Updated: Sep 20, 2020
Stephen Handley is on the show talking all things technology, from making sure you’re getting the most out of your existing tech to determining when you need to search for a new platform and how to go about doing that.
How the broader financial services industry is evolving in the wake of the Royal Commission
Embracing technology to improve the client experience and reduce client fees
The average number of clients per adviser in Australia
How to evaluate brand new tech platforms
A philosophy for determining and reviewing your technology needs
To review your business expenses for subscriptions you’re not using but still paying for
What features are beneficial for financial advisers to have in a CRM
How Fin365 has built a platform that can handle multiple currencies and creating statements on demand
About client’s expectations of financial advisers
Ways to highlight the value that advisers provide in client review meetings
How Fin365’s innovative software enables financial services businesses to deliver a better experience to more customers with greater efficiency
Stephen Handley, by his own admission, likes to try stuff. His diverse career has included stints at BHP, Texas Instruments and Microsoft, a couple of start-ups, the family financial planning business and even a beachside boutique hotel. He has degrees in electrical and music engineering and, prior to the arrival of 3 children, could frequently be found gigging at his favourite pub or fretting over his latest batch of wine. He is currently CEO, of Fin365 a fintech software solution that helps financial services professionals deliver better quality and more affordable advice to their clients.
Transcript provided for convenience and inclusion by AI. Minor typos or errors may exist.
Kate: Welcome to episode seven of the The Innovating Advice Show. I'm joined by Stephen Handley, whose diverse career has included stints at BHP, Texas instruments, Microsoft, a couple of startups, the family financial planning business, and even a beach side boutique hotel. He has degrees in electrical and music engineering, and is currently the CEO of fin365, a FinTech software solution that helps financial services professionals deliver better quality and more affordable advice to their clients. Stephen and I are talking all things technology from making sure you're getting the most out of your existing tech to determining when you need to search for a new platform and how to go about doing that.
Kate: Howdy Stephen!
Stephen: Howdy Kate. How are you?
Kate: I'm great. I'm great. You know, I always ask my guests how they like to say hello or good day in their local language. And even though you're in Australia, you chose howdy which I think really speaks to the eclectic career that you've had. You had a beach side boutique hotel. And did I understand you correctly that you also used to make your own wine?
Stephen: Yes. In my days in Seattle, when I, I had a little bit more time on my hands and access to good grapes, I had a stint of trying out some wine making.
Kate: Oh, I think that's something you should get back to. Especially being down in Australia, all the amazing wines and opportunity for wine making there.
Stephen: One day.
Kate: One day. let's take a look at the market in Australia and we chatted with Clayton Daniel of XY adviser on episode one. So we looked a bit at the financial advisor market, but Stephen, your platform caters more broadly to financial services professionals. So looking at that broader market, who would you say that encompasses and how many people are in it?
Stephen: The market we're looking at And I think Clayton may have touched on this. We're seeing a lot of movement in the financial services industry in Australia and, and some of the fallout of the Royal commission and other regulatory change has meant accountants have for a period of time, been able to provide some financial advice. Now they can not. We're seeing advisors joining with mortgage brokers and or accountants. general insurance brokers are starting to set up partnerships with life insurance brokers. So there's a lot of movement, and, and our platform, which is at its core is a data management CRM system is really the, the same challenges exist in all of these disciplines, which is why we were having conversations with them all and, and, and getting a pretty good perspective of how the financial services industry in general, and small to medium businesses within that industry are evolving.
Stephen: and so when we look at some of the numbers, it's, it's really around more, how is all of this impacting the consumer, and some of the statistics that I've just pulled up for this conversation. If you look at, at advisors in Australia today, the average charge for a statement of advice, a new piece of advice is $2,400 average ongoing fee that we charge in this industry for our clients is around $3,300. contrasting that with the fact that 75% of Australians expect financial advice to cost them less than $250. And I think that speaks to the disconnect between what it's currently possible for financial advice. And more broadly, the financial services industry is capable of delivering profitably and also what Australians expect. And then you look at stats like less than 40% of working Australians have life insurance, less than 20% have disability or income protection. And 48% of the population have unmet financial needs. And so, unfortunately the Australians who arguably need the most help with financial support, financial advice are those least likely to be able to afford it. Our platform is attempting to overcome that through better technology and better data management capabilities.
