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Is This the Death of Paper?

Internet, robotics, and technology are changing advice practices forever, writes Xavier Zealand and Georgina Smith.
3 min read

When Justin Trudeau uttered the now-famous words, “The rate of change has never been faster and it will never be this slow again” at Davos in 2018, he captured in one sentence the disruption that is taking place across all industries throughout the world.

We are currently in the midst of the 3rd Industrial Revolution characterised by the Internet, robotics, 3D printing, and digital interaction. The rate at which we’re adapting to these new technologies has never been faster, regardless of whether we’re from Gen X or Gen Z. In fact, it took 75 years for telephone usage (a technology from the 2nd Industrial Revolution) to reach 50 million users. Compare that with the adoption of mobile phones which took 12 years to reach the 50 million user mark or Pokémon Go which reached 50 million users in just 19 days due to the digital network effect.

Source: The visual capitalist and Singularity University 

 Couple this ever-increasing speed of adoption with a black swan event like COVID-19 and it’s inevitable that a step change in digital remote working occurs. So, it leads us to address the question, where are the opportunities within a financial adviser’s office for getting rid of paper and going digital?

Your future clients 
The concept of a paperless society  like all things futuristic – is certainly attractive. More and more schools have opted to incorporate some sort of tech device in their day-to-day lessons and syllabus, and lockdown has certainly proven virtual learning is a viable option for some households  supporting a move away from paper. 

This level of adoption and access to digital does not necessarily apply equally to all households and a truly democratic move to a “paperless society” demands infrastructure that supports households of all incomes. 

As students adapt to a new way of learning, these potential entrepreneurs and captains of industry will likely be a financial adviser’s future clients. How will they prefer to interact with their future financial adviser? 

Opportunities in an adviser’s office 

Reports and analysis 
Clients are ever more comfortable with digitally reviewing their financial analysis, proposals and portfolios as it saves time and can be done at their own convenience. Information is available to clients at a press of a button and this reduces the need to sit face to face with an adviser. In addition, there are interesting opportunities to delight clients during their digital customer journey which may not exist with more traditional mechanisms. 

Connecting digitally
Adapting to an ever-changing environment is critical for an advisory practice, be it to the change in legislation or how they do business. Technology has made doing business easier and allows the adviser more time to be in contact with their clients  and on a more frequent basis, without the hassle and expenses of travel for either party.

With the advent of COVID-19, both advisers and their clients have had to adopt digital interaction tools such as Zoom, MS Teams, WhatsApp or Skype (or a combination!). Indeed, some industry commentators on behavioural change have said that COVID-19 has done in three months, what would have ordinarily taken several years. 

The burden of compliance 
The investment platforms in South Africa which have adapted to straight-through processing, eliminate the need for any paper when transacting with them. This along with digital and, in some cases, biometric signatures can enable the adviser’s processes to be more digital. A paperless process can increase efficiency and reduce the risk of fraud, and makes good environmental sense as well  and that makes business sense.

With the advent of COVID-19, we have seen a trend in adapting and adopting digital signatures, processes and storage. 

Traditional printed leaflets, Yellow Pages or newspaper ads are a thing of the past and Media24’s recent announcement of the closing or restructuring of seven of its print publications is testament to the idea.

Ironically, in this ever-increasing digital world, word of mouth has become more and more important. Most advisers we engage with have built an entire business around this philosophy and those who are still actively canvassing do so via platforms such as LinkedIn. 

So, what does the adviser of the future look like? 
She is fully digital. She engages with clients across the world from the comfort of her home or office via digital tools. She goes the extra mile to ensure that the human element is present and that individual care and attention is given to each of her clients to make them feel special. This might consist of bespoke portfolio analyses recorded in advance for clients to digest prior to digitally engaging, or carefully crafted ad hoc communications that put her client at the centre of what she does. She uses LinkedIn to enhance her digital presence and attract new clients. 

She does business with service providers who enhance and support her philosophy around her digital workplace with functionality such as real straight-through processing, minimising friction for both her and her client. 

Finally, she uses digital storage and in-house processes which enable her and her staff to work compliantly, efficiently and remotely. 

Sound familiar? This was first publish in the August edition of FAnews