How tech can improve financial wellbeing

What is the future role of financial advisers in the pension sector? And how are they using technology to improve clients’ financial wellbeing?

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, many financial advisers have woken up to the benefits of embracing new technology and how it can improve a clients’ experience and enhance their financial wellbeing.

Over the past six months there has already been a substantial change in the way financial advice is delivered with meetings held via Zoom and digital signatures becoming widely accepted.

Technology also shifts the value of the financial adviser, not solely focusing on products but on the holistic financial planning they are offering, says Gemma Harle, managing director of Quilter’s advice business. “The value of a financial adviser will increasingly be in the advice they give and not the products based on that advice,” she says.

Those embracing tech to carry out number-crunching, admin tasks can free up more time to do what their clients value

Providing retirement support and advice

Derrick Dunne, chief executive of Beaufort Financial, says that over the next two years more financial advisers will be investing in technology to better serve their clients. “Technology and investment platforms will complement the wider investment plan, helping the adviser execute and deliver for the client,” he says.

For many people, the last six months have been challenging mentally, physically and financially. Personal finances have become a source of anxiety and life has often felt out of control. 

“A key thing for all of us when thinking about our financial health is that we have to be honest and realistic,” says Heidi Allan, senior financial wellbeing consultant at LCP. “Seeking guidance, support and advice can be critical in enabling us to feel in control of our financial health.”

Financial wellbeing should not be looked at in isolation and should include physical, mental and social aspects of our lives, says Jason Green, head of workplace research at FTRC and Benefits Guru.

“Advisers who are embracing technology to carry out all the number-crunching and admin tasks can free up more time to do what their clients value, that is looking after them properly and giving a more personal service,” he says.

The emerging role of technology in financial advice

There has been a growth in robo-advice, which is the use of technology to recommend asset allocation at a lower cost than traditional financial advice.

Green says a small number of highly sophisticated automated advice systems are beginning to emerge that are likely to play a major role in delivering retirement planning to consumers with modest personal assets.

“Within the next few years, it should be possible for consumers to access comprehensive retirement advice, exploring and contrasting the options,” he says. This could revolutionise financial advice, making complex advice available for as little as a few hundred pounds, compared to a possible fee of ten times that level for a human service.

The importance of the human touch in financial wellbeing

However, when it comes to tax and retirement planning, a more personal touch still has a place, particularly for older customers with substantial assets.

“With the continuous rise of technological solutions and robo-advice, the pension space is definitely shifting,” says Chris Ball, managing partner at Hoxton Capital Management. “However, the generation that is currently coming into retirement might still value the advice of a financial adviser and will not completely trust algorithms and computers.”

The use of investment platforms and model investment portfolios, as well as the shift to virtual client meetings, has increased the amount of time advisers spend speaking with and advising clients.

“For them, this is where our true value lies,” says Leigh Philpot, head of wealth at Kingswood. “We have all embraced it to different extents and we all have further to go.”

A combination of human advice and powerful technology could be the key to delivering the best long-term outcomes, says Colin Dyer, head of proposition and private client management at 1825, the financial planning arm of Standard Life.

“What technology can’t do is provide the personal touch and marry life goals with attitude to risk, the investment strategy, tax efficiencies, like making the most of lifetime and annual pension allowance, and ultimately agreeing the desired target income,” he says.

A hybrid model for financial advice

The adviser of the future might therefore harness the best of technology with the understanding of a client’s personal and financial circumstances.

“Pension advice has traditionally been a face-to-face interaction that might cost 2 per cent of your pension each year,” says Chris Rudden, investment consulting manager at Moneyfarm. “Now it can be done quickly, easily and accurately from a phone or computer.”

As factors in your life change, you simply update the app. This brings the costs down hugely. “More often than not, there is a team of advisers on the other end of the phone or computer that they can speak to,” he says, predicting a hybrid model is key to the future of the industry.

True financial wellbeing comes from understanding the client and their needs, and helping them to live happy and fulfilling lives through creating well-thought-out financial plans, says David MacDonald, founder of The Path, a financial advisory firm with an emphasis on ethical investment.

“Robo-advice will become more accurate and sophisticated as time goes on,” he says. “However, there is a long way to go before robo-advice can cope with complex moral and ethical dilemmas and ‘soft’ counselling.”

Top tips for financial wellness from the experts

“Pay yourself first; set up a monthly standing order to a savings account that leaves your current account on payday. Spend some time thinking about how money presented itself in your early life. Think about the things that make you truly happy and spend your money on those things.”- Jeannie Boyle, director and chartered financial planner, EQ Investors

“The earlier you start a pension the better, no matter how small the contributions might be in the early years. If your employer offers a workplace scheme, ensure you enrol as it will be low cost. Look at your level of contributions and whether that level is sufficient to fund your retirement.” - Anna Murdock, head of wealth planning, JM Finn

“Invest in yourself, in terms of your health, your skillset and your qualifications. Educate yourself so you understand your finances; this will help you connect emotionally with your financial goals. Establish more than one income stream and be creative about how you earn your money.”- Jamie Smith, financial adviser, Foster Denovo