Kate: And so we, we chatted with Clayton about the statement of advice, and you touched on what consumers are paying versus what they are getting and what they're expecting to get. And I think one of the things I mentioned to Clayton was, you know, if I was a consumer and I paid say $2,400, and I got a 40, 60, 80 page document that sort of told me where I'm meant to be in the future, that isn't something that I would find valuable, but it's great to see the XY adviser community in Australia. I know there are a lot of others that are building practices that not only serve to give clients a framework for meeting their financial and life goals in the future, but are really helping them to implement that advice now, which is challenging. I know you still have to have the statement of advice in Australia, but when you look at what you're building with fin3 65, how would you say you are innovating advice?
Stephen: The term outcomes or goals is one that's now bandied around a lot. but I think it's probably the best way of summarizing the, the connection between financial advice and the future benefits it will provide. when I first came into the industry, and having been a software developer project manager, and not having any exposure to financial advice other than my own experience through the.com bubble, it was interesting when I sat down with a client and was presenting them with all these numbers to attempt to articulate why that mattered to them. I took quite a, project manager. I put a project management hat on and looked at it as a longterm journey that we would be taking together. and I journey, which would have changes along the way. It was always difficult for me to, to quickly and easily convert all the numbers, account balances, rates of return, contributions, insurance, premiums, et cetera.
Stephen: How do I convert all of those numbers into what it means for the client's outcomes And I'm pretty good at Excel, but it would take me hours and hours and hours of work to present that information in a way that was digestible through improved data management capabilities, through improved CRM, technology in general, we should, and we can get to a point where when you're sitting with the client and you have all that data at your disposal, you can automatically present it to them in a way that matters. And that helps them understand, even though the value might be down the track, it's showing them what the value will be over time. And that's the tool that has been lacking for advisors in my opinion. So it comes down to modeling in a way that the clients can digest. So that's what we're trying to do, but underneath all that, you have to have the data that feeds it. And the other thing that's been missing with technology is our data has been very distributed. So the advisors have some, the product providers have some, the banks have some, the insurance companies have some, it's always been hard to pull it all together because of the lack of integration and connections between all these systems that's changing, that's now going to become possible, centralizing that data, cleaning it up is going to then enable us to feed these more sophisticated applications.
Kate: Yeah, well, and one of the things that I always found, so when I started my practice, I was leveraging the heck out of technology. I am obsessed with efficiencies and having good data management, having a CRM is imperative to that process. And, you know, I was really sort of beating the drum, back then. And I guess I still am on the value of technology, allowing advisors to better help more clients. So when you were looking to build fin 36 5 and the why behind building it was that part of it, looking at the, you mentioned the cost that clients are paying for advice, was it leveraging technology and building something that would then allow financial advisors and different financial services professionals to be able to help more clients at a lower price point?
Stephen: Absolutely. So this, this was born out of my own advice business. So after all those other things you mentioned, right, right at the, at the top, I came back to Australia and joined my family's financial advice business. My father wanted a way to retire. Apparently I was his ticket to retirement. And like I said, I learned very quickly that it, it was difficult for me to present to the client, the data in a way they could understand which limited the number of clients I could see and meant I had to charge more. so when we ended up selling dad's business, he retired, I became redundant and had to start from scratch. I set up a new advice business, and we both dad's business. And the one I have now, we are in regional Victoria. So we're not in Melbourne, we're not in Sydney.
Stephen: Whereas many other advisors who are, have set up business models, trying to go towards the high net worth clients. That was, that was never part of our business plan because of the demographic that we were serving, and continue to serve. So, comparison to the $2,400 average statement of advice fee, our average is $1,200. We're about half the price across our client base, for me to stay in business, therefore operational efficiency was key. And so the two things that I knew I needed to build, or utilize technology for was a better experience. When the client sat down with me, showing them information in a way that made more sense, but doing that more efficiently. And if I could do those two things in tandem, then I would have a profitable business, but also have built a business that was playing in a space that less and less advisors were playing in, which means a bigger pool of clients for me to, to choose from. So there's absolute business objective there through better use of technology.
