In today’s blog, I want to discuss the four key technological trends that I believe will transform life for financial and insurance advisors in the next couple of years. These four trends will be the underpinnings of the next five years of technology as an advisor, and they will simplify your life. Fundamentally, they will lead to what I like to call a digital assistant and sales coach – the two technologies that will allow you to spend far more time adding value to the right clients, instead of dealing with low-value busywork.
This blog is an offshoot of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of CRMs article that I posted previously. It is also the brainchild of a previous article I wrote about the rockstar assistant who could always predict your wants and needs. See, in my mind, the CRM will give way to the rockstar, digital assistant and sales coach. That is, I believe we’re going to rapidly see a transformation in how you handle your business in the coming years. The digital assistant will help you stay on top of your clients, your book, and the growth of your business. It will keep you focused and save you time. The coach, on the other hand, will help you focus that saved time on the most profitable clients, actions, and activities. Together, and alongside a few other key pieces, these two advances will lead to the future bionic advisor.
But, for all this to come together, we need to understand the technological trends that are driving us towards such a future. To me, there are four fundamental trends that are leading us down that path. I focus on these trends because, as we started building out Finaeo, this was where we saw the future taking us. It has become, internally, a blueprint for how we think over our product decisions. Whenever faced with options and limited resources, we ask which option will push us further along towards the sales coach and digital assistant. As such, I’d like to talk about these trends.
These four trends are as follows:
- Mobile nativity
- Smart Automation (A Rockstar, Digital Assistant)
- Data-Driven Insights (A Clairvoyant, Sales Coach)
The first two trends – mobile nativity and gamification – are the precursors required for the next two. Smart automation and data-driven insights, however, are the core properties of a digital assistant and a sales coach. Overall then, let’s talk in more depth about these four technological shifts!
Trend #1: Mobile Nativity
The first trend worth discussing is mobile nativity. In 2014, we past a major technological tipping point – according to comScore’s white paper, more people had mobile phones worldwide than desktop computers:
This likely comes as no surprise, and the market has clearly adapted. For example, in July 2012, there were approximately 700,000 apps in Apple’s iTunes app store. As of July 2016, that number had almost quadrupled to 2.6-million apps!
Yet, having a mobile application and being a mobile native application are different concepts. A mobile application can be built mobile native, but isn’t necessarily so. To understand this, let me define mobile nativity. To me, mobile nativity is building an application that can only function using an experience flow that is inherently based around a smartphone. I’ll give you an example – think about Snapchat. If you’ve never used it, the process is simple. Take your phone, snap a picture, send it to your friend, and they can click to view it. This is a flow built specifically for mobile. You open the app, grab your phone, aim it at an object, click a button to take a picture, select a user from a list, and click to send it to a friend. All in all, once in the app, it requires three clicks to send an image.
Now, imagine trying to do this on your laptop. Step one, turn on your laptop’s webcam. Next, pick up your laptop and aim it towards the object of your photographic desire. Step three, while precariously balancing it in one hand, go to File–> Save Screen. Oh boy…
In other words, there is no way you could port Snapchat over to your laptop – its functionality is built specifically for mobile. It is mobile native.
On the other hand, there are many apps built for the desktop experience that are ported over to a mobile phone. The majority of software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools used by businesses fall into this category. They were originally built for desktop usage and, as such, their entire flow is built around the functionalities and limitations of a computer. This often creates very poor mobile experiences. A good example of this is Excel or Google Sheets. If you’ve ever tried to use it on your mobile phone, you’ll see a very uncomfortable experience. It’s not that it’s not optimized for mobile usage – it doesn’t crash and it responds fairly well. It’s that it’s built in a way that is just anathemic to mobile usage. Nobody wants to write out if statements and calculate cell values on a mobile keyboard – it’s a brutal experience.
Likewise, non-native apps tend not to take into account the amazing features and experience flows that only mobile native apps can offer. Mobile nativity, then, is all about introducing workflows that simply couldn’t exist without a smartphone. It is the first big trend taking us towards a digital assistant. For example, take an advisor meeting. A digital assistant for insurance advisors, financial planners, and wealth managers could nudge the advisor to leave a voice note right after the meeting ends, while the advisor is still out of the office. This is simply not something you can do without thinking about mobile first.
