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Advisor tech issues are so cut-and-paste

It was 2016, in a 55th floor office at a top wirehouse branch in Chicago where I first taught an advisor how to cut and paste on his computer. Over the next three years, as I trained countless advisors on technology throughout the country, I realized this cut-and-paste experience was closer to the norm than the exception.

Today, any broker-dealer conference or industry publication is full of stories about advisors who are leveraging artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and even partnering with robo advisors in their practices. It might sound like everyone’s on the bandwagon, but the reality is often less tech savvy.

The average advisor today is over 50, and many are slower to adopt cutting-edge technologies like AI. The focus on these tools in media and at events, rather than fueling adoption, often leaves advisors feeling increasingly out of touch.

Consider social media. Widely proven as an effective way for advisors to market and prospect, reports say 80% of advisors are using LinkedIn for business. But that’s only part of the story. Yes, eight in 10 advisors are on LinkedIn but in my experience, only 5% to 10% actually use LinkedIn successfully for their businesses.

Many advisors object to social media, saying, “my clients aren’t on there.” In fact, those over 55 represent the fastest growing demographic on social media. A recent Digital DNA report indicated that people in the 55-64 age group spend over five hours per day online.

Advisors naturally want to be where their clients are, and while social media compliance policies used to be a barrier to adoption, it’s worth taking a second look as many broker-dealers have developed more lenient and advisor-friendly policies in recent years. One advisor team I’ve worked with in Maryland now relies on generating 8 to 10 meetings per week per employee from LinkedIn. So results can be impressive for advisors using the platform.

Technology will be at the forefront of the coming multi-generational wealth transfer, and successful advisors who appeal to the next generation are leading with technology. Cerulli projects $68 trillion will change hands over the next 25 years, and advisors have reason to be concerned. A number of studies have shown many children fire their parents’ advisor upon receiving an inheritance.

Some advisors connect with their clients’ adult children on LinkedIn, where they can showcase their thought leadership and get alerts on job changes and money in motion among the next generation. Others provide access to client portals and account aggregation tools, positioning these as perks, available because the parents are a top client. This can create a digital relationship with the clients’ kids that wouldn’t otherwise exist, with a bonus that the next generation now associates the benefits of these tools with the advisor. Adopting technology and providing it to not only clients but their children as well can make advisors unforgettable.

For advisors just beginning their technological journey, here are the top lessons:

Start with why: I often hear advisors saying, “I need to use eMoney/Salesforce/LinkedIn/etc.,” without a clear goal. Borrowing a page from Simon Sinek: When adopting a new piece of technology it’s important to start with the why — defining the business goal.

Here’s a quick blueprint that can help advisors decide which tool to start with depending on the top priorities in their practice:

  1. Prospecting & Growth – LinkedIn, Facebook
  2. Increasing Clients Assets – Account aggregation tools such as eMoney or Yodlee
  3. Organization – Customer relationship management such as Redtail or Salesforce
  4. Holistic Financial Planning – eMoney, MoneyGuidePro, RightCapital
  5. Managing Assets – Envestnet

Have the right attitude: Age is no excuse. I’ve seen advisors in their mid-80’s adopt new tools and develop a deep understanding of how they work. For many advisors, it can be frustrating and intimidating to change after decades of success using a certain approach. Everyone gets frustrated with technology at times, but by approaching with curiosity and excitement, focusing on a new tool for 15-30 minutes a day can be a game changer for many advisors. Advisors should check with their broker-dealers or product partners for resources and training opportunities. It’s surprising how much support they’ll find.

Consider partnering or teaming: Many advisors partner with a more tech-savvy (notice I didn’t say younger) person on their team. These are often newer advisors but could be marketing assistants or other team members. Importantly, teaming means retaining a meaningful role in implementing and using the technology—not delegating 100% of the effort to another. For example, one successful model I’ve seen is a financial planner and his marketing assistant in North Carolina who’ve successfully implemented financial planning and account aggregation capabilities for their clients. The assistant owns client implementations, holding introductory calls and serving as tech support, but the advisor drives the financial planning conversations and leverages the assistant’s work to add new assets to the platform. It’s a true partnership.

Develop a repeatable process: I regularly hear advisors say, “I tried it, it worked, and I stopped doing it.” Impactful technology implementation is an investment of money and time for advisors. To see the desired ROI, it’s essential to have a structured approach that includes holding everyone involved accountable for results and makes technology a standard part of the daily routine. Instead of simply dedicating 30 minutes as “LinkedIn” or “Technology” time, integrate it into existing business practices:

  1. Conduct every initial client meeting over webinar/Facetime.
  2. Spend the first 15 minutes each day finding new opportunities on LinkedIn.
  3. Add each attendee who attends seminars as a prospect in Salesforce.

When I think of true success with technology I think of Nick. He’s a 62-year-old advisor based in Houston who I’ve seen struggle to turn on his laptop at times. But Nick has leveraged LinkedIn, in partnership with his marketing assistant, to get more than 50 referrals from wealthy energy executives, significantly boosting his practice. If Nick can do it, anyone can.

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