I am on the record for declaring my love of platforms.
It's possibly an age thing, and may relate to the fact that I am old enough to remember dial-up modems and fighting to get quotes via firms like The Exchange. Innovative though this was at the time, it just seemed to make things incredibly difficult during an already busy day.
By comparison the innovations made available through platforms, even in their earliest iterations, were revolutionary.
They delivered probably the earliest ‘on demand’ services with real efficiencies and applications aimed at serving advisers and their clients.
Today, the benefits are there for all to see. Advisers are more efficient, and clients have instant access to valuations, projections, trading and a whole lot more.
Fast forward to today, and the breadth of technology available across our personal, social and business lives is truly staggering.
Some developments have proved to create a somewhat love-hate relationship, particularly with things like social media. We've seen the emergence of news aggregators, communication tools for voice, video and group interactions, as well as improvements to graphic design, business tools and so much more.
Every day more and more providers are coming online via desktop, smartphone or through app-based models. While duplication is inevitable, and while some apps and tech firms seem to come and go without a trace, it remains the case that the sheer choice of technology is mind-boggling, and growing.
Having recently started a business with technology at the centre of our newly beating heart, a crash course in what is available and what it can do became a real priority for us.
This has led to an incredibly rewarding journey spanning social media, communication, design, visuals, video, user experience and more. It's clear that technology is reducing barriers and is enabling us to do more for less. It has the potential to dramatically increase our efficiencies while reducing costs, and is democratising information and communication.
But, you may well ask, so what?
The point I am getting around to making is the wealth management practice I led could have benefitted far more from the technology that is now on offer.
I always felt we had a pretty decent handle on the basic technology available, over and above the usual fare. But I am coming to realise more could have and should have been done.
We used platforms, tracked the use of our time, monitored our advice 'funnel', ran our social media channel and delivered some online marketing and brand collateral via various bits of tech. But all that was mainly aimed at us and at driving more efficient internal and external communications.
Having had some time to reflect on how we operated, I wish I had spent more time on technology while there. As the scrutiny over fees and value continues to grow, and as the cost pressures of running a business are felt more keenly, technology has the potential to be a real game-changer.
In all of this we should also not forget the client experience.
For quite some time now, I have struggled with how time-consuming the whole process can seem when viewed from the client's side of the desk.
Do they really need to schlep across to our offices for a cup of tea and a biscuit when little has changed since their last, probably very similar, annual review? Have we ever actually asked them what they would prefer?
The argument that older people don’t like technology has been disproven over recent years. Many are huge users of social media, Facetime, Skype and Instagram. They have embraced tablets and smartphones and use them heavily.
All this raises questions for our own working practices.
Could we build in screen sharing and video conferencing to our client experiences? Could we save them time with video conferencing tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx or others?
This would allow screen sharing to discuss issues, online updating of the 'know your customer' record, and a whole host of other tasks which might be more efficiently done for our clients and, what's more, in a more interesting way.
From client portals, using graphics to deliver complex information and to communication, there are a huge amount of secure and innovative tools available.
I'm sure many of you are already using at least some of these tools and techniques, but I for one wish we had done more.
I am also trying to have an honest debate with myself on this. Were we, even sub-consciously, relying on face-to-face time with clients as a way of partly justifying our fees? Were we guilty of over-complicating a process for our own ends?
As a measure, 'time taken' is perhaps easier to justify from a costs perspective with clients than it would be if a swift and efficient technology-assisted process was in place.
I think we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues but particularly our clients to put some real thought into this.