Advisors: The Choice Is to Evolve With the Rest of the World or Become Irrelevant

Old folk don’t take on new tech, right?

There is a seemingly continuous lament about the ageing of the financial advisory business and it is certainly true when you look back at photo’s after a conference that there does appear to be an exceptionally high proportion of grey-haired middle-aged men. It is also held that because of this ageing that there is a resistance to new technology and new ways of doing things, most noticeably when it comes to using new marketing methods, such as social media.

Yet these arguments about the aged advisers inability to handle new ways doesn’t seem to quite fit with those same advisers being amongst the earliest adopters of the newest smartphones, tablets and home entertainment technology. It doesn’t seem to slow down their use of new software systems, shifts to online services and purchasing, or ways of sourcing information either. In my experience they tend to be remarkably open to finding new ways to manage and handle their business resources and systems, and are open to new ways of structuring and managing staff and human resources issues.

So who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a grey-haired adviser in the last month or so who is embracing entirely new ways of marketing himself and his business. And he doesn’t have to really. He has a well-established financial planning business with 20+ years of success, and a host of happy clients. His systems and support are good; his costs kept well under control; and the revenue very healthy. It is a good business, and one which would be very easy to ride luxuriously into retirement. In other words, he is like many many other advisers in the industry at present: life is relatively comfortable really.

Therein lies the real challenge to innovation in the financial services industry: Life is actually quite comfortable for many incumbents. Too comfortable actually.

It is not my intent however to have a rant about salaries and perks of too many institutional managers, or challenge the remuneration systems of advisers. Tempting…but it serves no useful purpose really. What is useful for many advisers to understand is that their ability to take advantage of new business or marketing methods such as social media comes down to one simple, and age old, criteria: the individual advisers attitude.

It is the attitude to change…the desire to be different and to create new ways of doing things and to meet new people and to have different experiences….“the desire for something different” which separates the old dogs and the young ones. All progress in society begins with someone’s dissatisfaction with the status quo, and it is the same for advisers running their own businesses.

Progress begins with dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Many advisers are comfortable and fervently wish for the status quo to remain exactly that: they want the existing conditions to remain as they are. They will be the practices which are most challenged by new advice systems and distribution methods, because the rest of the world doesn’t stand still. It is continually evolving. The choice is to evolve with or ahead of it, or become irrelevant.

So here is the tip for incumbent advisers who want to grow, but have found themselves well settled into a pattern of doing business which is largely unchanged for some years: shake it up. Do some different things. Learn some new tricks.

The planner I’ve been working with recently doesn’t really care in his heart of hearts whether he gets half a dozen new clients from using social media or not. That would be nice, and it is certainly the measurable outcome for him, but it isn’t really the thing driving the shift. He knows that he is stagnating a little and beginning to hit the plateau, and a fresh injection of enthusiasm and zest needs to come into the practice. Adopting social into their marketing mix is simply a way of learning something new and feeling enthusiastic and energised, and it has already worked. It makes them look at a whole heap of other areas inside their business differently, and that leads to innovation inside the practice. Standard communications and advice templates and processes are suddenly up for a re-think, as is the entire advice delivery model.

Trying something new – learning some new tricks – leads to innovation and evolution. That leads to growth. And it all begins with the advisers attitude and desire to shake themselves out of the comfort zone.