When Ottawa financial advisor Steve Barban sees clients in their homes or offices, he can flip out his tablet, quickly view and report on any of their accounts, conduct research on an investment opportunity, and complete a transaction.
Having instant access to a wealth of financial information allows for more fruitful conversations, says Mr. Barban, Senior Financial Advisor at Gentry Capital/ Manulife Securities Incorporated.
Technology helps forge a stronger relationship between financial advisors and clients, he says.
In Mr. Barban's early days in the investment business in the late 1980s, the 45 brokers in his office shared a single computer. He was forbidden to use a fax machine, because the company did not understand the legalities of accepting material by fax, he recalls.
Now, with wireless Internet access everywhere he goes, Mr. Barban can retrieve any client portfolios he needs from head office servers. If clients are interested in a particular stock, he can find information on the company and do an immediate comparison with alternative investments.
When clients wonder how different amounts of contributions could grow, Mr. Barban can also use online calculators to plug in a time horizon and an assumed rate of return, and run different forecasts. "So I have an instant tool for analysis," he says.
The use of all of the technology is making client meetings far more productive, Mr. Barban says. "You get information that you can apply in the discussion and put right into the client's plan."
A client's queries can be addressed with the technology at hand. The advisor doesn't need to go back to the office to figure things out. A complete and immediate conversation between client and advisor becomes possible.
His tablet has software that enables trades and other transactions, and he has the same functions on his smart phone.
Technology draws him closer to clients in other ways, Mr. Barban says. Take something as basic as the delivery of statements. "I had some clients who, when I went to their homes, handed me a shopping bag with maybe 50 envelopes of statements unopened."
Every account creates its own statement, which has to be mailed separately. Today, people can choose to receive statements electronically instead of by regular mail, reducing a paper burden – and perhaps, says Mr. Barban, changing how people engage in their financial affairs.
In his experience, people are more likely to open e-statements than an envelope. Beyond keeping better track of their investments, clients can click on a contact button and send a query to their advisor immediately.
Yes, with paper statements people could always make a mental note when something struck them – such as calling their financial advisor after the weekend to discuss returns. But life gets in the way, and that follow-up wouldn't always happen, Mr. Barban says.
Having a contact point right when people are reviewing statements, he says, increases the chances that clients will reach out to their advisor. He notes that clients have the same contact option when viewing their accounts online, information that is updated daily (holdings, balances and transactions).
Later this year, with his clients permission, Mr. Barban will gain the technical ability to see if clients have actually opened their e-statements. If they haven't over a certain period (six months, for example), it would trigger him to possibly initiate a call or meeting. So that's a potential "touch point," as he calls it. It's yet another way that technology indirectly gives financial advisors an opportunity to connect with and support clients, he says.