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PRESENTER: Hello and welcome to Akademia. In this unit we’re looking at how advisers can use technology to develop their businesses, particularly in light of the pandemic and lockdown. To discuss the main issues, I’m joined by John Porteous, Group Head of Distribution at Charles Stanley; Rob Tedder, Knowledge and Success Manager at i4C, and Nick Eatock, CEO and Chairman at Intelliflo. But before we bring in our panellists, let’s have a look at the learning outcomes. By the end of this session, you should be able to understand and to describe how lockdown is making longer-term adjustments to the way advisers conduct business; the efficiencies to be gained by embracing the greater use of technology; and the limits of technology when developing client relationships.
Now, we’re looking at adviser tech, but I want to start by looking at a related area, which is what’s happening in the D2C market and what advisers can potentially learn from that. John Porteous, what are your thoughts on that, particularly as you’ve got a direct to consumer arm at Charles Stanley?
JOHN PORTEOUS: Yes, it’s a good question Mark. I’m seeing one or two big trends starting to emerge. I think many of us are starting to suffer from digital fatigue. So many of us are in webex meetings and whatever that there’s a big focus now on content, and content has to draw you in and make you want to engage with either individuals or corporates. And I’m starting to see ideas that have been used on digital channels be shared across financial planning firms or wealth managers who are starting to appreciate the power of content, conveying that through digital channels, but making sure that you can be authentic. And I think this is one of the big challenges we’re seeing, how can technology convey an authentic personality to draw you in?
So I think that’s trend number one, which is really content-led. And I think trend number two - and I’m sure Nick will be talking about this - is just interactivity. We’ve seen robo-advice, and we’ve seen many manifestations of the hybrid model, which is part computerised algorithm driven and part human, and we’re starting to see that splice into the financial planning community. And many people are using technology-driven propositions to get closer to their customers, especially in times like now where physically we can’t really move. We’re not as mobile as we were. And I think those two trends, so trend number one content and trend number two using technology to bring the humans closer to individuals are the two big trends I’m seeing from D2C starting to go much broader across the whole financial services landscape.
PRESENTER: Nick Eatock, would you agree with that, and what are some of the good practices you’re seeing that advisers could start to integrate into what they’re doing when it comes to technology?
NICK EATON: Yes, I’d agree with John. I think we’ve seen a huge increase in the way in which clients and advisers over this recent six months or so have engaged over the technology: use of client portals is up four/fivefold, document signatures, DocuSign’d signatures up tenfold. So it’s been a quite marked change in the way in which advisers and clients interact. And I think one of the really interesting outcomes of that is that many advisers are getting, forming a view that actually the way in which they engage with their clients should be, to use a horrible industry term, omnichannel. But basically it refers to the means by which a client can interact with an adviser in different ways at different times. And this isn’t about segmenting people by age or any other stereotype; this is the reality that different people at different times of their individual year, whether they’re busy, they’re not busy, they’ve got something urgent that they want to talk through, whether it’s just a catch-up, will want to engage in different means with their advisers.
And what advisers have seen through this last six months in particular is that that really works and their customers actually really like it. It does not mean that that’s doing away with the element of face-to-face; it means that face-to-face is the appropriate mechanism or medium, if you like, some of the time and some of the time it’s not. If you can allow your clients to engage with you in the way in which they want to, then ultimately you’re delivering a service that’s meaningful to them.
PRESENTER: And, Rob, what are your thoughts having seen six months of lockdown and lockdown light, would you go along with what Nick had to say there?
ROB TEDDER: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s opened a lot of people’s eyes over the last six months to the different ways of working. And I think the focus is all about interaction with clients and engagement with clients and the different touch points that you can have. I think gone are the days of having an annual review meeting and that being the only interaction you have with your adviser. I think it’s led into clients are realising and advisers are realising that they don’t have to be in that room face-to-face. Therefore if a client has a decision to make or a question they want answering, they can jump on a Zoom call, they can share. Through the different sorts of technology, there’s all sorts of different routes they can discuss with their adviser, and they can think about the bigger picture a lot more easily.
