Our Wired World

Mapping Out Your Client’s’ Future

How a tech tool employs visualization to create greater client engagement and more efficient advisory practices

by H. Adam Holt, CFP, ChFC

H. Adam Holt, CFP®, ChFC®, is the founder and CEO of Asset-Map, headquartered in Philadelphia. Adam is a veteran financial professional having worked with thousands of households and businesses to correct course on their financial journey.

 Financial advisors are increasingly strapped for time but still want to attract prospects and serve every client at the highest level possible. Technology can certainly help, but it often takes time and effort to implement. This begs the question: Will the return you receive from new tech be worth the investment?

For Nicholas Rose, CFP, a financial advisor at Summit Wealth Group, the answer is a resounding yes. The first challenge he experienced while growing his increasingly successful practice was efficiently gathering information from prospects and concisely demonstrating the value he could bring to their financial situation.

The second challenge was trying to comprehensively serve his client base despite the excessive time required to pull data from multiple systems and presentation layers for annual review preparation. Rose’s commitment to delivering promised value was getting squeezed between competing demands, putting pressure on his practice growth.

Fortunately, Summit Wealth Group identified the need to systematize the processes utilized by 14 advisors across seven offices nationwide. The firm’s continued growth and stability depended on finding a solution that could accommodate the differences in each advisor’s client base while providing them with common ground to work from when building new relationships.

A One Page, Complete History

This search led the firm to find a client experience and visualization tool that maps out a client’s complete financial inventory on one page and informs their progress to financial goals. Rose and his peers now employ Asset-Map as their primary method to digitally gather high-level fact-finding information for clients from any device.

Moreover, once all the facts are visualized on one screen, advisors can reacclimate to each client’s current situation by simply reviewing the Map. Understanding how every household member, asset, liability, policy and income source comes together means that advisors can avoid searching through multiple systems and notes to find all the right information.
As a result, Rose enjoys a tech solution that meets all the needs of his practice, creating a consistent and engaging experience for clients while maximizing staff efficiency. With Asset-Map, he has been able to significantly decrease prep time and hold more productive client meetings. Rose estimates this technology has already saved roughly 1,800 staff hours across more than 600 clients.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Rose is one of the thousands of advisors nationwide who have experienced the benefits of technological advances in financial planning. I initially created this tool in 2008 as a solution for my own advisory firm so we could communicate more effectively with clients. But in showing it to other advisors, I quickly recognized how helpful Asset-Map could be for many of my peers who were struggling with the same problem.

There are many reasons why technology has recently come to the forefront in the financial industry. Partly, it’s because of great tech innovations in other fields. People had long been waiting for fintech to catch up with revolutionary developments in mobile computing and the consumer marketplace, and that’s finally happening.

However, it’s not just about meeting consumer expectations for technology delivery and experience. Another issue is the extensive legacy systems that drive financial services infrastructure. The apparatus that had previously been cobbled together is decades old, from insurance policy management to asset reporting and custodial systems that compose the backbone of the industry.

Strong resistance to innovation in financial services persisted for years because the prior technology wasn’t considered “broken” until the robo threat emerged, coupled with the regulatory threat posed by fiduciary standards. Now, an industry-wide shift to overhaul legacy systems is occurring due to the recognition that if you don’t innovate, you’ll be left behind.

Combining tech with a personal touch

The irony is that financial services depend on an extremely interpersonal experience. Most individuals choose to work with a financial professional because they seek an expert human perspective on their current and future assets. They don’t typically find satisfactory answers in direct technology solutions...

The irony is that financial services depend on an extremely interpersonal experience. Most individuals choose to work with a financial professional because they seek an expert human perspective on their current and future assets. They don’t typically find satisfactory answers in direct technology solutions unless it’s a generic question like, “How much do I need to retire?”

When it comes to pulling the trigger on investing or allocating their hard-earned money, most people want someone standing with them on the end of the diving board to say, “It’s OK, you can jump.” So there’s a confidence consideration, where the bigger the decision is, the more they like having a human being to consult. Accordingly, modern tech tools should help advisors instill confidence in clients that their advice is based on an intelligent process.

Painting a picture

When you think about making decisions that are complex or come with a high cost of being wrong, it makes sense to start with the basic facts. Because of this, most financial advisors go through a fact-finding process to understand a client’s household and the people involved, as well as any assets, liabilities, and policies in place.

We’ve found that revealing these elements to clients in a visually appealing and organized way is critical to stimulating engagement and honest conversation. The advisor can prove they’re working with accurate data while revealing misaligned assets or investments, underutilized insurance policies, mismanaged accounts, and neglected categories.

Visually indicating to a client that they lack an asset or policy their peers in the same situation typically have also enables advisors to initiate non-judgmental conversations to address the issue. For example, you might notice in a meeting with a baby boomer that long-term care hasn’t been addressed in their Asset-Map. Pointing out that ‘you don’t see a long-term care strategy commonly owned by their peers’ can make an otherwise uncomfortable discussion more constructive. It’s similar conceptually to the very effective Amazon marketing tactic, “Customers who purchased this item also purchased…”

Easier for everyone

Nobody wants to work more than they have to, so everyone involved can appreciate the efficiencies gained by creating a visual catalog of assets that’s easily accessible. The moment that a client lacks convenient access to this kind of information is when they make bad decisions, or sometimes no decisions because they don’t feel confident about their understanding of what’s at stake.

Having a “treasure map” that clearly depicts where possessions are “buried” allows clients to find them at any time while enabling advisors to easily offer feedback about whether the assets are sufficient for retirement or appropriately allocated. This is much more organized and efficient than trying to piece the information together from 15 different sources, and it provides “on-demand confidence.”

Bridging the gap

Almost all saving and investing decisions are basically habitual, but most people don’t have good habits. Robo advising has carved out a notable niche in the financial world because it allows people to take effective action in an arena where they generally lack knowledge or skills.

Accordingly, the technology utilized by financial advisors to connect with clients should recognize and adapt to their level of financial education. In this way, tech tools can make advisors less intimidating and uncomplicated financial decision-making for the average client.

Trying to reach clients on their level means using common language and visually appealing relationship diagrams, not financial jargon and stock charts. This is the essence of how modern technology can bridge the long-standing communication gap between financial advisors and the people who need their help.◊