Are you ready for digital disruption?

For most Australians, digital financial services are now simply part of life. Not only are we twice as likely to bank online as in a branch1, we are among the world’s most frequent users of mobile banking apps.2 Now the online revolution is coming to financial advice, with an army of fintech innovators and established industry players continually bringing new services to market.

That means planners need to be ready to take advantage of the coming wave of online advice tools, or risk being left behind. The good news is that digital technologies have the potential to help you create new efficiencies, cut overheads and reach out to a wider audience of prospective advice clients, all while creating a better client experience.

Here are six ways you can start making the most of them.

1. Don’t assume older clients aren’t interested

While it’s true that the under 40s are the most enthusiastic adopters of online services, it’s important not to discount their appeal to older clients.

A recent Investment Trends report found that 43 per cent of pre-retirees aged 55-plus are either interested in, or neutral about, online advice services.3 Even more importantly, the same report concluded that cashed-up investors are more positively disposed to seeking advice online.

That suggests many of your most affluent clients — and potential clients — are likely to be highly receptive to online services, regardless of their age.

By shifting clients online you can liberate yourself and your staff to do what you do best: providing quality financial advice, not inputting data and generating reports.

2. Save time through self-service

One of the simplest but most powerful ways you can use online tools is by inviting clients to login and help themselves to a range of advice services — from pre-meeting fact-finds, to performance tracking and online statements.

Most wealth and planning platforms already offer online or mobile client portals, while applications like Moneysoft add additional capabilities such as budgeting tools and cash flow management.

By shifting clients online you can improve practice productivity, empower them to get involved in financial decision-making, and reduce errors. Most importantly, you can liberate yourself and your staff to concentrate on doing what you do best: providing quality financial advice, not inputting data and generating reports.

3. Invest in education now to save time later

Of course, not every client may be enthusiastic about accessing information and services online. That’s when it can be worth taking the time to educate clients about the benefits they offer. By investing a little time now, you can increase productivity and promote your practice at the same time.

Client seminars are a great way to spread the word and highlight your credentials as a sophisticated, technologically progressive business. Give your clients further support with tips and FAQs on your website or in your newsletter, or hold personalised sessions with high value clients who would benefit from extra help.

4. Build your brand online

If your practice isn’t visible online, you may be sacrificing potential clients without even knowing it. When Investment Trends asked Australians who planned to seek advice in the next two years how they would do so, 28 per cent said they would search online — making it the second most popular option after personal recommendations.3

That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to invest thousands of dollars in web designers and search consultants. Today’s Google algorithms give the highest priority to websites that offer readers unique, valuable content they’ll want to revisit again and again. So the key is to share your expertise with practical, accessible information and insights.

5. Create new client touchpoints

Once you have a database of compelling content in place, your next task is to share it with a wider online audience.

According to Sensis, the two most visited social networking sites in Australia are Facebook (used by 93 per cent of Australians, averaging 31 visits a week) and LinkedIn (used by only 28 per cent of Australians, but with a bias to higher income earners and the affluent).4 By showcasing your expertise on the social media networks where current and potential clients already spend their time, you can develop and exploit new client touchpoints at minimal cost.

You can also attract new visitors to your online home, where you can engage them further with targeted news, tips and offers.

6. Gain new client insights

One of the biggest benefits of engaging with your clients online is the wealth of insights it can generate.

The reporting tools built into wealth and planning platforms can yield a huge range of data about who is accessing what information and when, potentially flagging new opportunities or even clients at risk. Similarly, online analytics and social media monitoring tools can tell you which topics and channels are most effective in engaging different client segments. But they only become effective once you have put a strong digital framework in place.

The more insights you can gather, the easier it is to provide personalised information and advice, with better outcomes for both your clients and your business.

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Unless stated otherwise, this information has been prepared by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502.

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1 Roy Morgan, Single Source Survey, 2015

2 Bain and Company, Client behaviour and loyalty in retail banking, 2015

3 Investment Trends, August 2015 Financial Advice Report

4 Sensis, Social Media Report, May 2015