And I think it has massively, it’s just changed the landscape I think. And I think there’s a lot of people talk about whether it’s going to be short term or long term, you know, the successful businesses have adopted technology over the course of the last six months and are really enhancing propositions, and they’re really enhancing the service they’re offering their clients, and the clients are repaying that with a lot more contact, a lot more interaction, a lot more engagement in the wider planning process. So there’s a lot more decisions to be made, a lot more information being shared, and in turn there’s a lot more value being demonstrated in the advice, and also the nature of the relationship has massively changed.
PRESENTER: And, Nick, do you see any evidence this is allowing advisers to take on and provide services to clients who otherwise wouldn’t be profitable to them? You know, if you don’t have to get in your car and go there, you can do this via a Zoom call. Your minimum case size could be a client with £100,000 not £200,000 for example.
NICK EATON: Well I think logically if we do the maths then we’d all say yes. What we do see when we look at the data analysing advisers across the country, and we have something called the e-adviser index, which analyses how well advisers adopt the technology, and then what does that mean for metrics like how many clients they take on, what’s the average size of a client and so on. And what we have absolutely seen throughout that is that the advisers who adopt all the technology really, but particularly perhaps the digital technology, the client facing technology, client portals and so on, actually across that, and our entire metric, which is sort of 37% of the marketplace, actually have more clients with more assets under advice than those who don’t use the technology. And they’re the ones who are increasing their client numbers at a faster rate than the advisers who aren’t using the technology.
When you look at the average assets per advised client, those businesses tend to have a slightly lower average assets per client. So, to your question there, Mark, what that insinuates is that yes they’re bringing on people actually who have less to invest, but because they can use the technology to reduce the cost to advise, actually that works, and that works fine, and I think ultimately that’s a pretty good social outcome.
PRESENTER: Rob, just to pick up on that point, I suppose part of this comes down to how efficiently you’re able to work. Are you seeing any evidence that advisers are able to be more efficient with their time and their clients’ time as a result of this?
ROB TEDDER: Yes.
PRESENTER: Sorry, I was also going to ask, is there a danger of burnout? If you operate at hundred percent the whole time, you know, short term that’s great, long term you might be overstressing the engine.
ROB TEDDER: Yes definitely. I think there’s different aspects of it. So I think there’s, in terms of looking at the fact that actually technology, over lockdown the technology has helped them become more efficient. So that is the saving of the commute at the end and the start of the day. But it’s also actually focusing on using their technology well and engaging with the technology. So we’ve certainly noticed it over the course of the last few months that firms are wanting to get under the skin of the technology they’re using, so for cashflow, it’s helped them. They’ve spent a lot more time using it because they’ve had more time. They’ve noticed the value it’s adding to client relationships, so they’re able to actually visualise something to them. I think we’ve got to a point where actually we’re sat here on a screen, if you’re in a review meeting what are you going to show a client via screen screening? Are you going to show them a static valuation or actually are you going to show them using the skills that you’ve adapted and learned over the course of the start of lockdown, the sort of engaging visuals, graphs, decision making tools that actually change, and you can have an interactive conversation. And I think spending the time to learn the technology helps get the relationship better with the client. They spend more time believing in you as a financial planner, lifetime planner, and they give you a lot more information, and actually that frees up a lot of time to be able to take in new clients, developing other existing relationships with clients. And I think one of the interesting things that you’re talking about was the potential to take on smaller value clients.
I think that’s certainly something from a cashflow modelling perspective we’ve tried to discuss with our clients, because there’s options such as using it for auto-enrolment surgeries for example. Going into big businesses and actually offering it up as a benefit in kind, that sort of thing. But also there’s so much value in younger clients, shall we say, so there’s a lot of intergenerational wealth that’s going to be transferred over the course of the next 30 years. Those clients as they stand, the children of those clients at the moment will be quite low value, but actually it’s worth investing the time into them at the moment to make sure they’re getting themselves in the right path from an accumulation perspective, to let that then flow through into when they inherit the assets from their parents or something, they can do efficient planning with that. They can really make sure that they’ve got their future and their children’s future set in stone and in place, so they can set the, have the grounding basically now. So it’s really important to invest in the technology, engage with it and actually use it efficiently, and we’ve certainly notice that an uptick from people using it.
