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Digital Model Plus Personal Touch: Just The Right Blend

Today’s consumer is empowered, omnichannel and expecting more. The availability of digital applications and access to extensive information on the internet has fueled this new reality. It also has broadly impacted how consumers research and buy products and services, including financial services.

As such, it is critical that today’s advisor establish and embrace a digital presence in the marketplace.

There are many advantages to embracing a digital advisor model. Technology allows for greater business efficiency and streamlined processing. It allows advisors to expand their personal sales capacity. Prospecting through social selling can be increased on an exponential basis. Advisors can incorporate virtual meetings, text and other digital communications as part of their client engagement process.

Is the concept of the digital advisor years away? Findings from “Harnessing Growth: The LIMRA-EY Experienced Financial Advisor Study” show that, in fact, the digital advisor has arrived.

Digital tools have become essential to all types of advisors and survey results indicate continued adoption of these tools. Advisor websites, mobile communications, social selling strategies and cloud-based services (platforms or applications) are all well-established within advisor practices.

While many digital solutions are available, what technology solutions are most effective to support and grow advisor practices? Almost eight in 10 advisors see digital solutions being most impactful for marketing, client acquisition and ongoing client engagement. Our study shows that a full range of digital communications channels are being leveraged. However, they are not replacing existing approaches (such as in-person meetings), but instead are complementing them.

This is important as clients value digital engagement, but still expect a personal touch. Our 2018 Insurance Barometer Study with Life Happens found that 73 percent of consumers would like to educate themselves about insurance on advisor’s website. Almost as many (70 percent) say that meeting with an advisor before buying life insurance is important to them. A hybrid digital-personal sales model can be most effective, aligning an advisor’s value proposition with client expectations.

Leveraging The Web For Success

Many advisors are leveraging a web presence to drive success as well. Currently, 63 percent of advisors have a personal website for their practice (based either on a template provided by their company or one designed specifically for the practice). A wide range of educational, transactional and interactive tools are available on advisor websites. But what features have the greatest impact on business growth?

It is not so much the interactive capabilities (submitting applications for coverage, getting quotes and using needs analysis calculators) as it is the ability for website visitors to learn about products and services, advisors report. Providing this capability allows prospects to develop a basic understanding of advisor offerings that they can be comfortable with when discussing needs with their advisor.

Advisors are also beginning to leverage digital advice tools (such as robo-advisors) to support and grow their practices. Slightly fewer than 20 percent of the advisors in our study indicated that they are using digital advice tools. Although some view these platforms as a potential threat to personalized advice models, many advisors see an opportunity to leverage these tools in their practice models.

These digital tools are being used in two ways: 1) to provide services directly to a targeted segment of clients, allowing the advisor to focus on other clients, and 2) To provide an additional or alternative method of providing service to existing clients.

Advisors of all types see digital solutions as an integral part of their practices moving forward. More than half of advisors plan to increase their use of virtual meetings in the future; almost as many plan to increase their use of text/instant messaging, social networks and email communications.

Recognizing the need for a personal touch, fewer than 10 percent plan to dial back their use of face-to-face meetings in the future.

Becoming a digital advisor can help drive practice success. Advisors should adopt a digital mindset to align with expectations of today’s customer. However, a personal touch should not be overlooked to fully engage with today’s marketplace.

Patrick T. Leary, MBA, is associate tmanaging director, Distribution Research, for LIMRA. He may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].

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