The future of business is being determined at breakneck speed. Three years ago, I wrote a paper with Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., about the “Consumer Revolution” that suggested we were in a unique time in American history, where entire industries were being eviscerated by category killers that were altering the rules of engagement with consumers and forcing revolutionary change upon all of the other firms in their industry.
It's incredible how much has happened to change that reality in such a short period of time. In that small span, new and improved companies have become woven into our everyday lives.
Imagine life without Skype, Facebook or Twitter. Imagine life without Amazon, SiriusXM or Google. Imagine life without Netflix, your iPhone or Starbucks. The truth is we are all intertwining companies into our lives in ways we could never have imagined just a few short years ago. These are frontier times in global business. This change will affect the way we work in our industry, too. Let's look at the major drivers that unify all of these companies because it's a reflection of how we will need to evolve in our own businesses.
All of these revolutionary companies are tapping into a few deep-seated human desires:
We all want to feel special
Everyone is coming to expect VIP treatment (call it the “Kim Kardashian effect”). What does that mean? A completely personalized and special experience is expected for everyone. We've gone from a world of mass customization to a world of personalized experiences. With almost any of these exceptional companies, we are increasingly receiving a unique, personalized interaction that gets delivered profitably — whether it is customized Nikes in a very particular color or going to Yahoo and receiving a tailored news feed. Consumers have come to expect a totally personalized VIP experience delivered on demand, wherever they want it. How far is it going? Think about walking into a Starbucks in Mumbai, India, and your phone instantly letting the barista know who you are, what you normally drink and where you live.
We all want convenience
These great firms are ubiquitous — they are everywhere, all the time, and at the client's fingertips. Great companies understand they cannot be geographically constrained and need to live in the client's own rhythm. All of them know they must be incredibly easy to use and readily available. Think of the “mayday” button on the new Kindle: hit a button and a service agent instantaneously pops up via video conference on your device to help you.
We all want to belong to a tribe
It used to be that what we wore and what we drove told others the kind of person we are. If you wear a Rolex watch or carry a Hermès purse you are making a statement about the person you are. That brand logic has expanded to almost every purchase decision we make. What you buy tells people what tribe you belong to.
Whether we shop at Whole Foods or Safeway, use an iPhone versus an Android, or shop at Lululemon and not Nike, we are making a statement about who we are as people. That is a new concept, where our personal brands now reflect the person we are. Today, the forward-leaning companies are telling people what their tribe stands for and standing up for their values. Chik-fil-A might have frustrated a lot of people with their views about homosexuality, but it also galvanized their clients and increased sales.
How does this affect you? Every adviser is going to have to make strategic investments in their practice in order to be competitive in a more digital world. Consider the below:
Going beyond money
Solving only investment challenges for clients is being commoditized right now — from online solutions at 15 basis points to major custodians offering wrap accounts for 30 basis points. We will all need to go deeper and broader with clients. The adviser of the future will have to deliver guidance over each person's entire financial life in a way that is personal, engaging and collaborative (with clients actively participating in designing their financial life) and tangible. Gamification will change how we interact with clients, creating repeatable and unique experiences, and portfolios will need to go beyond models to truly customized client solutions in order to command a premium price.
Going beyond conventional geography
We must make sure our clients can have answers anytime, anywhere, to almost any financial question. Rethinking the client process to ensure it can scale and be delivered the way the clients want to receive it is vital. Very often, this will not include long, in-person, check-in meetings. How would you conduct your meetings if video conferencing were the preferred communication style of the next generation? How would it change your tools and your process?
Going beyond a mission statement
Today's clients want to know what you stand for when they buy your product or your service. We will need to create communities that enrich our clients' lives. Imagine having resources for college admissions or aging gracefully. Exceptional firms will be expected to do a lot more for their tribe than in the past. How are you ensuring your community of clients is strengthened by your presence?
Nothing will be the same over the next few years. Those who shape the future will end up having outsized success compared to those who get dragged into it. Part two of this series will discuss how these ideas can be implemented in individual practices in order to be the winning adviser of the future.
Joe Duran is chief executive of United Capital Financial Advisers and the bestselling author of “The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now." Follow him @DuranMoney.