There may be a few among you who remember that famous video of Microsoft's former chief executive, Steve Ballmer, addressing a crowd of developers at a Microsoft conference back in mid-2000.
It was back in a time when Microsoft dominated all things PC, and took place in the years preceding the influx of cloud-based software in the enterprise. It was while on stage at that conference that Ballmer famously perspired his way through a chant of "Developers, developers, developers!"
I recall being slightly stunned at the time, wondering what on earth would cause the chief executive of the largest technology company on the planet to lose his composure so completely?
Looking back, it’s evident that Mr Ballmer had realised (with unbridled and furious passion) that it was the independent developers who built software using Microsoft’s Windows that made Windows the most ubiquitous operating system in the world and Microsoft the face of the PC revolution.
Now, I’m in no way a Steve Ballmer…
But I have found myself in a position where I’m equally as passionate about something that is going to transform the financial advice industry: the rise of the mobile-only consumer.
Australians are embracing a digital lifestyle
It should come as no surprise that digital communication is now indispensable for both work and leisure activities for the large majority of Australians. Over 92 per cent of all Australians used the internet in the last six months and it’s the rise of mobile devices that has really been the game changer. Twenty-two per cent of Australians use a smartphone as their main device to connect to the internet – and that’s a statistic worth reflecting on. That’s nearly a quarter of the population who have the potential to be engaged via their mobile only.
Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!
Australians are also growing more confident in managing their money
The statistics above start to get really interesting for the financial planning industry when you see how they coincide with the increasing self-confidence of consumers to manage their own money.
According to a number of studies  , somewhere between 60-80 per cent of Australians do not currently consult a paid financial planner (or have an existing relationship with a financial planner).
One of the reasons cited for not seeking financial advice is that these individuals believe themselves to be capable of managing their own financial affairs, unassisted.
This may be a little scary for advisers; however, ASIC research has indicated that less than half of those people actually had a financial plan in place. In other words, confidence doesn’t necessarily translate to ability or knowledge. Sooner or later, if these individuals show significant interest in their financial affairs, they will want (no, make that need!) to speak with a financial adviser when their situation becomes more complex.
This increasing self-confidence of consumers coupled with the rise of the mobile-only consumer segment represents the real watershed moment here. That is, when those self-confident individuals eventually seek financial advice in the future, there is a good chance that the process of seeking help will commence using their mobile device, and most likely escalate from some form of simplistic online self-help strategy/tool.
Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!
It’s not just the Millennials
When discussing digital advice and adoption rates in our industry, one of the first rebuttals I usually receive is that the idea looks great – but it only really applies to the younger crowd.
While age does play a large role in the usage of transaction over digital devices, so does household income.
A recent study by Roy Morgan Research of the growth of internet banking in Australia revealed that “clearly the highest users of website internet banking are the high value customer, i.e. the top 20 per cent (top quintile) that controls 63 per cent of the total market value of financial services”.
So, with the highest users of internet banking in Australia being the high-net-worth customers, we see that it’s not so much age that is the deciding factor, but money. With that in mind, it’s not a quantum leap in thinking to predict that the same trends will apply when it comes to digital advice – that these same high-net-worth customers will also be the highest consumers of internet advice over the next five years (and at least a quarter of them will be seeking this internet advice via their mobile).
Riding the wave
To retain their relevance, planners are going to have to ensure that they play a significant role during the beginning of the decision-making processes of consumers, both now and in the future.
The ‘digital/mobile’ wave is already visible on the horizon and the industry can’t pretend that it isn’t going to reach the shore. But instead of fearing being dumped by the wave, the play here should be to hop up on your surf board and get ready to ride it!
In this instance, your surfboard will be having a digital advice solution in place that engages and initiates advice conversations via a mobile device – and the superior solutions are going to be those that are already fully integrated into an adviser’s holistic financial planning software and CRM. This way, no matter in what form the advice has been delivered (face-to-face, phone or digitally), the entire process will be recorded seamlessly within the one database – and will keep you as the centre of your client’s financial universe.
The rise of the mobile device is going to have a marked impact on the advice industry and, in my humble opinion, in a positive way.
It will increase the breadth of professional advice penetration, with planners working at the same time to increase the depth of that advice.
Planners who have a solution in place to allow them to achieve the following will be armed with a set of tools to take their business into the future of financial advice:
- Seamlessly digitally engage with their clients via their digital device of choice;
- Self-service components of advice; and
- Escalate them up to face-to-face where appropriate
So, let me hear you chant it as loudly as I am – Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!
For those wanting a trip down memory lane, you can watch Steve Ballmer in all his glory here
Midwinter managing director Julian Plummer
 Automated Investment Advisers Global Market Review, 2016 – FinDigital, National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre 2013, Mortgage Choice 2014 and ASIC 2014
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