Hey Google: What’s the future of financial advice?
Google made a ripple in the financial services sea earlier this month when it announced, somewhat quietly, that it is wading into the industry’s most traditional financial services (except for maybe the barter-and-trade system) — banking.
“Cache” is Google’s code name for its smart checking account solution, rolling out next year in partnership with Citibank and Stanford Federal Credit Union.
Though we all delivered the obligatory gasp and sigh upon hearing the news, it really did not come as a surprise; we are seeing this kind of play more and more by the FAANG firms. We’ve known for years that tech behemoths like Apple, Amazon and Facebook are sitting on loads of consumer data and would make moves to gain even more access and control over how consumers spend their money.
Rather than a disruption, I see the incursion as a call to action. It’s now time for all good advisors to be open to both the challenges and opportunities that these developments afford us as business leaders, to brush off the fear-mongering headlines about how this will “disrupt” our industry and instead focus on what we do best.
Specifically, advisors need continually delve deeper looking for how we can optimize clients’ financial lives. True, advisors who are complacent, who engage cruise control and just coast, will very likely see their businesses threatened by the massively popular household names entering financial services.
But advisors who are looking to continually improve their craft and add deeper value are going to discover more opportunities to do just that.
The need for comprehensive, in-person planning and guidance that helped build and shape our industry is not going away. Yes, in-person interactions and sometimes full relationships, are being digitized, but I view this as a chance to scale up, not as a diminishing landscape of customers or leads.
Advisors need to continually invest in ever-deeper, value-added services while simultaneously investing in technology and solutions that will create scale. By automating commoditized services, they can spend more time as trusted guides for families they serve. There’s an increase in digitization, automation and tech, but also in opportunities for relationship-building.
Accepting the need to strike this delicate balance suggests a couple of actionable takeaways for advisors.
Look at the landscape of services you currently offer to your clients. Which deliver the deepest value and which will create that next level of trust? (Hint: it's probably not asset management.)
To be fair, asset management might be the number one service for those of you that are true experts in that realm. But perhaps your forte is helping connect your clients with estate and tax professionals, or working with niche populations like doctors, dentists, teachers, railroad workers, small business owners, etc. Then again, maybe it's holistic, multigenerational family wealth planning.
Think about where you find the most joy as an advisor and how you best help people. Imagine aspects of your practice you’d love to spend more time on.
Secondly, focus on the engine that will drive the future of your firm. Embrace the technology that will help you scale so that you can focus on those things you love and less on things that drain your energy.
The only constant in life is change. So let's embrace the FAANG’s incursion and enjoy the opportunity it presents us as financial services professionals and advisors to serve our clients better and help families achieve financial peace.
Personally, I think this pressure from other industries will ultimately make our industry better.