Without a doubt, technology has benefitted the wealth management industry.
Two decades ago, A.I. was a blockbuster Spielberg film – now it’s a reality that sits on an advisor’s desk, enabling compliance, client communications, portfolio management and countless other tasks.
But can advisor support technology have a downside? Yes – When technology moves so fast that even those in wealthtech struggle to keep pace.
For your average advisor, staying current with technology these days can be like drinking from the proverbial firehose.
It’s becoming a major industry conundrum: On the one hand, tech tools that maximize productivity for financial advisors are increasingly necessary for independent wealth management firms that want to stay as competitive as possible.
But on the other hand, such digital resources only work if financial advisors don’t feel intimidated by their complexities and get enough hands-on guidance from their firms to actually use these solutions regularly.
It’s Not Just Mega-Firms
Independent wealth management firms are taking action to address this need by investing more heavily in technology learning centers that break down how financial advisors can access all the various digital tools they offer.
And this isn’t just on offer from the usual mega-sized enterprises like LPL Financial, HighTower, Dynasty Financial Partners, Cetera Financial Group and Advisor Group. Mid-sized firms are upping their game in this arena as well.
Take, for example, Chicago-based LaSalle St., which recently announced the launch of its Technology Learning Center, designed to educate affiliated advisors and professionals about technology platforms. The firm has over $12 billion in assets and supports 300 financial advisors across its broker-dealer, corporate RIA and insurance solutions platforms.
LaSalle’s Senior Vice President of Business Development, Mark Contey, said, “We understand how daunting and time-consuming it can be for advisors to identify, integrate and learn how to use the right technology solutions for their businesses.”
LaSalle’s Technology Learning Center will include live webinars, podcasts, written materials and recorded videos that will, according to Contey, “help our advisors explore what is available to them stay up to speed on advancing technologies and determine how it can help grow their business.”
Success Drivers for Advisor Learning Platforms
But for firms below the mega-enterprise bracket, each dollar spent on a technology learning center is a dollar allocated away from other resources, which means makes it all the more imperative to structure things correctly from the outset.
And it starts with careful curation of information.
According to Emily Wilcox, COO of Practifi, the workflow automation solutions provider, “Presenting learners with a wall of words and then quizzing them on the content is not engaging and is not going to set them up for success.”
Instead, the first key to success is “creating engaging and interactive content.”
Wilcox emphasizes that efforts should include but go beyond ensuring that educational content is informative, interactive and visually pleasing.
Afterwards, a firm cannot “set and forget” the learning content, which must be constantly updated to keep users engaged.
Dr. Sindhu Joseph, Co-Founder and CEO of CogniCor, which creates AI solutions for wealth management firms, emphasizes “continuous learning, as opposed to training as a one-off activity when an advisor joins the firm.” To enable continuous learning, Joseph suggests integrating learning solutions into the advisor’s desktop.
Joseph also suggests gamifying the learning system and rewarding the learner as their knowledge level increases, noting that these methods increase user adoption.
Finally, Joseph states that the learning platform should present data so that managers can analyze it. “This data should provide meaningful insights so that they can make decisions.”
Even if a company incorporates all the above advice, hidden traps can impair the efficiency or effectiveness of learning systems, unnecessarily consume resources or limit the system’s capabilities.
Joseph warns of ways that a well-intentioned learning system can fail to educate advisors and staff properly, including assuming that training belongs to only one department or purchasing solutions that lack awareness or are general in nature rather than wealth management specific.
Educational systems not tailored for the industry “would mean longer roll out time and that the content would have to be developed from scratch and would miss out of industry standardization,” according to Joseph, and unaware solutions, which lack artificial intelligence and knowledge graphs, could not scale with increased content complexity.
Automation Raises Learning to the Next Level
What role can automation play in educational systems?
According to Wilcox, automation can benefit both learners and management. Automation’s role for learners “is through feeding and reminding learners of what to do and what is coming up.”
For management, automation feeds data “into reporting to enable good insights and predictions into how learners are participating and performing to help inform the most valuable way to present materials to them.”
Joseph notes that when combined with artificial intelligence automation enables knowledge delivery at the point of engagement, for example, delivering responses to an advisor’s questions directly rather than the inefficient traditional method of asking a supervisor.
In addition, automation “extends the power of learning platforms” by enabling learning tasks such as quizzes and customer scenario walkthroughs, as well as rapid scaling of learning systems and delivery across multiple formats and devices on demand.
LaSalle St. sets lofty goals for its educational platform. Contey said his firm’s Technology Learning Center aims to “drive meaningful growth to [each affiliated advisor’s] business and ours, enabling LaSalle St. reps and advisors to continue to deliver superior service and results to their clients.”
In other words, at the end of the day, education is about nothing less than growth and service.
With an awareness of the success drivers and pitfalls, more firms can provide effective learning support to advisors and staff in navigating the increasingly complex landscape of digital tools that are out there today.
Julius Buchanan, Managing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at email@example.com