Is your wealth firm ready for the future? It begins now


“The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet” William Gibson’s oft-attributed quote is a warning for those of us who wait until we see a pattern everywhere before we deal with it. So let’s start by considering what’s happening right now.

The Client of the Future (Next Week)

The pandemic changed the way most of us live and work. Many of us work from home more frequently. We meet remotely. Families have video calls when they can’t travel. Grandpa and grandma can Zoom! As much change as we see and feel, in some ways things have changed even more profoundly.

72 percent of U.S. banking consumers age 70 and older say they use online banking according to a Harris Poll published by Fiserv. And those consumers log in more than 7x per month. That is up 100%, doubling in the last 4 years. That is a seismic change.

57% percent of clients now say they prefer some or all of their meetings with their advisors to be remote according to a study by Kansas State University. Additionally, about 60% of all people over 50 use social media with the more affluent having higher rates and those over 70 are the fastest-growing segment. While we were all out sick, our clients all went digital.

Advisors are behind the curve

Most advisors are behind the curve in providing the engaging digital experience clients have now grown accustomed to. Most advisors firms are still focused on “reporting” for clients rather than thinking about delivering information in a digital experience. Simple having a client portal, while a good step, likely isn’t enough. Clients are used to systems that engage them multiple times each month. Most existing client portals are lucky to see 10% of an advisory firm’s client base in a month.

The caution here is don’t depend on your clients asking for this. Only the noisiest will ask, and by that time, it will be too late. We just did a case study on BlackBerry. BlackBerry had very high customer satisfaction scores right up until the end. This is because clients don’t necessarily ask for what they want. They just go where it’s available. If you need evidence, look out in the world, not necessarily within your own client base.

Engage up to 90% of your clients every single month with Blueleaf.

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The Business of the future (Next Decade)

Artificial Intelligence will have a pervasive impact on the way everyone in our industry works. But not immediately. As Ryan Neal writes in his excellent piece in Investment News this month – Advisors must evolve to survive in the AI era.

While I don’t agree with everything in the article, his basic call to arms is spot on. He writes:

“the phrase “machines will never replace a human financial advisor” is repeated so often by the wealth management industry, it can’t even be called a cliché anymore.”

he closes with “simply repeating the “people will always need a human advisor” mantra like it’s some immutable law of nature won’t stop the inevitable march of progress.

Human history is littered with occupations that have been replaced by technology. How advisors choose to evolve will determine whether they are next.”

Advisors must evolve to survive in the AI era, Investment News, Feb 1, 2023

AI is here but it is far from mature. In fact, AI is horrible at a lot of things. If you want to understand just how wrong AI can go, I encourage you to listen to the New York Times, The Daily podcast from Feb 17, 2023 – The Online Search Wars Got Scary. Fast.

It’s about encountering the darker side of AI and it’s fascinating. If you listen, I think you’ll agree that a large language model AI, which includes Chat GPT as well as Microsoft and Google search AI, cannot be trusted to manage a human relationship. That limitation is inherent in the technology which, as realistic as it feels, is simply predicting the next words that best fit the conversation it’s in.

Learn to leverage AI

That said, AI will dramatically impact the way we do our work in this and every other knowledge industry and we had better adapt. Inspired by and adapted from a Facebook post from a wonderful thinker Mitch Joel, here are some of the ways you should start thinking about using AI tools:

  • Brainstorming
  • Research
  • Draft copywriting – assume all facts are wrong

The trick to leveraging AI over the next decade is to:

  • Think assisting… not creating.
  • Think research… not facts.
  • Think frameworks… not content.
  • Think questions… not answers.
  • Think helpful… not replacing.
  • No more blank screens.

Some of AI’s limitations will improve over time and some not. The real threat it poses is to those who do not evolve to leverage it. They will be left behind.

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Also published on Medium.

John is the co-founder and CEO of Blueleaf and is an active startup advisor. He is also an experienced entrepreneur and senior executive. As part of 6 founding teams, he has led the product management, marketing, and finance functions. His background in banking and wealth management has shaped the vision for Blueleaf.
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