By Nick Richtsmeier, chief innovation officer, Trilogy Financial – As an industry, we desperately need human advisors to focus on the human aspects of the job.
We need them to abandon the machine work that has become such a distraction. Oftentimes, smart advisors use less than superior tools to do their darndest to serve their clients and in the meantime have lost human connection. It is time to alter our expectations of financial advisors. We primarily need to expect them to act in human, not machine ways, and in doing so more than earn their fee. What are the human things great advisors do?
- They pay attention. No computer can look a client in the eye and let them know that their most critical financial secrets are being heard without judgment.
- They have interpretive wisdom. Advisors can listen to clients’ stories. They can help discover what these moments mean for their long-term decision engine and guide their financial decisions going forward.
- They can have a conversation. A computer can transcribe every word a client says, but it
cannot hear them. It takes an advisor for finances to be liberated by the power of
- They offer empathy. Maybe we haven’t been exactly where clients are, but human advisors can imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes. A computer can do calculus, but it cannot derive meaning.
But it is not enough to simply want this for our human advisors or for our clients. We must use machines to do what they do best so that advisors can spend the best hours of the day doing what they do best. Let the machines provide speed, accuracy, integrated information, immediate access, platform agnosticism and predictive power. I believe our technology should do four things for advisors, their associates and their firms:
- Automate: Technology should automate activities best handled digitally rather than personally.
- Record: Technology should make it incredibly easy to keep reliable records of client activity and communication, and organize those records in a way that is searchable and reportable.
- Protect: Technology should protect advisors and their firms from the liability caused by memory-dependence and limited data judgment calls.
- Liberate: Technology should liberate advisors to focus on what only personal relationships can do, while simultaneously supporting those relationships with connectivity, shared data and tools for communication.
In the end, the financial services industry today is better equipped to do what it has always set out to do. We are the human advocate for our clients’ decision-making over time. Advocacy is a uniquely human experience. When we see our work in this industry through that lens, we have nothing to fear in the rise of fintech. Technology – even at its most robust – is only a rising platform on which we stand.
When I imagine an advisor-client interface at its best, maybe there’s an iPad in the room where the client’s information is being gathered. Or, maybe there’s an OLED screen television with charts and graphs showing the client’s potential futures. Maybe the whole thing is happening over ultra-HD video conferencing. All of that’s possible and maybe eventually required. But regardless of what machines are in the room, one person hearing another person tell their story and helping them take that story to its best possible end is what matters. Because in the words of David Augsburger, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
Nick Richtsmeier is chief innovation officer at Trilogy Financial, and chief operating officer of its independent Registered Investment Advisor Trilogy Capital. Founded in 1999, Trilogy Financial is a privately held financial planning firm with nearly $3 billion in assets under management. Headquartered in Huntington Beach, California, it has 10 offices throughout the United States. Richtsmeier, based in Denver, can be reached at [email protected]