PRESENTER: Thank you, and John Porteous, there’s one side of technology and the communications as advisers being able to talk with their clients, but the other side is how advisers are able to interact with product providers and keep up to date with what’s going on. Do you think lockdown has made that easier as people have switched to, perhaps, from physical events to digital?
JOHN PORTEOUS: Well I think as we all find out we’re in a state of transition. And I think that despite the fact that many events companies would probably try and shoot me, I do think that the future for conferences looks increasingly digital. When I speak to colleagues and peers across the industry, a few bumps and scrapes aside, I think we’re quite enjoying the flexibility of going to events virtually. Of course we all miss the networking, but I think it’s a much more utilitarian way of catching up on your CPD, getting information. We can actually work with it on our terms and our timelines. I really think that this will truly revolutionise the way that advice firms deal with product providers, because it kind of makes it 24/7. You know, the concept of working hours slightly changes, content on demand becomes an issue, the ability to get downloads and deal digitally at the time that you choose to work or choose to interact with clients is going to be significant. Because of course one of the things that we’re going to find from this virtual revolution is the concept of nine to five disappears.
So, Mark, if you were my client and I wanted to interact with you, and I’m sure Rob would support this, it might be at eight o’clock at night. And if we need to interact with a product provider and we need to get that information then we need to get it at eight o’clock at night, not nine to five. So we’re actually going to see some serious second, third order impacts of the way that financial services works to support this technology also.
PRESENTER: OK, well I’d like to come back to interaction with clients in a moment, but before I do Nick, I just want to get your thoughts around what this lockdown has meant operationally for businesses, what are some of the trends that you’ve seen there, hopefully for good but maybe there are one or two areas where technology hasn’t been able to help?
NICK EATON: I think this period, so the lockdown period has really allowed firms to understand how strong they are operationally as a business. Where is their data sat, for a start? When everyone can’t go into the office, how does that obstruct you from doing, just doing your day job? And there’s an absolutely requirement therefore to have systems that are available wherever you are, and most of us are dialling in from home today I think. The reality is we need to have access to that data. And if you have access to that data centrally, and these days that’s via cloud systems, software as service-type systems, then you at least put yourself on the front foot of being able to operationalise your business effectively no matter where you stand.
I think one of the big realisations for, not just for advice businesses but for lots of office-based types of business, is we’ve become aware and realise that actually there’s an enormous amount that you can do remotely, and we shouldn’t look at how people who work remotely in future look in a different way from how they would be in the office. In many ways, they’re actually, to John’s point, they’re saving time; they’re not commuting. They’re able to work slightly different hours. You can do, you know, if you need to do something during the middle of the day, it’s much easier to do something, you know, doctor’s appointment or whatever it might be, and then carry on maybe with a meeting later to deal with a client at eight o’clock who wants to talk to you. We can work in that kind of way, it works really well.
There’s been a lot of talk about the new norm. I think there will be some return to how things were frankly in terms of people going back to offices. I just think they’re going to go back to their offices a lot less than they were before and they’re going to do it for specific things. So they’re going to concentrate and say right OK Tuesday for example is my office day, and I’m going to have some meetings internal and maybe some external that are very focused around things I can do better when I’m actually face-to-face, but realising that there’s an enormous amount of the stuff I can do, I don’t need to be in the office. So I’ve spoken with a number of advice businesses over the last six months who are downscaling their office premises and working from home and occasionally meeting up somewhere separately with their colleagues once a fortnight or something for a get together. This does change things enormously.