Kate: And that was a key word that you mentioned there in terms of profitability. When, when I started my practice and I was kind of sharing with the community of colleagues that I had, you know, saying, Hey, I was going to be leveraging technology. I was doing a monthly subscription. A lot of people were kind of saying, Oh, you know, going to be working with the lower end, you're going to have no profitability. You're essentially giving things away and you're never going to be successful, but, you know, that's not true. And I mean, I, I completely applaud the advisors that are working with the high net worth. They need advice, but you know, like other professions, we need people that work with all sorts of clients from those just starting out to the super high net worth and, and leveraging technology is a great way to do that.
Kate: And the fact that you can be profitable really is key. You know, there's still conversations going around where people say, Oh, well, you know, if I have 400 clients, then that's going to be, you know, an emotional and mental drain on the planner or advisor. And we need to take care of ourselves in order to be able to take care of our clients. So there's kind of that fine line there. And it sounds like you found that in terms of the price point that you can provide, which is lower than the average in your marketplace, you're hitting a demographic that isn't being reached otherwise, and you're leveraging technology to do it.
Stephen: Yeah. The, you, you touched on the number of advisors per client. I think in our industry, the average is 128 active clients per advisor. we're at about 350 households in our business. I'm no longer operating in the business. It's, it's my business partners, the one principal advisor, and he's managing that workload very much through the automation we've been able to achieve because of the sophisticated CRM that we've built, that we're now making available to others.
Kate: So let's, let's dive into the platform that you've built a little bit. And one of the things that I want to call out is the fact that you do have experience on both the advice side and the technology side, which isn't something we always see in those that are actually building out tech solutions. And I know you built this for your own internal purposes, which is something that we do see, and I love it when people are like, I have a problem I'm going to solve it. And then it becomes such a great solution that others want it. So you open it up and, and license it and sell it to other advisors. Cause we're all here helping each other and collaborating. But one of the things I want to touch on is the amount of people that, that I see and have seen for a number of years.
Kate: And it's not the majority, but it happens enough, that are sort of jumping on this FinTech bandwagon, seeing companies start and grow to in some cases unicorn valuations. And when I had my practice, I would, as much as I could reach out directly to the founder and CEO of any tech platform that I was looking to use, because I was concerned about what their intentions were in building it, were they just building this for the next three to five years. So they could sell it to the highest buyer who could be a large firm that just shuts the whole down.
Kate: Is that something that you see as well
Stephen: I'll probably answer that at, with, a higher level. So I see two things with technology. I see very much euphoria set in or enthusiasm set in, animal spirits maybe. and we saw it in the.com bubble. I was in a completely different part of the tech industry at that point. but all these tech companies are emerging because money was flowing into the system. There were real problems to solve that. Inevitably it leads to people coming in and saying, well, I've got a solution and putting their hand up to grab some of that, those dollars flowing in. we've seen that in Australia. Absolutely. There's I think KPMG put out, puts out a yearly report. The last one I looked at, it was about 576 fintechs in Australia alone. And our logo wasn't on there.
Stephen: So 577, if you include us, there are some there that I would absolutely say are not really solving the problem and have emerged as part of the enthusiasm that inevitably comes when money flows into a lot of money flows into a system. The other answer to that is, and I saw this a lot in the tech industry. There's somewhat of a psychological, and it's an engineer's problem. Engineers like to build things and engineers will tend to build before they look to buy. Maybe it gives them a sense of achievement. I never quite understood that because if a solution exists and it is profitable and it is being used by a wide number of customers. Then generally it's going to be cheaper to buy that system than it is to try and build the equivalent yourself. And one, and we've, we saw this in the advice industry.
Stephen: One of the limitations I've found with the legacy software systems that were available to my business at the time was they'd all try to build their own CRM. And that CRM was built to serve a few applications that were needed by advisers. That inevitably led to the situation where that CRM capabilities were limited and restricted. And yet there's systems like dynamics, Microsoft dynamics, Salesforce, Zoho, more platform capable, CRMs that are not built to be industry specific. So there are a lot more capable. They're just not customized or configured for a particular industry. So the combination of money flowing in there's there's money to be made, we'll always attract solutions that don't have problems to solve. And the fact that engineers like to build stuff, I think those two together, because we built this in our business, we were building it out of cashflow. So for a number of years, my business partner, and I didn't take home any profit other than our own salaries, it was more around, we were building it to create a possibility for our financial advice business.
