A client-first mindset for advisor tech adoption

Rising star advisor champions client experience, integral role of compliance in digital implementation journey

A client-first mindset for advisor tech adoption

For traditional wealth advisors, the key to making a good first impression is to do well at the onboarding meeting. But John Baynham knows the window to impress or underwhelm comes even before his clients first walk through the door at his practice.

“How you appear online is almost like how you dress when you go to a client meeting. Do you wear sweats like you're going to a gym, or do you put on a suit?” says Baynham, who leads the Retirement Income Group at Carte Wealth Management. “If your digital experience is poor, it's almost like you're showing up in front of a client wearing sweatpants.”

Speak the words “client experience,” and many advisors’ minds would automatically go to meetings and phone calls. But Baynham argues that the client experience includes any point of interface between a client and the practice, which in many cases involves its technology stack

Even before the COVID pandemic accelerated digital implementation among wealth firms, Baynham says the industry’s journey of tech adoption was already underway. Compared to the paper-based processes that dominated when he started, he says things have come a long way.

“Today, a lot of banks and investment companies are actually charging their clients to receive paper statements. Clients actually have to pay extra for that,” he says. “It’s not just us advisors wanting to shift; clients want to be more digital. They want non-face-to-face options. They want collaboration tools that are online.”

While some advisors might fixate on technology investment as a way to achieve efficiency and cut costs, Baynham takes a different tack. For him, client experience should be the North Star in making investment decisions, given its fundamental role in driving business success.

“I’ve invested in financial planning software, cybersecurity, specialty collaboration tools with clients, file-sharing portals … Things that are going to become more normalized over time,” he says. “When you make these investments, you also have to explain to clients what’s going on, and what new tools and options are being made available to them.”

With the proliferation of tools in the market, especially counting the solutions emerging in the US, Baynham acknowledges tech investment decisions can be overwhelming. There are many tools, blogs, and other resources to guide advisors, he says, and advisors would do well to not jump feet-first into adopting any particular tech product.

“A lot of times, we meet with the teams and technology providers. We really focus on making sure we're getting a demo and imagining what it's like from both a client perspective and how it makes us a better practice,” he says. “If it doesn’t do both of those things, what’s the point?”

One pitfall many advisors fall into, Baynham says, is to adopt technology tools without checking if they stack up from a compliance standpoint. While some might be eager to get off the starting blocks and adopt a solution as quickly as possible, he encourages partnership with compliance staff at firms as an integral part of advisors’ tech plans.

“There are very popular CRMs in Canada that actually store private client data internationally. Compliance can be your friend when shopping with technology, because oftentimes they will do some research, and maybe look into the tool,” he says. “They know questions to ask to that you might not know.

“When I’m shopping around, I’d bring in my dealer’s compliance department to take a look. … In some cases, they’ll actually take it on, and share it with other advisors as well.”