Whether they wanted to innovate – or a pandemic forced their hand – advisers made a great leap forward embracing digital marketing tools in 2020. Forty-two percent of advisers have used a new digital marketing or technology tool for the first time this year, while 88% have expanded the use of at least one tool, new research shows.
The findings are part of an ongoing research project between Transamerica and InvestmentNews Research exploring how the pandemic has reshaped adviser business practices. The latest survey looked at advisers’ embrace of digital technology and finds the industry has indeed been adaptive.
The driving force, not surprisingly, was the pandemic and a stay-at-home environment that forced advisers to find new ways to connect. An overwhelming 91% of advisers who expanded their use of technology claimed the pandemic played a role.
Importantly, new technologies weren’t limited to video conferencing, which has become mere table stakes to client outreach. As the chart below shows, nearly half of surveyed advisers expanded their use of client facing portals, while more than a third of advisers expanded their use of mobile messaging apps, firm website analytics, social media management tools, automated email marketing platforms, or made strides in optimizing their web site for a mobile experience.
Despite the quick uptake in many new technologies, advisers could still do more to embrace some of the technologies they say matter most to client satisfaction. Advisers listed video conferencing software and client facing portals as the most important tools for client retention (see chart below). As expected, these are the tools that had high rates of expanded use among advisers this year. But advisers listed a mobile-optimized web site and an automated email marketing platform as the third and fourth most important tools for clients. Those same tools had the lowest rates of expanded use among surveyed advisers.
Embracing the New: Tech Experts Offer Tips for Diving into New Technologies
2020 presented a unique environment to encourage new digital tools, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Like any industry, advisers differ in their willingness to adopt something new. Firms employed a variety of tactics to bring everyone on board, industry technology experts said.
“There’s been a big uptick in training and (firms) putting call centers in place for advisers who have questions on how to use the digital technologies,” said Cheryl Nash, CEO of Tegra118, a wealth technology firm serving the industry. “Every firm has seen an uptick so they are staffing differently than they did before the pandemic to make sure they’ve got the right training and resources available to (address) questions.”
She notes many firms are offering video of training or “lunch and learns” to get their advisers acquainted with digital tools.
Some larger advisory firms are using the introduction of new technology as a catalyst to create teams between a more tech-savvy associate and someone who may have been in the business longer, noted Gavin Spitzner, president of Wealth Consulting Partners.
In the team-based approach, the more tech savvy adviser is responsible for “either teaching them or taking on that client responsibility for client engagement … It also might lead to succession planning,” Spitzner said.
Equally important to getting the adviser on board, is getting clients familiar with new technologies. Both Nash and Spitzner recommended advisers set aside special, introductory meetings with a client to get them familiar to a new technology such as a client portal.
No Turning Back: Expect More Focus on Digital Tools Going Forward
While adviser adoption of digital tools was fast in 2020, it may be the beginning. Now that firms have seen its success, many are planning more use, and more marketing spending on digital tools, in 2021. Eighty percent of surveyed advisers said they would place more importance on the digital marketing experience client year.
Also, 65% of surveyed advisers said their firm plans to spend more on digital marketing tools in 2021. That is a sharp uptick from the 49% of surveyed firms that indicated they would spend more on digital tools in InvestmentNews’ annual Adviser Technology Study. The latter study finished fielding just as the pandemic began to trigger lockdowns in the United States.
The embrace of digital tools should only be positive for the industry, Spitzner said.
“Satisfaction levels go up with more interaction and more contact than the once a year, or four-times a year in person meeting,” he said.
Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment, legal, medical or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent professionals for answers to your specific questions.