Of course, we must offer our deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones, missed the birth of a child, seen a business fail or fallen on other hardships.
But it does not in any way diminish that suffering to recognise simultaneously the improvements we are making together as a society. For example, we are suddenly implementing huge technology-enabled advances in medical care, such as increasing access to primary care and outpatient appointments through phones and digital means.
We in financial services also have a great opportunity to further advance the application of technology to our challenges. In particular technology can help us address the ‘advice capacity gap’.
Before I outline how, let us remind ourselves what this gap is all about.
What is the “advice capacity gap”?
We now have just c26,000 regulated financial advisers – down from a number many multiples of that just a decade ago. The FCA’s FAMR 2018 baseline survey put the number of adults taking financial advice over a 12-month period at 4.5 million. Yet, a further 18.2 million had £10,000 or more in savings or investments and might have needed advice – but did not take it.
UK advisers cannot possibly see all those unserved people face-to-face and this is the ‘advice capacity gap’. Put simply, we will need some kind of digital intervention or innovation to get help, guidance and advice to all those people who need it.
The opportunity presented by the lockdown
The key to connecting people to the appropriate help might be online banking. Recent figures show that over two-thirds of British adults used online banking and 48% used mobile banking in 2018.
Of course, these figures are from long before anyone had heard of COVID–19 and my guess is that the lockdown has caused that number to increase dramatically.
This is a big opportunity for banks/ building societies and advice firms to connect people accessing their bank accounts to financial help, guidance and advice.
I will not name and shame – but when I open my online bank account, I see nothing that offers help and guidance for my savings. As a minimum, I’d like to see content in video or text that addresses my financial concerns relating to COVID–19.
Better still, prompts and nudges would be personalised, for example using my first name, to increase the likelihood that I will ‘click’. This should begin a guidance and/or advice journey, which could lead to offers of a financial review or guidance in specific areas, such as debt management or mortgage help and guidance. In the often-monotonous routine of lockdown, I am likely to be far more engaged in the process than I might normally be.
Apart from creating a better experience for customers, this would also be of huge benefit to financial institutions that currently have furloughed advisers who are unable to work because they cannot see clients. Whilst some journeys would be fully automated, some more complex cases may require a regulated financial adviser, and if they had permissions to conduct advice over video or phone, they could take over the case.
There are a few examples of online banking being used as a gateway to advice – but in my opinion they do not go far enough.
The journeys do not begin on the front page – you need to click into the ‘investing’ menu option and you will probably only do that if you’re already interested.
I would like to see more content educating and informing me about my financial wellbeing, savings and investments and perhaps an opportunity to do a financial review.
Going the extra mile with artificial intelligence
Banks, building societies and advice firms could start to look at artificial intelligence and intelligent automation of technology, such as chatbots, to nudge people into taking informed and positive financial decisions.
These nudges could be personal, using my first name and referencing specific data about my account to get me more engaged. And when the automated technology could not help, then fully regulated human advisers using digital communications could step in to support me.
At Wealth Wizards, we have developed our Turo Digital proposition to provide a whole range of intuitive and informative guidance journeys, that can seamlessly lead to advisory services where and if required.
All of this will help to get some kind of help, guidance or advice to those millions of people who are not currently accessing it. And when the audience is captive and engaged, and advisers are unable to conduct business in the traditional ways, there has never been a better time to embrace digital technology.