Amidst the economic upheaval, advisors increasingly want to give their clients more customized advice and in-depth service, including financial planning. (Click here to read part one of the article on financial planning.)
Technology choices abound and are playing an important role in the efficiency of advisors and the practice model they choose. Advisors can now turn to web-hosted financial-planning applications that are accessible through a standard internet browser, with the client data managed in a fault-tolerant, mission-critical data center. Hosted applications generally relieve the small-office planner from setting up extra systems and maintaining the software and data himself.
Technology to the rescue
Jeff Rose, CFP, co-founder of Alliance Investment Planning Group in Carbondale, Ill., a fee-based financial-planning practice that primarily caters to families and small businesses, says, “Technology plays and will continue to play an important part of my practice. To date, the two biggest technological applications that have been a savior in my practice are my client-management system and my blog. The client-management system helps keep track of all important and relevant client conversations. It’s also helped by implementing a contact system to make sure no clients are slipping through the cracks. By updating my blog on a frequent basis, I can generate a weekly newsletter that touches clients and prospects on relevant financial-planning topics. Even though I’m calling my clients, I want to connect with them on more than one level.”
Another evolution that is helping financial planners communicate better with their clients is the availability of client relationship management tools that are also offered as a hosted application and are tightly integrated with leading financial-planning applications. CRM systems are available as plug-ins to Microsoft Outlook, allowing advisors to maintain client data in a hosted data center, but accessible from Outlook, which many already use. Comprehensive financial-planning packages can generate financial plans.
As the entire financial sector emerges from the recent economic downturn, it is going to look very different from the way it looked previously. Each individual advisor has to figure out how his practice model and the way he manages his clients and their expectations, will change as a result.
Overall, we can expect a heightened appreciation for financial planning as well as improved client communication. As we have seen in the first part of the article, practices built around financial planning improve client trust and retention, as well as help clients make fewer irrational decisions and stay the course while riding out the storm. As Rose says, "I see myself running more financial plans as my practice grows. There will always be a need for a client to be able to comprehensively review his financial situation."
Gary Kinghorn is director of Product Management at AdviceAmerica Inc., a provider of financial-planning and client-relationship management solutions to firms and advisors. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or read his blog on practice efficiency and technology trends at http://aablog.typepad.com/aablog.