and estimated savings. After an advisor reviews the adjustments, they can be implemented into the portfolio,” Kerins says.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on how technology is changing your practice.

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