The role of the financial advisor, and what investors really value, is rapidly changing. Change can be difficult. The reality is that the pace and volume of change being experienced is only increasing. In fact, today we are in the midst of tsunami of digital disruption and it’s shaking the foundations of established institutions, industries and service-based business. However, opportunities exist for financial advisors to reshape their roles in this digital paradigm. Identifying and applying best practices from across a variety of industries can help advisors evolve with changing client sentiments and expectations, find new ways to remain relevant and continue to grow their businesses.
Here we talk with Bill Coppel, Managing Director and Chief Client Growth Officer at First Clearing. As host of the podcast, The Next Frontier, Coppel shares insights around adapting to change that he’s gleaned from conversations with experts and thought leaders across a number of industries.
How is technology reshaping the role of financial advisors?
Digital automation is reshaping all aspects of what advisors have traditionally done. Technologies like algorithms and artificial intelligence can do as good a job, if not better, at managing money than individuals. They can process enormous amounts of data at speeds that humans will never be able to match. And do it better, without the interference of emotion.
Clients today can manage nearly every aspect of their lives from their smartphones and tablets. And soon, if they aren’t already, they’ll be using digital advice and robo-advisors. This reality challenges what most advisors believe is their real value.
How can advisors remain relevant in the face of technology disruption?
Our industry is famous for staying steadfast in the status quo and has remained virtually unchanged in the last 100 years. But the reality is, if advisors don’t adapt and evolve, they will not survive. It may sound harsh, but I believe there is endless opportunity in this new reality.
Part of that journey has to be looking outside of the traditional financial services industry. There’s so much that can be learned from areas like coaching, psychology, medicine and even the hard sciences, industries that have experienced their own disruption and have found ways to survive and thrive in the digital world.
What’s one important piece of advice advisors can take away from what you’ve learned talking to experts and thought leaders?
I’m not sure that there’s just one important piece of advice. I’ll share two things that seem to come up the most often in my conversations – active listening and asking good questions. And you can’t just ask questions about their financial performance or goals, which is an important part of being a financial professional. The disruption happening within our world isn’t just impacting the advisors job; it’s impacting their clients’ lives as well. Developing those “soft skills” that focus on listening and empathy are going to be critical in helping them find their relevance in this new paradigm.
Good advisors have the technical knowledge to help preserve and grow their clients’ assets. Great advisors know how to listen, observe and develop those deep, trusting relationships with their clients.
What do clients want in a relationship with an advisor?
I think when you look at what clients expect today, there are really only three things that matter – relationships, life experiences and time.
Recently, I ran into a financial advisor and when I asked him what he did for a living, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a photograph. The photo was of a family at a lake house. His clients were the older couple in the picture, and their children and grandchildren were there as well. They were having a great time. He said, "This is what I do." He figured it out. He understood what was really important to his clients and in turn transformed his role from that of a “money manager” to a “dream maker.”
At the end of the day, it’s not about the number on a performance report or accounts in your book of business, it's about the quality of the relationships with the people you serve and helping them live their best lives.
For more industry insights, tune into First Clearing’s podcast The Next Frontier, which examines what the role of the financial advisor will be in a world that’s being disrupted by artificial intelligence and algorithms.
Bill Coppel is an industry veteran and life-long learner. An advisor by training and a client by choice, he understands that the industry is at a tipping point: the role of the advisor and what investors really value is changing. He continuously challenges himself and others to redefine the value they provide in helping clients excel in a world overrun by constant change.
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