'Financial planning is not a spectator sport'

IG Wealth Management rolls out platform to create engaging financial-planning experience for clients and advisors

'Financial planning is not a spectator sport'

Whether it’s due to the COVID-19 pandemic or the culmination of a longer multi-year trend, the consensus among Canadians is clear: when it comes to financial planning, providing a digital experience is key. And IG Wealth Management has been on a mission to make that happen.

In a general population survey of approximately 1,500 adult Canadians taken from February 17 to 19, Pollara found 59% of those receiving financial advice today are looking for a more digital experience with their advisor, and 62% say there’s room to improve the digital services they’re receiving. Among those that don’t work with an advisor, more than half said they’re more likely to work with one that provides financial advice in a clear and visually compelling way, as well as quickly offer up different personal finance scenarios.

“Canadians want the same type of digital experiences from their advisor that they’re used to having in other parts of their life,” said IG Wealth Management President and CEO Damon Murchison in a statement announcing the survey findings today. “That’s why we made the decision a few years ago, through our parent company IGM Financial, to embark on an ambitious digital transformation journey.”

That journey hit a significant milestone in May last year, when the firm officially inked a partnership with Conquest Planning, a technology firm that provides a modern, accurate, and responsive financial planning software solution. After a four-month integration process, IG Wealth Management launched the platform in the fall to its advisors, who started building real plans for Canadians on it late last year.

“We’d been using the same financial-planning software for the past 20 years,” said Brent Allen, senior vice president, Financial Services Distribution, in a conversation with Wealth Professional. “It isn’t easy to shed the status quo, but we wanted to have an engaging, digital, and modern experience for both the advisor and the client.”

To ease its advisors into the platform, the firm established a training program that was rolled out during a National Education Day where 3,300 advisors worked on case studies using the Conquest Planning software for three hours. “We saw that 94% of participants were engaged from start to end, which is almost unheard of for a three-hour online seminar,” Allen said.

Aside from that, IG Wealth Management created a 10-module training plan of videos and exercises, with each module designed to take approximately 15 minutes. Advisors within IG’s technology ecosystem are also equipped with a tool called WalkMe, which is essentially a GPS navigation tool: users input what they want to do, and the tool walks them through the process in real time, step by step.

“Even if an advisor has never made a plan or executed a trade on our system before, we’ve made it so they can do it on their first day,” Allen said.

One major breakthrough from the IG-Conquest Planning software is its ability to provide the firm’s patent-pending IG Living Plan Assessments in a digitally interactive environment. Similar to a credit score, the assessments provide an objective measure of a client’s financial well-being based on six different planning dimensions and how they affect each other. By scoring the different elements of preparedness based on their personal situation and objectives, advisors can let clients see their progress over time, as well as provide advice on specific steps they should take to boost their financial well-being.

It’s not just the advisors who can use the platform. As Allen explained, clients can access it online to see their overall score as well as the six dimensions of financial planning. From there, they can click through to a client portal that shows their overall financial plan; they have the same view as their advisor, and have the ability to manipulate or update some of the variables as well.

“Financial planning is not a spectator sport,” Allen said. “We need people to be involved, and this is a great way for us to connect with our clients as we continue to work and interact remotely today.”

Beyond helping clients map out their financial plans, the IG-Conquest Planning software helps advisors consider the what-ifs that can come their clients’ way. From an insurance-planning perspective, it looks at the client’s current situation and where they want to be, from which it generates a baseline recommendation on the appropriate amount of life, disability, or critical illness insurance they may need. Beyond that, it also lets advisors stress-test plans by showing the impact of different scenarios – higher-than-expected inflation, shortfalls in investment returns, and longevity risk, for example – as well as solutions to close the gap in case the worst happens.

Right now, the platform is gaining significant momentum across the IG Wealth Management network of advisors. Based on the number of plans generated on the platform on a daily basis, including alternative plans and those shared with clients, Allen said uptake has exceeded the firm’s expectations from when they were first starting out.

“The industry is certainly changing, and we’re looking forward to serving Canadians as best we can. That means being digital and accessible, everywhere they are,” Allen said. “We’re committed to continuing to evolve and grow as Canadians’ lives get smarter with technology, and we’ll be there to support them every step of the way.”