Trend #2: Gamification
The second trend worth discussing is gamification. The biggest downfall of most pieces of business software is that value is unlocked over time, but people expect value from their very first interaction. This is a difficult feat to accomplish. Nir Eyal, in Hooked, talks a lot about the engagement cycle. The key to success, according to him, is being able to reward users (on a variable basis) for investing time in the platform. Investing time generally is done by the user taking some sort of action (for example, adding a friend on Facebook). Rewarding someone for making an investment in the platform creates a virtuous cycle, where they re-invest their time and effort, and are further rewarded. Gamification is one very powerful method of encouraging people through valuable work flows.
How does it work?
Well, gamification is the system behind designing simple rewards for actions taken. These rewards can be a myriad of things. If you’ve ever used Waze and earned points for giving other drivers a heads up about traffic, you’re seeing gamification in action. If you’ve ever been part of a social leaderboard that creates a friendly competition within the office, you’re seeing another version of gamification. Even something as ubiquitous as the “like” on social networks is a form of gamification – you post content, receive likes, feel good, and post more content to receive more likes. If it seems silly, it’s because it is. But it’s also incredibly potent!
So what’s the value of gamification? Well, if you’ve ever run a team, you’ll know the difficulty of motivating people towards taking actions that they may not see immediate value in. For example, getting advisors to fill out their CRMs is often a nightmare, left undone until the very last moment. Likewise, prospecting cold calls are often not done at all. These are the kinds of tasks that are perfect for gamification – they’re easy to do, but very much avoided. But take a tedious task and create a point system around it and, all of a sudden, people start enjoying doing it.
Yeah, people are weird.
Trend #3: Mobile Nativity + Gamification = Smart Automation (Building the Rockstar, Digital Assistant)
To me, smart automation is another word for a digital assistant. It’s a broader category, but is fundamentally where the value of building a digital assistant lies – in helping automate the tasks you don’t want to do to save you time from busywork. Automation is the process of doing low-value tasks that need to get done with minimal human input. A good example of this is scheduling meetings. This is a low value activity that has to be done, but don’t you wish it was just taken care of? Software such as Amy/Andy from x.ai or Ava from Zoom.ai do just that, keeping on top of your meetings so you rarely have to.
Smart software automation will make insurance and financial advisors of all stripes much happier. Its goal will be to offload the worst tasks from your life. Smart automation will parse out tasks based on your client meeting notes and then schedule them for you. It will generate templated documents for clients when they need them. It will create campaigns of touchpoints to guide clients through, keeping you top of mind with your existing clientele. It will remind you to do follow-up calls with clients based on the empty spaces on your calendar, and drop-ins when it realizes you’re next door to them. Fundamentally, it will help guide your workday and it will do it using the data you give it access to!
However, getting this level of smart automation will require mobile nativity and gamification. This is because smart automation relies on a ton of data to be captured and generated. And capturing this sort of data will require mobile nativity to create the right workflows, and gamification to encourage people through those workflows. The best way to think about the flow is as follows:
Overall, then, smart automation will be the digital assistant in your pocket saving you time.
Trend #4: Data-Driven Insights (Creating the Clairvoyant, Sales Coach)
The final technological trend I want to talk about is data-driven insights. Similarly to automation, this requires mobile nativity and gamification to generate useful data. Unlike automation, however, this data isn’t about helping you offload tedious tasks. Instead, it’s used to help you drive real business results – be they more meetings, more clients, more retention, more revenue, or whatever your objective is. Where automation is all about creating a rockstar assistant, data-driven insights are all about creating a winning sales coach.
For financial advisors, these insights might be the best cadence of touchpoints to use to minimize client churn. Or the number of meetings necessary to close a prospect. Even simple questions like the best time to send out your quarterly newspaper could be better answered with a data-driven approach. Just as importantly, it will help you better understand your clients. A good sales coach can help you figure out who to focus on. In the prospecting stage, this translates to which demographics of people you should go after. In the retention stage, it helps you figure out who your most valuable clients are. And, in between, it helps you discover which deals are most likely to close based on your previous experience.
In other words, where an assistant helps you save time, a sales coach helps you focus your newly acquired time into actions that have the most bang for their buck.
Let me know what you think about these trends. Have you started seeing them in your business yet? Are you anticipating them, excited about them, or worried about them? Subscribe to the blog and let me know!