PRESENTER: Now, let’s spend a bit of time if I may on front of house, dealing with clients. John, I’ll come to you on this first, but first of all is it easy to get the skillset to deal in a sense face-to-face but also via digital? I mean we’re all connected today, but to be honest I’m looking at a camera rather than at you directly, it’s quite counterintuitive. How do you get that familiarity and skillset, what are your tips for how you develop that?
JOHN PORTEOUS: I think, I mean I’ve certainly been on a huge journey with this personally. In my career I’ve done an awful lot of public speaking at a number of conferences. And since I’ve been on Webex you name it, I’ve done it wrong. I’ve stood up to emphasise a point and walked off screen. I’ve spoken on mute. I’ve realised that I’ve had the wrong type of books over my shoulder. My wife’s constantly giving me cups of tea whilst I’m speaking to people, you know, all these things. And I think to a certain extent nobody really knew how to use Webex. Some people tried to be entirely authentic, some people tried to be entirely professional like they would if they were in the workplace. I think the point is we sometimes need to match our behaviours to the person at the other end of the screen that we’re speaking to.
So, to your point, how do I behave? Well it’s great as to how I can polish my behaviour, but is the person I’m speaking to, are they conversant with speaking via video conference, do they feel comfortable? Do I need to make them feel comfortable? How do I convey a sense of trust, particularly if I haven’t met them before? Because before we’ve done that with body language, but if I use a lot of body language on screen, so for example if I move my hands around like that, most people go running for cover. It looks like a monster movie. So we need to think about how do we use our body language, how do we convey ourselves in a constructive way and how do we also be very mindful of the familiarity around technology from the person that we’re speaking with. So I would say before you even get into the whats, whys and wherefores of training and being professional and using it, you know, optimally, technology optimally, these are the absolute ground zero basics.
PRESENTER: And, Rob Tedder, obviously if you’re having a conversation with a client using technology, a very simple conversation, it’s probably quite easy to do via a screen. But how easy is it to get involved in something a lot more complicated than that, have you got an example that you can share with us of sharing a screen, conveying complex information?
ROB TEDDER: Yes absolutely. I think it’s only as easy as sort of the technology you’re using, but also it’s your confidence I think. It’s how many times you’ve done it before, it’s how easy is it, how familiar are you with the software? And I think the good thing about the last six months is that every client or prospect of person that you speak to on these sessions is forgiving. And I think they give you that leeway to say well actually you know what you’re doing, actually everyone has a laugh about it and you move on. But I think actually how easy it is, I can share my screen here and run you through a very, a couple of very important examples from a cashflow perspective and show you how very easily it can be used. I think it’s, the key thing is, is building up your confidence of how you’re going to present that software to the client and actually making sure that you can present it in a way that they will understand it.
Now I could sit here all day and evangelise about cash modelling and how much value it can add from a life perspective. I think it does take a long time to build up to that point. I think people will use it as a reporting tool first of all, because it gives you the outputs and it’s very easy to sit with a bit of paper that doesn’t move and that you can’t get wrong. But actually it should be very simple. So for example for this client you can take them on a journey. I’m not going to go into the detail, but you can very easily demonstrate looking at graphs for example. They’re not going to run out of money. They’ve got X amount of money left over at the end. Here we can say that they’ve got over a million pounds left in today’s terms at their age 100. But it comes onto answering the important questions to them, and actually demonstrating to them the impact of different spending, can they retire early, and answering their questions live, and it comes down to that.
