Stuart Wilson (pictured) is chief executive at Air Group
‘The march of technology’ is a commonly-used phrase in our sector as is the oft-repeated mantra that advisers must ‘grasp the technological advances or lose out’. But, how much of that is really true?
There will certainly be no adviser out there who isn’t utilising the available technology, making it work for them, and perhaps wondering at times whether to jump on board with new kit and/or new propositions, because they’ve been told that not to do so risks damage to their business.
And yet, even as a group which holds great store by the technology we can offer – specifically with our Air Sourcing platform – I remain to be convinced by the vast majority of technology that is brought to market under the presumption that no adviser can do without it.
My view is that technological innovation is vital and advisers and firms need to be aware of when it delivers real benefits, but that very same ‘innovation’ can’t just be for the sake of it, especially not in our sector.
The question has to be asked: What are we seeking to change, and who are we seeking to benefit, by pushing the envelope in a technology sense?
The answer has to be the adviser, and ultimate, their client. If it’s not going to make the lives of the adviser (or the client) better, then what is the point?
And to really grasp the benefits of what technology can help advisers do, there has to be an understanding that we all deal with human beings.
Whether it’s my business backing up our technology with online support, or a telephone team, or managers out in the field.
Or its advisers working day-to-day with clients and providing the human touch for them, the technology needs to get that, and it needs to empower them and ultimately make life easier for them.
There has been some criticism around the FCA’s perceived focus on technology recently, that perhaps it is suggesting technology is the alternative to the human adviser and it should be doing all it can to facilitate the ‘robo advisers’ and those who might wish to cut human interaction to a bare minimum.
My view is somewhat different, in that I believe the regulator wants to see better consumer outcomes, and it’s willing to countenance that this might come via the use of technology.
It, of course, actually comes best from an adviser using the technology available, whether that’s sourcing or criteria checking, or it’s a CRM system ensuring they’re on top of their client’s situation, or it’s desktop systems that ensure data only needs to be inputted once and then APIs are used to populate all other areas, whether that’s the factfind, or the application, or a firm’s system.
Using the technology to cut down on admin, or to ensure the client gets the right product, first time, every time, or providing case tracking, or ensuring no business opportunity or client renewal is missed.
That to me is what technology can do best – IT supports the adviser and ultimately delivers a better business and a better proposition.
Technology has some of the answers, but with the adviser, the software, and with the support of real people, I think it has close to all of them.