Year-in-review articles abound at this time of the year and some cover technology breakthroughs for advisers — the best and most clever innovations to improve our productivity, lower costs and improve quality.
Productivity and quality. Are there any other reasons to invest in technology? To automate our processes, increase our capacity, and improve outcomes for our clients — these are clearly the objectives we seek. Many companies are hard at work building and supporting technology tools to do just these things. Connecting information and processes among different tools has also been a key focus, and addresses some of the more frequent items on advisers' wish lists.
Sometimes, a technology company identifies something that we had not thought of yet, and once we use it, we often don't know how we lived without it. As I write this post on my iPad, I am reminded that when they first came out, I didn't know why I'd want "a bigger iPhone." I use my iPad all the time now. Many readers probably have had similar experiences.
So as the year-in-review articles continue to flood my inbox, I'm looking to 2014, asking what problems will be solved that we didn't even know we had. Think about all the things advisory firms need to keep on top of for our clients, and then how many rely on manual processes, research and luck. So many processes are still performed on an arbitrary schedule — quarterly re-balancing or client reviews, for example. Are these the best times to see if things are going well, or if action is needed? There are tools to help us take the arbitrariness out of some of our processes, providing enhanced abilities or the ability to set alerts, but what's the next huge innovation?
With technology making us smarter, faster and more omniscient, we can spend more time developing strategies, learning and working with our clients. I'm looking forward to the next great innovations.
Dave O'Brien is a NAPFA-registered financial adviser and owner of O'Brien Financial Planning Inc. in Richmond, Va.