Q&A: How Financial Advisors Can Harness Technology

Technology can be a double-edged sword for financial advisors.

On one hand, it allows advisors to improve their efficiency and scale their businesses, so they can serve more clients in less time. But relying too heavily on technology can also create a barrier between an advisor and clients — it’s harder to build a personal relationship with someone through email or text message. With advisors now competing against other advisors and robo advisors, being able to use technology to enhance their practice without losing that personal touch with clients is crucial.

We spoke with Russ Thornton, a financial advisor at Wealthcare, a wealth management innovation company, about how financial advisors can find balance between automation and human connection. Here are edited excerpts from that interview.

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How have you seen advisors’ relationships with clients change as technology advances?

I’ve seen technology make it possible for an advisor to work with more clients without the need to hire more staff. It makes parts of an advisor’s work more leveraged and scalable. But there’s also the risk that advisors rely too much on technology and lose some of the human connection with their clients. Technology can never replace the empathy and personal connection we can establish with our clients.

[Read: Protect the Point — How Advisors Can Deliver Tangible Value to Clients.]

What are some pieces of technology or applications that you have seen make advisors’ jobs easier?

Many advisors have to deal with information overload between email, phone calls, text messages, social media, research updates and more. A great tool to help wrangle and effectively manage this fire hose of information is an “external brain” app like Evernote.

Apps like this make it easy to capture information via email, your web browser, the camera on your phone and more. Once it’s in the app, advisors can organize it practically any way they’d like.

Another indispensable tool is FollowUpThen, which advisors can use to manage incoming emails.

This tool works within a user’s email, so there’s no app to download or install. For instance, if an advisor gets an email from a client asking for an individual retirement account, or IRA, distribution, they can reply to the client and tell them it’s being worked on. The advisor can then discreetly add the email address 3days@followupthen.com to the same message, and FollowUpThen will put the email back into the advisor’s inbox three days from when it was sent. This is just one example of the hundreds of ways advisors can use a tool to help manage their inboxes.

[READ: How to Choose the Best Financial Planning Software.]

Are there some areas of financial planning where advisors shouldn’t rely on technology?

It’s difficult — if not impossible — to scale deep human connection. So, before advisors rely on a PDF or online questionnaire to gather clients’ financial planning data, they should consider the opportunity to have an exploration or discovery meeting in person, even if it’s over Zoom, to capture quantitative and qualitative information.

This can help advisors begin building trust through active listening and inquiry with their clients and affords them the opportunity to form a deeper bond.

How can advisors make sure they’re connecting with their clients when they aren’t seeing them often?

A great way to connect with clients between meetings is through content marketing. While many think of blog posts and podcasts when they think of content marketing, it can be much more than that. Sharing thoughts on LinkedIn or Facebook, or recording a short YouTube video, are also forms of content marketing.

While it’s a great way for advisors to better connect with clients, it’s also a wonderful way to give potential clients a window into who the advisor is and how they think about different financial planning and personal finance topics.

Advisors should also consider writing a monthly email letter. Notice, I said “letter” and not “newsletter.” What I’m referring to is a personal message from the advisors about what’s going on in their lives. They could share a recent client question and how they answered it. It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be professionally edited. This is another great, low-cost way to better connect with clients and other contacts, especially if advisors aren’t seeing them as often as they were in the past.

What are some ways that advisors can build strong relationships with their clients?

Advisors should look for opportunities to get to know their clients better on a personal level. They can ask clients about which people and organizations are important to them, or what they like to do in their spare time.

These questions are a small sampling of ways advisors can become more curious with clients and look for opportunities to connect with them on a more personal level. Over time, advisors can revisit these topics with clients or acknowledge them through small gifts or short, personal messages.

A customer relationship management, or CRM, system is a great place to capture this information once clients share it. Advisors can then easily review the information ahead of future meetings or phone calls. The key is to not overthink this. Advisors should treat clients how they’d like to be treated by taking an interest in them as a person, not just a portfolio.

More from U.S. News

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Q&A: How Financial Advisors Can Harness Technology originally appeared on usnews.com

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