Which aspects of technology are particularly helpful to a financial planning business? Gretchen Betts, Managing Director at Magenta Financial Planning, tells us what works well for the firm’s business
A few months ago I was doing an interview and was asked the question “how has our financial planning profession changed over the past decade?” My answer was that, in many ways the profession is much the same, but equally, it has changed significantly too.
The name of the game
The expert planning and advice that clients require from us remains the same. At the heart of financial planning, we are used to hearing questions like:
“Do I have enough money?”
“When can I retire?”
“How can I maximise the amount I pass on to my children after my death?”
It is questions like these which form the real basis of the planning relationship. Whilst rules and regulations change constantly, as professionals, we must keep abreast and up to date with a huge amount of detail. That’s not new either of course. We have always had to do that to make sure we maintain and build our competence and remain at the top of our game in order to ensure that our clients get the best possible help and advice for their particular circumstances.
The tech effect
The area where I believe our profession has seen the most change is in the use of technology. In my view, that’s happened for three reasons:
- Our clients now have access to technology in their own homes. The increased use of smart phones, tablets coupled with superfast broadband and the price of gadgets reducing means these things are normal in almost every client home. The power this gives should not be overlooked by financial planners.
- Adviser and planner businesses have looked to streamline business processes, adopting new systems and using technology more effectively to provide a better client service and boost profits at the same time.
- Product and service providers love developing better, smarter and sleeker systems and tech to help us. They have risen to the challenges posed by changing pension rules, new legislation and the heightened awareness by clients to want to focus on lifestyle, happiness and security (over product-only selling).
At Magenta, there are three key areas where we use technology to make our client experience better and our business more efficient. Each of these falls into the above three drivers and I shall outline them here:
Whilst we’ve historically had Skype and Facetime calls with clients in the past, it’s not always been of high quality or interactive
1. Secure online client portal
We have a secure online client portal which allows a client to log in from anywhere in order to access their information and personal details via their mobile phone, computer or tablet. We are using it daily and it helps us to speed up process flow, improve security and it saves on postage too.
Broadly, the portal system works as shown above. For example, before holding an annual planning meeting with a client, we will upload the figures from last year’s lifetime cashflow and our client’s latest investment valuation, together with any other relevant information. The client can then review this information, updating their details where necessary and re-upload them to us. After the meeting, the client can then see their updated lifetime cashflow forecast, our latest recommendations and the relevant appendices. They are also able to authorise us to implement our recommendations via the portal rather than using the post.
Of course, not every client wants to use the system and we have some issues, but generally its working well. Our administrator is our “Docsafe champion” and I think you need one person in your team dedicated to it for it to be a success.
The benefits for us and the clients include a faster and more efficient way to send important information to each other, allowing access instantly to documents and a highly secure way of transferring client data – this has helped when reviewing our GDPR responsibilities.
Whilst we’ve historically had Skype and Facetime calls with clients in the past, it’s not always been of high quality or interactive.
The technology which Zoom can offer has improved this significantly. Using this system means you can share screens, showing clients their cashflow forecast live as if you were with them face to face and even record the meeting.
We use it for client meetings, professional group calls and to speak to one another if we are working remotely too. I can’t praise it enough.
3. Advances in cashflow modelling tools
At Magenta we provide a lifetime cashflow forecast for every client. It’s at the heart of everything we do. This technology, whilst it’s not ‘new’, has moved on so much in the last five years and is constantly evolving. The difference which it makes to a client’s experience and understanding of their current financial position and future lifestyle is quite amazing. To any adviser reading this and who hasn’t yet made the transition to cashflow modelling, I’d strongly recommend you doing so.
When reviewing the different systems which are available, we wanted one which offered the highest levels of experience, technology and accuracy – not just what may look prettiest or what is the cheapest. Every financial year, UK legislation becomes more complex and the software we use must be able to deal with changes to the latest tax and pension rules. We use Prestwood (also known as Truth) because their commitment to keeping up with changing rules and modernising their software helps us immensely on a daily basis.
One of the latest technology improvements we’ve been able to use is a calculator to establish the level of sustainable income from a client’s pension. This is vitally important when forecasting how a client may take benefits in retirement, under new flexible pension rules. The calculator shows you what can be withdrawn, and allows you to adjust the assumptions there and then – with no guess work!
The software is also able to support questions about a client’s pension each tax year. Being able to gather all the information about earnings, contributions, fund values, withdrawals and crystallisations in one place, instantly, and to establish for us how much more a client could fund into their pension, without breaking any rules.
It combines adjusted and threshold income, annual allowance, money purchase annual allowance, lifetime allowance and any transitional rules the government threw in! It can then show the client, live in a meeting, the effect on their lifetime cashflow and future life, if they maxed out their contributions. The ability to overlay before and after scenarios is fast and empowers the client to be able to make informed decisions there and then.
We’ve also seen a focus on the cashflow software trying to be able to mirror the conversations we have with clients, especially around objectives and lifestyle. We can now record and prioritise client objectives, be this about spending, saving or lifestyle objectives (nonfinancial), which can then be added to a time line in the software. It looks great and is a helpful interactive tool to use with clients helping us to engage with them at a deeper level.
In conclusion, at Magenta, we strive to adopt technology to make our service better and clients happier. However, our primary focus is on the fact that people buy people. Always at the forefront of our minds is the need to maintain a highly personal service and, more importantly, remembering that we like talking to and meeting people!
About Gretchen Betts
Managing Director – Magenta
Gretchen is a Certified Financial Planner CFPCM, Chartered Wealth Manager and Managing Director at Magenta Financial Planning – an award winning, specialist Financial Planning company based in South Wales that helps its clients build plans for future security and happiness. Co-founder of Magenta in 2016 with her business partner, Julie Lord, the business has won multiple awards. These include ‘Start-up Company of the year 2017’ from the Bridgend Business Forum, Professional Adviser’s ‘Financial Adviser of the year 2017 (Wales)’ and ‘Accredited Firm of the year 2017’ from the CISI. She is passionate about working closely with clients to understand what they really want from life and to create and implement aLifetime Financial Plan to help them achieve their dreams. Gretchen is chairman of the South Wales branch of the CISI and passionate about encouraging more women to consider financial planning as a career.