Aviva conducts quarterly IFA research to monitor the current issues affecting advisers through its Adviser Barometer. In the last few years, the pace of change of new technology developments and launches has been unprecedented, and so the most recent report has focused on just how advisers are using technology and what benefits they are seeing from it.
It found that the vast majority of firms are reliant on technology to some degree, and it is most heavily used to power the back office systems of IFAs, rather than for transactional purposes. The research discovered that 94% of firms are reliant on electronic systems to produce research, and 92% say they use technology to produce product quotes for clients, while slightly fewer (86%) currently submit electronic applications.
However, advisers see the main benefits of technology as relating to business efficiencies. They report the most beneficial uses of technology as: the fact it enables immediate access to client information (78%), enables quick administration (66%), allows immediate transactions (66%), and means more time can be spent with clients (66%). The advantages of using technology for regulatory aspects of the business are seen as a second tier benefit, with just 59% of advisers highlighting the use of technology to produce compliance records, 52% mentioning regulatory reporting, and 51% citing its potential to ‘de-risk’ a business.
Despite the hype surrounding how technology is revolutionising the way we communicate, many financial advisers are still a long way from operating in a virtual office. Advisers report that despite the ease and speed of emails, the most common communication method they use when dealing with clients is still face to face meetings (97%). The telephone (92%) and email (92%) still rank behind face to face meetings in popularity.
Advisers report that their ways of communicating with product providers are all different and not necessarily joined up. And there are significant differences between ways that advisers communicate with their clients, and with product providers. When it comes to provider communication, telephone (93%) and email (92%) come out overwhelmingly on top. And despite development of provider websites, only 67% of advisers say they use these regularly as a way of communicating these companies.
According to the research, advisers’ use of newer technology based communication techniques such as social media sites, text messages and instant messaging to work with clients is currently still relatively low. Text messaging is the most used (38%), but social media sites are used by just 15% of advisers, and instant messaging by just 6%.
While the pace of change is inevitably driven by clients, looking to the future advisers say that customers are beginning to demand new and different ways of interacting with their finances. And advisers are now expecting they will see an increased use of technology solutions in the immediate future. Websites are the main new client communication tool advisers are expecting to use in the coming year (48%), although use of social media is also expected to increase (36%).
There has been an unprecedented change in the variety and applications of technology being launched to help financial advisers to streamline their businesses. However, the adoption of these systems is inevitably being driven by clients and cost. Investing in the right technologies is essential, and Aviva is committed to developing new tools and systems that work with advisers to enable them to operate in a compliant and efficient manner.