Differentiate Yourself from the Advisor Down the Street

 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming the McDonald’s of the financial advice business.

The right #Fintech can help you highlight your unique offering.

 

With the advent of client-facing advisor tech, client self-service has taken on a new dimension. Clients can login to see their investments, view updates to their financial plan, and provide additional investor profile data that their advisor may ask for in order to stay compliant with Best Interest Rules. Client-facing tech, and its ability to empower clients, is convenient, fast, and comes with the added benefit of increased efficiency for the advisor’s practice.

But what if all advisory firms offered the same client experience? What if they all used the same software, such as one of the popular financial planning tools, where clients are presented with the same set of predefined screens? What if all firms looked just like the advisor’s firm down the street?

Arguably, providing the same client experience across thousands of advisory firms can have some benefits. For one, we would assume that some research has gone into the software and that the online experience it offers has been found to be effective with clients. Second, having a uniform experience can also have a “members only” effect where clients of different firms compare their advisor’s tech and feel that their decision to choose their advisor is somewhat validated when they learn that their friends are receiving the same experience. After all, there is a reason that McDonald’s is so successful: you know exactly what you get (every McDonald’s has the same items), you know exactly what to expect (every McDonald’s offers the same experience), and you know that you’re not alone in your decision to eat there (validation).

So what are the dangers of being perceived as offering the same experience as every other advisory practice out there? In a word: commoditization.

If a client learns that he can have the exact same experience as his friend who uses ABC Advisory Firm, yet ABC charges 25% less, what is the glue that keeps your client stuck to your firm instead of moving to a lower-cost option? In a practice where the advisor simply plugs in a software solution that is being used by thousands of other firms, with little or no customization to make the experience unique to their clients, the stickiness is certainly not coming from that firm’s technology. In fact, that sameness may turn off some clients. They may feel as if the firm may not have any original ideas if all that it knows how to do is plug and play client-facing content that somebody else made and configured; somebody who doesn’t even understand the wants or needs of that advisor’s clients.

Client-facing technology that provides a different experience from the firm down the street acts like glue holding your clients to your firm. Instead of offering what appears to be a commoditized experience, such tech offers clients a unique experience that shows off your areas of expertise and addresses the wants and needs of your clients. After all, you wouldn’t copy another advisory firm’s website, would you? So why would you copy the experience already offered by thousands of other firms across the country? How does that show your unique offering? Where’s the glue that keeps your clients from moving to the advisor down the street?

Our clients interact more and more with our tech and less and less with us. It has to be that way. Not only for advisors to be more efficient (and therefore more competitive), but to meet the demands of our clients. The reality is that our clients have become accustomed to the Amazon.com experience. Telling clients to put pen to paper in order to provide an update to their investor profile is so far away from that experience that it’s not even funny. On the other hand, creating a custom template that addresses the unique needs of your client and that comes pre-filled so that your client has less work to do (work that, by the way should be able to be done on any device at any time) is more like that Amazon one-click experience that your customers have come to expect.

Our clients want convenience and ease-of-use. And if you don’t give it to them, they will find an advisor that will. But that convenience and ease-of-use shouldn’t come at the cost of commoditizing your offering. Your client-facing tech needs to be highly configurable and customizable to bring out the uniqueness of your firm. Instead of being the end product, your tech needs to allow you to change the experience to suit your firm and the needs of your clients. By choosing tech that allows you to differentiate yourself, you will be creating a unique offering that clients will not only appreciate, but will be able to brag about to friends and family as they describe what makes you different from the advisor down the street. And that’s the kind of excitement that you want your tech to generate.