The events of 2020 drove innovation at a scale and speed we have never seen before.
Agile firms and advisers seized the opportunity to adapt their business models and ways of working, understanding that this is vital in maintaining high standards of service and support for their clients. The pace with which many businesses had been embracing and embedding technology into their models up until this year suddenly accelerated. For those who had been talking the tech talk, it was now time to walk the walk.
Many businesses won’t be returning to the practices of old. New modes of operation like remote working and virtual client meetings will continue post-pandemic, among other innovations in the way we connect with our clients and colleagues.
At Progeny, we were already on the path to greater adoption of technology, but 2020 gave us the opportunity to accelerate this process and truly explore the possibilities it offers. Our technology team grew from one person at the start of 2020 to nine people today, and by the end of 2021 it will have doubled again. We’re aiming to create change that propels us and the professional services industry into the future, creating an outstanding client experience in the process.
We’re starting with the foundations, recognising that in order to create significant change, we have to go back to first principles and work forward from there. Behind the scenes, we’re starting to rebuild the infrastructure of Progeny, establishing firm foundations for the next decade and beyond.
Outstanding client experience
Progeny’s unique business model, which brings together independent financial planning, investment management, tax services, HR and legal counsel, is designed to provide the client with the best possible experience – one that meets their needs and exceeds their expectations. Our technology is an increasingly important instrument in achieving this.
To deliver a combined set of services enriched by technology, the technology itself must be designed to facilitate that unique combination. This means that often we will need to tailor the technology we use, or even build our own, to match the needs of our clients. Our unique model creates a unique set of challenges for our technology team to solve – and that’s what makes it exciting.
Our vision is to blend tradition and technology to enrich the relationship between clients and their advisers. The technology we use will supplement these relationships, not replace them. For example, this could mean providing a communication platform to enable real-time collaboration on documents or helping us to capture key facts about the client. Or it could allow us to schedule meetings more quickly and efficiently between a client and a number of their advisers, effortlessly doing the tricky job of juggling diaries. Most importantly, it will allow the client to engage with us in the way that suits them – whether that be digitally or otherwise.
Driven by data
Much of how we improve the client experience is driven by data. Data is the foundation stone of digital transformation and is hugely important to any client-facing business. It can sound scary, but when we talk about data, we’re not talking about the mass collection of ‘Big Brother’-style information. We’re talking about how we treat the sensitive information clients share with their advisers, how we handle it with respect and how we use it to enhance the services that we provide. It’s a huge responsibility, and one we take very seriously.
Harnessed correctly and used responsibly, data can help us anticipate client needs more effectively. This is somewhere we can add significant value, particularly in a business that brings financial, legal, tax advice services together under one roof.
Also, at an organisational level, aggregated data can allow us to gather insight which we can use to improve the business as a whole, with the confidence that comes with making decisions driven by data. For example, our data might give us insight into how our business is performing and where we are delivering most value to clients, so that we can build a firm that is here to serve those clients for decades to come.
Efficiency and automation
Clients pay us to provide a service and trust us to be efficient, delivering the most value possible from the fees they pay us. Technology can help us to identify and create these efficiencies, which in turn helps us to deliver a better service to clients without increasing costs. For example, because technology acts instantaneously, we can reduce turnaround times by automating certain manual tasks in the process leading up to a client meeting – delivering the same service to the client, faster and more efficiently.
Like data, automation can be a frightening concept in some contexts but our goal in employing automation is not to use it as a tool to reduce headcount or replace human tasks with technology. If it is employed with intelligence and insight, automation can add value by releasing our highly skilled people from time-consuming and monotonous manual tasks. Not only does this help eliminate human error from repetitive work, it crucially allows us to free up our team members to concentrate on higher-value work using their creativity and critical thinking, ultimately delivering more value and a better experience for clients.
In the past year we have seen a burst of innovation and adaptation, powered by technology. Whether this pace of change is maintained in the industry as the world returns to more normal rhythms remains to be seen.
We have an opportunity now to take forward these positive changes, leave behind the practices that weren’t working well and create better professional advice services for our clients. The ability to truly adapt to client preferences and engage in a way that suits them will be game-changing for our industry.
The future will be a hybrid model which combines the people-focused strengths of traditional advice with the innovation and scope of digital, helping us to forge deeper relationships and democratise advice, reaching more clients than ever before.
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Great article Tim. Totally agree with what you have said. Modern systems, optimised around your business model offer lots of opportunity to consolidate data into a single truth and leverage it to return far greater value to clients than current legacy systems are able to support.