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What technology means for benefits and financial services

Posted by Gordon R. Hart

Jul 6th, 2018

What technology means for benefits and financial services

Back around 2011 (through some kind of navel gazing) I foreshadowed that we were going to see the convergence of risk management, advice and technology in the benefits and financial services industry. As a result, Selectpath became an early adopter of technology and we have worked really hard to become students of change and technology. We’ve been learning to understand platforms and different technologies as they arise and how they all interplay with our customers’ lives at various levels.

My perspective is that there is fear around technology and how it’s going to be used to displace advisors. But I think that advisors who that understand mobility, personalization and flexibility, and how technology will drive more value for their clients, will win the day.

Transactions will become even more efficient

Innovative technology solutions are helping captivate their audience which in turn drives greater value for all parties involved in the transaction. Technology provides a platform to take care of the ever increasing transactional and recordkeeping requirements in the heavily regulated and compliance-focused financial services industry. For example, blockchain technology is coming, so transactions are going to become more efficient, safer, and therefore compliant. This is freeing up advisors to focus on providing guidance, support and education. Value and services that current levels of artificial intelligence cannot provide.

Human knowledge, experience and empathy is incredibly important to help shape information and provide meaningful options to help customers make informed decisions. The power of voice and human connection is very difficult to duplicate with artificial intelligence and I don’t think either of those two things have advanced to a point that the element of advice, guidance and interpersonal relationship is not required. A combination of flexible and responsive technology and human coaching/support is going to serve most peoples’ needs best.

Advising has growing value in the information age

The internet is filled with all the information that can help or hinder an individual’s decision making process. Individuals’ knowledge and efficiency has not advanced to be certain of asking all the appropriate questions necessary to return the information they can digest effectively. Since most consumers are not savvy or efficient enough to filter and source and interpret all the necessary information available, most need and will turn to an advisor to help drive decisions and manage behaviours.

It seems odd that we are in an age now where we can get all sorts of information all the time, but we are at an all-time low in terms of consumer literacy around financial solutions (whether it’s around investments, benefits or human resources). We’re finding a huge gap in knowledge and part of it is, the information is there, it’s just it’s so hard to digest and apply that people choose not to, and therefore run the risk of living in the world of ignorance.

The internet facilitated by mobile access is a bit like taking a drink of water from a fire hose. There’s so much information, it’s information overload. Taking that information and using it to then map out longer goals and strategies and executions can be extremely difficult. It can almost be paralyzing. There’s so much information that the feeling is, “How do I even go about making a decision?”

Valuable advice only comes from experience and knowledge from education and credentials, being a student of the industry, and having experience working with organizations and customers in those situations. Technology can help as a platform, but it isn’t sophisticated to a point where it can legitimately provide advice, guidance and feedback to help people make the right decisions at the right time.

We take for granted that people understand these very complex products and solutions and they don’t. It’s that human interaction, that advice, that coaching, that I think will improve literacy and really make the consumer an informed and educated consumer. And tech can augment that communication as well.

Personalized communication will improve engagement

Technology platforms allow advisors to give the information consumers need in a format that speaks to them. But, it isn’t just messaging, technology is helping bridge a gap in solutions to help advisors facilitate bridges between product providers and the end user. Technology can be used as a skin or membrane that usable and digestible information comes through. Technology can be used to drive movement of the product to greater personalization, flexibility, and it evolves as the individual situation changes or life events occur. For example, when an event happens, or you’re anticipating an event, the platform can put the consumer through a decision process in a digestible format to let them migrate or change whatever it is that they’re purchasing from that vendor. New addition to the family may require change in coverage, will require change in the information required by the providers etc.

So regardless of technological advancements, the advisor is critical in that they’re the ones that are helping create solutions and technology is providing the platform where they can be execute those options. It’s helping organizations better engage with their employees.

The way forward

For advisors that are highly engaged and educated and knowledgeable, now is the time that they can really show what they can do because there’s no set it and forget it. This is a really exciting time for those who truly embrace change and I think it’s a time where advisors can have a real impact on where the industry is going.

What technology means for benefits and financial services

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