Stephen: So we didn't have the luxury of lots of dollars. We needed to be intelligent about it. And rather than build a CRM, we just chose Microsoft dynamics for a variety of reasons that then inevitably led us to the point where we were very interesting to others because of all the investment Microsoft was making in their enterprise technologies. The fact that so many advisors use office three, six, five, and so not by design. We were never planning to ship this as a sift system. And in fact, it took us six months to tear it down and rebuild it from the ground up when we decided to do so. But because of some of those choices were now in a position where our customers look to us and say, well, how long will will fit three, six, five be around and my answer is, well, how long will Microsoft be around because a lot of what we're doing is really just adding financial service flavor over the top of their enterprise technologies.
Kate: And I definitely want to dive in to talking about CRMs. I think they're just so incredibly important for any business of any size, but before we do that, what advice would you give to advisors who are looking at technology I'm an, I love technology. I love seeing all the different fintechs and FP tax, financial planning, technology platforms that are coming out, but it's overwhelming. And I am no longer a practitioner. And thinking of those people that are, I mean, they're busy, they're taking care of their clients, they're working in the business. So when they're looking at technology, what advice would you give them Just sort of have the comfort that they would be selecting a technology that is going to be
Stephen: It's really good question. and it is overwhelming. And like I said, 576 fintechs. I have seen advisors who just continually turn on new stuff. They try it out, they pay for it. And they it's, you know, it's all subscription model now. So they forget to turn it off and they end up spending ridiculous amounts of money. If you look at the percentage of gross revenue, what they're spending, because they just think that if I turn on you, something's going to solve my problems. So I think just as a ballpark figure at my advice, business is spending about 4% of gross revenue on tech, including my own software. And I'm charging my advice, business, full price. So hardware and software 4% is what we're spending. If anyone wants a benchmark, my advice is don't start with choosing specific applications or specific products. Start with a philosophy.
Stephen: This is going to be a multiyear journey. You don't just turn on technology and all of a sudden it delivers value. And if you look at the reason that many file it's because the underlying data foundation that has to feed these applications is flawed. It's, it's messy, it's incomplete. So I've got a, and I'm happy if any listeners want is it's a picture of a generic tech stack and there's three elements to it. There's the data foundation. There's the connections to other systems that allow that data to flow back and forth. Then there's the application layer. The application layer will change over time today. I've got a great tool that gives me a client online. Fact-find tomorrow. There will be another one that comes along today. I like this piece of modeling software today. There's another piece of modeling software or document generation or client portal.
Stephen: That's what I call the application layer. And that will, that will shift. And you will want to be able to take advantage of newer offerings as they come along. If your data foundation is flawed, that application layer will never function to its maximum potential. So you've got to get that data foundation, right And that is a CRM. You need all your data clients, personal information, financial information, business activity, business revenue, all in the one spot. If you get that right, and that same system has the capability to connect to other parts of the ecosystem to other applications. Then you've set up for the longterm. From there, you start to look at what business problems do I need to solve. What are my highest priorities Are there applications out there that can solve them today and do those applications connect into my data foundation Or do they have the potential to connect in a period of time that I'm comfortable with
Stephen: If the answer to those two questions is yes, then you may consider them if the answer is no, there's nothing available or it's just not going to connect. And therefore I'm always going to have duplication of effort, then move on to the next business problem and solve it first, because this is not a three week is not even a six month journey. This is a, if you're starting now, this is a three year journey before you have everything ticking. And I know that because it took us that long in our own business to get this really humming well, before we released it to anyone else,
Kate: Oh, easily, three years. But the nice thing is three years does fly by. It doesn't feel like it in the moment. But for example, whenever I'm talking with advisors that are not yet paperless potentially, cause they've been around for decades. And the idea of going back and scanning everything is overwhelming. I mean, not a lot of people have the time or resources to do that. I always suggest start today because you're probably not looking back on paper records from 20 years ago. So if you start today three years from now, everything that you need will already be electronic and you'll be so glad that you did. So absolutely start with something. Now over time, it'll get easier and it'll just become kind of ingrained. And I wanted to touch on one thing that you said, because it kind of hit me. And I wonder if it hit any of the listeners too, in terms of having subscription platforms out there and things that you just pay for every month, you're right.