So today I just wanted to highlight the fact that there’s two very important questions that you can ask a client: the first one being the impact of spending on their cashflow plan, their lifetime financial plan. As a tool [unclear 0:20:41] assumes that we save 100% of any surplus income that a client gets in, so we’re assuming that they’re going to build up a level of surplus fund over the course of their working life. Now here obviously they’re saying they’re going to have a million pounds plus left over at the end. All we need to hear is go into one button here, surplus income saved, set it to zero. And what we can see very clearly is that this highlights the importance of actually getting the detail into a financial plan for a client and showing them the impact of them basically giving you the detail or actually giving you very high level figures. Because what we can do is we can look at the two scenarios side by side, and you can very clearly see on the left-hand side it’s all their money saved over a million pounds. Assuming they spend that surplus over the course of the next 10 years whilst they’re still working, they’re down to just over £400,000, and that’s a big difference there. If you throw into other things like inflation and all different things like that, it becomes a massive kind of conversation to have with a client and talk about the impact of it, and agree those assumptions that you’re using with the client, and have those conversations and document them.
Other things that you can talk about with them, there’s all sorts of conversations you can have, but you can take it into different areas, so we’ve all been through the last six months and everybody’s been worried about illness, been worried about, you know, what happens if there’s a catastrophe in their situation. You can build scenarios. You can build different situations for a client. Actually we’ve got a wizard that would give you an idea of actually is there a level of protection that’s required, or actually I’m OK. And I think too often protection is almost the last part of the conversation with a client, and actually I think COVID has probably actually highlighted the need for that to be discussed at a very top level. So the first thing here is basically we’re going to say actually you never want to run out of money in your lifetime, what’s the impact of that? If you get ill or you die, what happens to you? We go through the various different screens. We’re going to say actually I know for this case Teresa is the breadwinner, she’s still working. She’s got the most income, so we’re going to run it on her. We calculate that, and this is basically to show you what would happen if she were to die tomorrow, what would happen if she were to get ill and not be able to work.
So it’s very simple to have that conversation on a bit of paper or with a client, but often they will look at you and they won’t engage with that conversation. They won’t actually understand the impact of it without the visuals that you can give to the client. So that might be historically protection hasn’t been talked about on a large scale, because it’s been difficult to quantify the numbers that you need for sums assured. It’s been difficult to quantify with the client there and then. So often the conversation would happen. You’d go back to the office, work out the points, work out the sums assured and then come back to them at a later date and basically say this is what you need. At that point the client’s forgotten the conversation, they’ve forgotten about the impact, and they’ve moved on. They’re not ready to think about it. So the purpose of this is basically to give you an idea of what would happen if they were to die or get ill.
So here if Teresa was to die there would be no need for any cover. We’ve seen here they never run out of money, they never actually hit their target of zero basically. So based on death they’re fine. They’ve got a sufficient level of assets. The key point here is if they were to get ill and Teresa couldn’t now work for the next nine years as planned, the black line here is showing you actually this is as you were, everything’s fine, you carry on working, you’ve got enough money left over. The pink line is the one that actually gets the engagement from the client. It demonstrates to you actually if you were to get ill tomorrow and couldn’t work, this pink line shows that you would run out of money in 30 years’ time. So actually that opens up the conversation to be the point of you’ll be 80, do you think about downsizing, what are your options available to you? Do you put a level of protection in place or what would you do at that point in time in the future? And that blue line there shows if you put a level, an income protection plan in place for that period of time, that will get you through until age 100 and you would have sufficient assets to basically meet all of your requirements within your plan.
So that’s taken a couple of minutes, possibly slightly longer, but that just shows the engagement for a client. So I can now just stop my share and I’ve had that conversation very easily with the client, and you can expand it into all sorts of different areas.
PRESENTER: Rob, obviously that shows the flexibility, almost how plastic that data is and how you work with that with a client, but what’s your tip for people, whether they’re using that system that you’ve got, or others will have similar ones, do you use your colleague as a guinea pig for at least a couple of hours before you do your first client meeting?
ROB TEDDER: Yes, it’s difficult. I think it does come, it all comes down to confidence. So the way we suggest it, regardless of what you’re using, you know, two sets of eyes is better than one, so actually if you can mute it with your, quite often you have an adviser [unclear 0:25:22] relationship. So they will talk it through, they will build the cash model and they will look at the outputs and build the scenario, build the case before they actually go through it with the client. So actually realistically you would go to a client meeting, or you would go to a Zoom meeting, and you’d already have the majority of it built. So actually whereas I was manipulating and playing around with it and moulding it to meet the client’s questions, you would already have that prepared.