Kate: You turn them on. And really, we need to be thinking about our businesses the same way that we work with clients and thinking about their financial plan and my husband and I do this every three to six months, but we actually sit down and go through our credit cards and say, okay, what subscriptions do we have And do we still need them But it's easy. I think to forget that, to do that in your business as well, to just sit down and sort of have a quarterly semi-annual or annual review and go, what are we paying for technology Are we actually getting a return on that investment Is it helping us or do we need to look at another solution
Stephen: Yeah. And one of the challenges is time. The average, I think the average size of an advice business in Australia is five staff members. I'm not sure what it's like in the U S but that tends to equal one to two advisors and a few support staff. And if you're seeing your hundred and 50 clients per advisor, then you're not having a lot of time to worry about working on the business. And so we have seen this where we've gone in some of our smaller customers, six to 12 months down the track. They're frustrated because they're not getting value out of our system. That's not because the system is not capable of delivering value. It's it's because they haven't had the time to invest in that. What I've started to realize is there is a gap for businesses that size, if you're a 10 plus, maybe you have some, some resources within your business that can become your technology champion, your data champion, someone that's focused on.
Stephen: Am I getting value Is this business getting value out of it for the smaller businesses I feel like a virtual CTO role that businesses can tap into. And maybe it's a day a week or a couple of days a month where they come in review and take this burden, the technology strategy burden off the shoulders, or contribute in a way where these smaller businesses can actually get value out of tech. And I haven't seen a lot of it yet. It's starting to emerge in, in some other parts of, you know, say virtual CEO's and things like that over here. But that to me is something that I think there's a need out there and would probably help solve that problem because very few advisors in Australia at the moment have the time to be strategic in any way.
Kate: Absolutely. And there are so many different layers to technology, even from what's going on on your website, are you allowing clients to schedule through a scheduling software You know, so it's not even just the back office stuff. It can even be some of the front office technology. Like I said, there's just so much it can absolutely be overwhelming.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. The calendar. One's a good, good example. We get asked for that probably once a week and it's been sitting in office three, six, five as a solution for quite a while. Now that's quick and easy to turn on, but most people don't even know about it. And that's the tech world's fault. They keep moving too quickly and I don't spend enough time explaining what's possible with their current system.
Kate: So let's dive in and talk about CRM. Do you have data on sort of how many advisors or financial services professionals are actually using a CRM in their practice
Stephen: Oh, that depends on your definition of CRM in our space about 80% of the industry was split across three systems and they were all what I'll call vertical financial advice, specific systems with basic client data and tasking activity management capabilities.
Kate: Well, and that's a good point. Let's, let's even pause and kind of define CRM. So how would, how would you define CRM
Stephen: I define CRM more along the lines of what you get with a Salesforce or a Microsoft dynamics. It is a comprehensive data management, configurable and extensible data management system that is capable of storing all client or business data and all of the activity. And beyond that is capable of some pretty sophisticated automation that takes advantage of that data. And some simple examples once a month sends a birthday email to any clients or double-checks revenues for a client and, and matches that against service levels that you might have set in the system to say, if they're paying me $3,000, they're an a client. And that means these level of services. It's a lot more sophisticated than generally you will find in software systems that have been designed for a specific industry because they tend to start at the application layer and design their database and their CRM capabilities based on those applications. So that's probably a good way to differentiate.
Kate: Yeah. So you're talking about a really robust CRM that does everything. Whereas for example, in my practice with innovating advice, it's just me right now. And I just have a free overlay to Gmail, but it is a CRM. I have everything in there. Every email, every phone call I've got my calendar linked to it. People schedule meetings it's in there. I mean, it's the lifeblood of everything. And for example, even when I'm doing a podcast, interviews, people move through stages. So at any moment I could just get a quick glance. So even in small businesses, I think it's super important to have all of that data in one place, even if it's just at that level. And it's, I would say I see across all kinds of businesses inside and outside of financial services companies that don't have, even that base layer of CRM and it's running off of just emails and paper.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. That's, it's, that's a really good differentiation because you're right in a, in a business that only has one or two or three smaller businesses, the level of automation, the level of sophistication required is, is probably not as significant. Even if you could take advantage of it, the amount of data you need to get in there to make it possible, you probably don't have the time to do so. The level a system like a Salesforce, the value grows as the number of staff members grow. What I would say to the simplest systems is the intelligence that you derive from the data you have stored there. If your manually collating taking that, extracting that data out, putting in an Excel, trying to figure out how many households do we have as clients. When was the last time I saw each of my clients, what amount of revenue am I receiving her household versus the time I'm spending on them
Stephen: What is my cost to serve Which clients are profitable, which ones are not, that's all business intelligence that is probably could be generated from a simpler system, but a lot of those simpler systems, because they're not platforms, so to speak, they're more industry specific, potentially. They don't allow you that to easily get that out and, and efficiently generate that level of intelligence. And I think more and more advisors need that to be able to make good decisions, objective decisions, data driven decisions about what they should be doing in their business. Should I sell my C and D clients Should I get rid of them Because they, none of them are profitable. And if that's the case, either need to adjust my pro fee structure. I need to get more efficient or to stay in business. Unfortunately I need to get rid of them. Most advisors couldn't help make that decision objectively. They kind of have a gut instinct, but they're not using their CRM to give them that sort of feedback.
Kate: You've got a great quote from Peter Drucker on your website. If you can't measure it, you can't improve it. That's so key. I mean, like we were talking about with the different layers of applications that you can turn on. I mean, you could go out there and subscribe to 17 different platforms tomorrow that can do 35 different things. But if you're not bringing it all together in a way that you can actually measure, then what is your ultimate outcome
Stephen: Yeah, for me, that quote and also the book, the goal, and I read it long ago that it was very much demonstrated to me that any business product manufacturing service business, you have to treat it like a process. It is a process. And if you're not measuring and deriving feedback, then you're going to have bottlenecks. You're going not going to be as efficient as you can be. And another example, our average time to implement advice is 24 days at the moment, over the past 18 months. So from the time that you say, yes, I'm happy to proceed to the time that I finished changing your accounts and getting your insurance policies, et cetera, even in our business, it's 24 days. So I know the biggest bang for the buck with our software system is integration with investment platforms, integration with insurance companies to reduce that. And if I can do that, then I'm continually improving and working towards my goal of lowering the cost of the advice,
Kate: Which ultimately yeah, comes out to the client's benefit, which is, which is huge. And this isn't something that just exists or is sort of a challenge in Australia, it's throughout the world. And as you've been having conversations with advisors in the U S Europe elsewhere, what are you there in terms of trends and how advisors are leveraging CRM and data management,
Stephen: The consistent feedback and obey it I think, I think it's about 10% of our, our inquiries at the moment are coming from outside of Australia. The consistent feedback is that the applications available to the advice community are industry specific and therefore their, their data management capabilities are limited. And while they might have been adequate in the past with the regulatory change, UK has already gone through it based on what I'm seeing. Anyway, there's a bit of a push towards the Roia market in the U S as advisors decouple from the safety nets of the product providers and become more independent, become more holistic, want to deliver services beyond just investment. They might want to start bringing in insurance or lending. Now the sophistication of their, their systems needs to improve and the industry specific applications aren't capable of that. The other thing I'm seeing that is an interesting one, that's fairly recent is that some of the CRMs that are out there.
Stephen: So there's, you know, Salesforce is a very capable system, but based on price and perhaps the way that their, their partners are setting up, they seem to be targeting businesses of 10 20, the larger businesses. And so the smaller practices, the one and two advisors with a few support staff are struggling to find more capable systems in a price point that works for them. So those two things, I think there's, there's absolutely a demand. There seems to be a challenge at the moment we're serving that challenge in Australia and, all things going well. And with Microsoft support, we'll soon be offering it in other geographies as well.
Kate: That's part of your plan is to go global. And I know when we were talking before, one of the questions that I get asked a lot, and one of the challenges that exists all over is the increase in clients with assets in multiple countries and planners and advisors, trying to find software that can account for that and can handle doing a balanced statement on demand that factors in different currencies. And from my understanding using Microsoft dynamics, that's an option.