So really it’s just interpreting the graphs. And I think as long as you understand the set process that you want to follow, you know, we have a set process, so here’s your financial plan, you’re not going to run out of money, here’s where your money is coming from, this is the value of our advice. As long as you get confident in that flow, it’s actually quite an easy process to go through. I think it’s trying to do too much in the meeting is where people come unstuck. And it’s just about building up that confidence. And the more you do it and the more comfortable you get it, the more value it’ll be and the easier it’ll become.
PRESENTER: And, Nick Eatock, we’ve seen a lot about how easy it is to connect with people using technology, but is there a danger that this raises the chances of things such as scams; how can you ensure that doesn’t happen to your clients?
NICK EATON: Yes I think data security is a vital piece. And it kind of builds on one of the subjects we were talking about earlier, which is how operationally are advisers dealing with lockdown and the sort of new ways of working. And one part of that was about getting the data all into your system, so you can work with them remotely. Obviously what that then says is you need to protect that data. So the way in which you log into a system, you should use two factor authentication whenever you can, because that protects your login. You should also really be encouraging your clients when they’re logging into client portals to use two-factor authentication themselves, and again the technology can support that.
I think you’ve probably also got to be a little bit careful over meetings, such as the ones we’re having here, that they’re doing in a secure manner that means you know exactly who you’re talking to as the end client, but also the adviser knows who they’re talking to. So that can be through client portals in a way in which they’re again protected by that two-factor authentication. I think that’s pretty important. At the same time, and this goes back to a point John made, you’ve got to make it really easy for your clients. You’ll have clients with very different technology experiences and ages and so on, and whilst lockdown has probably elevated a lot of people’s understanding of how to use things like Zoom and so on, there’s still a level of technology, techno-savvy ability, if you like, that you need to get through.
So the simpler you can make the technology, avoid having the client having to install stuff, that all makes sense. And then the final point I guess, I’d quite like to go back to a point Rob made right at the beginning there before he did the demonstration of the technology, which looked great, is actually over this last six months people have been relatively relaxed about seeing advisers on the other end of a Zoom line or whatever it might be, trying to get to grips with the technology. It’s been a bit informal, the doorbell’s rung and you’ve got to go and deal with an Amazon delivery or whatever. Everyone’s kind of accepted that. And I think they will continue actually to accept that, because I think it just helps with that relationship point. At the same time, and this goes to Rob’s point, that preparation can ensure still that you remain as professional as you possibly can. And professional might mean slightly different things from what it did in times gone by.
I think it will do, and I think the ease with which you interact with a client and in which a client can interact with you will actually pretty much be top of the list. Rather than necessarily, and I say this with some humility because, Mark, you’re the only one with a tie on this call here, so you’re shaming us all, but I do wonder how much of a tie will exist even for the people maybe who were historically used to that. I do think this has broken those boundaries somewhat.
PRESENTER: Well, that’s an interesting point, and just to perhaps take that on, John Porteous, as we said it’s all about how you’re presenting yourself online now, but are there things that technology can’t do that you have to do face-to-face in the advice process, and to try and do it using tech could be disrespectful to your client, it could be seen as cutting a corner?
JOHN PORTEOUS: Yes I think that we have to remember that technology is taking us a long way down a road, but that road is not in and of itself the answer, a panacea. We do a lot of work around intergenerational wealth planning, a lot of research into that as well, and one of the things that that has told us about clients that are going through this, or indeed clients that are going through times of great stress, that could be loss, it could be ructions in a family unit, it could just actually be mental health issues as a result of lockdown, is to convey empathy, to convey emotion. Sometimes a lot of that comes from either physical proximity, physical body language. If we think about how we act with our loved ones, if we think about when we were separated from them during the hard days of lockdown, how difficult it was to express how you felt to somebody that might be 200 miles away that you’re simply unable to see. And I think that there are times where that will be, there will be a time for that.
Similarly, as I alluded to earlier, taking a very different approach to this, there might be times where at a first meeting, a get to know you meeting, that may have to be a physical interaction before the client agrees the permission for his net points, you know, if you like the new version of professionalism, the ongoing informality of video calls moves on from there. And we hear a lot that people are still taking on new clients physically face-to-face, but then moving very quickly to managing them on an ongoing basis using video conferencing technology.
PRESENTER: Rob, on this point about intergenerational planning, how many people, if you’re an adviser how many people should you feel confident having on a call at the same time, or do you think you should really start off one-to-one before you start adding in two or three generations?
ROB TEDDER: I think you have to start that relationship first and foremost with one element of the family, so parents or whichever part of the family it is, but you have to establish their goals and objectives, and actually what their financial life, their life plan looks like. Which will involve children, grandchildren, grandparents and all that side of it, but you need to establish how much of that they want to look at and how much they want to support before you start bringing in other elements of the family. Because it could be quite, it’s a very personal conversation to have, and not everybody wants to necessarily share that level of detail.
So you definitely need to build up that relationship first. And I do agree with John that there is an element of you need to build up that relationship face-to-face first to get that interaction and that engagement, and certainly people that use, the advisers that we’re speaking are doing that. They’re getting that first level of engagement. And the ongoing service is going to be over Zoom, and is going to be over that screen sharing. Because a lot of their clients have said they don’t actually want them to travel three hours to go and sit in a room and have a cup of tea and a slice of cake. They don’t need that element. They can have that and have a chat. And actually meetings are shorter and it just builds on that. And I think it’s really important to think about the bigger picture and the family, but you need to build that relationship first.
I mean you have to focus on the children and the millennial side of it. I think there was a stat that I read somewhere that said 66% of millennials will fire their parents’ financial adviser. So what we say is actually you need to include them as soon as possible, whether it’s just a separate client and then eventually you merge the two. But you get them in and help, the technology will help you develop that relationship. So you get to answer their questions. People are expecting questions to be answered quickly. Technology isn’t the be all and end all of it, but it certainly helps along that process if it’s used correctly.
PRESENTER: Well, in the final four or five minutes of this, I wanted to turn to some of the broader business issues. Nick Eatock, if, as you mentioned earlier I think, adviser firms are perhaps working less from the office, they’re becoming more decentralised, what are the pros and cons of that to a business?
NICK EATON: You’re right to ask the question pros and cons, because there are definitely cons. I think if we were to continue to persist with a situation where everyone worked completely remotely and didn’t get together other than via things like we’re doing today over Zoom, I think we would very much poorer for it as both individually, collectively and as a nation. I think what the technology has done that it’s shown us is that we have options here, and we don’t always need to do things all the same way. And I genuinely think that people will get back, office-based kinds of workers will get back to a different cadence going forward. Where maybe before they were five days a week in the office, they’ll get to a point where maybe they’re three days a week in the office, or two days or whatever it might be. Everyone will find their own level that suits them and their particular working patterns.
Because if they don’t involve some face-to-face activity and getting to meet their colleagues, you miss really vital social interactivity and growing as a team, the communication you can do is good over Zoom, but it’s not perfect, you do miss out on some bits of that. And I probably worry more for the staff within businesses who are maybe in their 20s or 30s, they’re at an earlier stage of their careers and how they’re getting into the working scenario, where actually the workplace is a very social place as well for them. And if they don’t have that element of it, then I think they will miss something. I’ve got two kids who’ve just started university this year, and they’re experiencing freshers in lockdown, and I don’t know if you’ve thought much about that, but it’s actually, so long as they’re following what they’re meant to be doing, and there’s maybe a few question marks there, but if they are it’s not a great way of doing things. You know, it’s compartmentalising people and stopping them forming wider relationships. And the same works for, the same is true of the office environment.