Stephen: Yeah. Another benefit of us not trying to build our own is Microsoft is a global platform and dynamics is a global platform it's cloud based so we can deploy it anywhere. And yes, it handles multicurrency. So on every client's account, you can choose a currency, you can have a conversion rate and then it will automatically figure out the difference or the, the local currency equivalent, so all possible. And, one thing that I, I agree is an increasing demand. Australia has been a country of experts for a long time. lots of advisors, some of our advisors, or we're talking to up in, in Singapore, serving Australians up there who have Singapore assets in Australia and assets, people from the UK coming, you know, where we often have to, advise our clients on UK pensions that are now living in Australia. And should they bring them out here or leave them in the UK So yeah, the world is, it is small now, and that is an increasing need.
Kate: And I think one of the challenges when advisors think about, okay, I need to find a CRM. We need to look at all the operational stuff. You know, we can probably find some efficiencies in our back office. I think one of the reasons that people might not jump at that and it keeps getting put on the back burner is that they don't always see the benefit to the client experience. So can you sort of talk us through, we've been talking a bit about the back office, operational efficiencies and sort of shifting to how does this actually impact the client experience.
Stephen: This is constantly talked about in Australia now that the client's expectations of a financial advisor, they are no longer just comparing us to other financial advisors. They are comparing us to the last interaction they had with Amazon or with Uber or with, with Airbnb, other industries that, that have already been disrupted and have evolved the client experience to give them more choice, more access, more quality at lower cost. So that's, that's how we're being assessed. And so when we look to then how better technology or how technology can improve that side of the business, some of it's simple things when, when the client comes in to see me historically, I'd pull out a paper fax fine, and I'd start writing down their names and dates of birth and emails, and we'd waste an hour or more doing that online fact-find directly into the CRM is a much more friendly experience.
Stephen: It can guide things like chat bot technology can be utilized to walk the client through asking intelligent questions based on answers to questions, go off into different directions and make that experience a more pleasant one. But also we don't have to charge for that. Now, the first time they come in and see us, we've got all the information we need to actually start having a conversation around objectives and goals. And are you on track or not So that's a very small example of a client experience, automated birthday texts or birthday emails. You'd be surprised how many advisors just love that feature. And they can go in design, a nice HTML email template, and it goes out to their clients. And it's personalized with just the first name, happy birthday. And it goes out on the, on the right day, as long as you put the birthday in the CRM, right.
Stephen: That's and who wouldn't, who wouldn't love that you brought up the online bookings, the Calendly, Microsoft bookings, it's coming up for review, you go in and choose a time that's convenient to you. That's all client experience stuff that is an all of those three and now easily possible. there's a lot of other things that over time, the review, the annual review cycle, generally advisors will say once a year, or once every six months, I would like to sit down with you. Now, there could be all sorts of things that have gone on in that client's world. Between the last time I saw them and this next review, if I'm monitoring their, their loan. And I see that their loan balance has come down faster than expected. Maybe they received an inheritance who knows if I'm actively monitoring my client's world, I'm seeing on Facebook, you know, they got engaged or whatever it might be, and that data is flowing into my CRM.
Stephen: Now I can reach out and say, congrats. So I just noticed that you've actually paid down your load loan faster than we anticipated. We should probably get you in here earlier than usual. And just see if we can apply some of those dollars in a more intelligent way. So the cost of that service actually reduces because it's automated, but the level of personalization is significantly greater than it's been six months since your last review, please go to our calendar and book the next time appropriate for you, which is still quite robotic, even though it's, it's better than it used to be.
Kate: It's leveraging technology in a way that actually increases the human touch. And I think that can be kind of a tricky thing for advisors to wrap their head around. But if you think about it from the client's point of view, getting that birthday card, I mean, I, I love getting birthday cards, even if it's from the dentist, you know, they've got it in there and you get a postcard in the mail and most like, Oh yeah, that's really nice. Absolutely. Yeah. Knowing that you're being thought about, even if your advisor didn't actually wake up that day and manually send it, it sort of goes back to the thought that counts. And I would say for advisors listening, one thing that I, and this is a personal preference, I guess, but I don't work with anyone that I can't schedule online. And that goes for a hairdresser, a massage therapist, my dentist, my doctor, my personal trainer. I mean, you name it. I have had various professionals in my life that I won't work with because I can't schedule online. I fly around the world. I'm traveling. Sometimes you think about it at nine o'clock at night when their office is closed. It's just too much of a hassle.
Stephen: Yeah. I'm, I'm the same. My wine is all purchased on what online now, you know, it's become like it's a little bit says to you. I need to jump onto that website. absolutely. I think, but the personalization side is key if we, if it's all online, but it becomes, you become a number financial advice at the end of the day is still, it's still a relationship game. there's trust, it's a trust building relationship and it is one that will go over time. Most many of those other, the hairdresser's transactional, your accountant's transactional. You go and you have a need, the need gets solved, personal trainer and the, and the financial advisors, perhaps a good analogy because it's a journey you're going to take. and you're building towards something and there's a discipline involved. And you're relying on that professional to keep you disciplined and to adjust the strategy as your situation evolves, as you become more flexible, let's up the exercise or whatever it might be. So I think that's the key is how can we leverage the technology and the data to maintain that level of personalization And the challenge that advisors have is the amount of data we need is so much broader than other industries. Uber doesn't need that much data to schedule you pick up. Amazon doesn't need that much data for you to purchase something and ship it to you advisors. They have it, absolutely advisors need a ridiculous amount of data to, to deliver that same level of, of service, but the technology now makes it possible.
Kate: And one of the other ways I've seen advisors really leverage that data management and having all the data well is in like an annual review with clients to sit down with them and kind of remind them what has happened over the last year, because everyone's busy. Everyone has 101 things going on and it can actually be good to just gently, you know, go over what the interactions were over the last year. You know, remind them of advice you put into place of how many times you've met of changes you made just to kind of jog their memory and have them go, Oh yeah. You know, there is a lot of value here even though time flies. And it can be easy to forget about it
Stephen: Also where you started and where you are now. and I used to do this in Excel, and now it's in our system. Once a client has been with you for three or four or five years, that is when the results of some of the strategic changes you've made and the disciplines you've put in place start to be realized. And if you can go back and say, look, when you came to us, you had $350,000, three years on we're up to 450,000. All of a sudden that value is now tangible. It's no longer a future forward-looking promise. So it's that same thing. but it, and it also encourages them to keep going as well.
Kate: Absolutely. So for the listeners out there, starting to think about technology, thinking about how they can better leverage technology in their practice, what would you hope that they take away from this and any action that they take in the next day, week or month
Stephen: It's the same as you would advise. Let's do the fact find first, what are the objectives and the outcomes What are the pain points What is not on track for you right now So you really do have to look at your business and understand your own processes and your own bottlenecks, et cetera. Once you've conducted that, fact-find, you've already got technology. I think 85% of Australian advisors who have moved to the cloud are using office three, six, five. And inevitably, when I asked they're using word Excel and outlook, and maybe some have started to explore teams or SharePoint, there is so much in a system like that, that you have at your disposal, you're already paying for. So have a look at what you've got and see whether or not it can be better utilized to help solve the pain points. Once you've gone through those two steps and you've got your strategy in place, okay, we do now need to make some improvements without overall technology stack or solution. Start with the foundation. The data layer is that adequately covered because that will feed everything else. From there. You start to look at product and if you get to that point and you can't find a good CRM, then you're more than welcome to give me a call and I'll have a chat.
Kate: Awesome. And I'll make sure we link to that tech stack graphic in the show notes. And for those advisors that do want to learn more about you and fin365, where can they find you
Stephen: So it's Australia. So fin365.com.edu. And you can fill out the Microsoft form, it'll feed a lead into our CRM automatically, and then I'll get an alert and you'll get a very efficient response. That part won't be automated. I'm still manually replying to everybody personalization,
Kate: Personalization. I love it. And I always end by asking, what is your favorite food or drink from your country And since we already went with howdy to start with, go ahead and tell us your favorite food or drink from your wife's country.
Stephen: It is Chile my wife is from, and having spent many, many months there and a good bottle of Carménère. Yeah.
Kate: And it's Friday afternoon in Australia right now. So it sounds like you're going to be up for a glass of wine as soon as we're wrapped up here,
Stephen: 110 degrees. I think the last time I stepped outside for all the U S listeners. So it will be a crisp white.