So I think that is the big negative. The big positive is I think it enables us to be much more, it can enable you to be much more effective as a business, deal with a much wider range of opportunities, and allow your staff to balance their work life, to get their work-life balance a lot more effective. That requires them to do some management of that too. It’s not all about what the business says, you know, it’s about the individual as well. So I think a lot of office-based people have actually enjoyed this process, because they have managed to get some of that balance back to their lives.
PRESENTER: And, John Porteous, given a lot of this technology, we’re all moving onto digital platforms, and whatever you do digitally it’s getting recorded somewhere. I mean are there advantages in terms of things like compliance angles on this, being able to demonstrate, you know, if there’s a dispute about something, what got said, the tone with which it got said, should you be recording all your calls, what do you do?
JOHN PORTEOUS: Well of course call recording and things like that do hark back to MiFID II, and so we’re already in a world where that is kind of in train. I think we’ve spent half an hour talking about authenticity, using tools in a really powerful fashion, a new normal of formal informality if I take Nick’s point. And I think call recording is very important, but it needs to be used in a way whereby, well it’s one in accordance with what regulatory requirements are, but ultimately it needs to be conveyed in a sense where people don’t feel threatened or constrained by it as well. So I think call recording from a compliance perspective for me is very good. I think that if you listen to the FCA one of the things they frequently say is show me the soft facts, show me the substance and the subjective issues that sit behind recommendations, and that normally is where you find unclear files, it tends to be in those soft facts. And the recording of a video interaction almost certainly would bring that to life. But I think the skilled practitioner that does this already probably has a very smooth and sympathetic way of introducing that to the client, so that they don’t think oh my god, big brother’s watching me.
PRESENTER: And, Rob, when it comes to technology, we’ve talked a lot about the potential benefits, but at some point as an adviser you’ve got to buy a lot of this stuff in. So in general terms how expensive is it and how do you make sure if you’re an adviser you don’t end up pouring a lot of money into a project that never quite delivers?
ROB TEDDER: Yes I mean you speak to any firm, adviser, there are numerous different subscriptions and pieces of software and things they need to pay for, and the costs do mount up, and they’re not insignificant definitely. I would always argue the point that actually whilst there is a big cost to the business, the value that you can get out of using this technology efficiently and effectively will create extra revenue for the business as a whole. So whether that’s through developing relationships with existing clients and taking on new clients, and creating stickier business and stickier revenue to the clients have a better relationship with you and it snowballs from there. Whether it’s looking at different options for enhancing revenue, so things like professional introducers, working with accountancy practices, law firms, the different angles that you can target, all these different forms of technology will put processes in place and enhance your proposition to make it so that you can do that. And I think the crucial thing with any piece of technology is that you embrace it and I think you engage with it.
So often there’ll be conversations about a cashflow tool for example. It’ll be oh I haven’t got on with this one, that one or the other one, and it’s because they haven’t had the time necessarily to focus on actually learning how to use it and getting used to how to use it. So they’ve never really experienced the true value they can get of it. And that’s true with any different piece of software. So I think it all comes down to actually making sure the software is the right one for you, and it actually fits your business and the way you want to work, and it does everything it needs to for you. But also that it will work well with your clients. Whether that’s through portals, whether it’s through cashflow and presenting stuff to them or whatever it might be, it has to be representative of the bigger picture. So the business, the adviser and the client all have to feel value out of it. So you have to make sure that you invest the time to actually properly get to grips with it.
PRESENTER: We are out of time. We have to leave it there. Rob Tedder, Nick Eatock and John Porteous, thank you very much indeed for joining us. From all of us here thank you for watching and goodbye for now.
In order to consider the viewing of this video as structured learning, you must complete a reflective statement to demonstrate what you’ve learned and its relevance to you. By the end of this session you should now be able to understand and describe how lockdown is making long-term adjustments to the way advisers conduct business; the efficiencies to be gained by embracing greater use of technology; and the limits of technology when it comes to developing client relationships. Please complete the reflective statement to validate your CPD.