Insights | 05.05.21
Engaging Advisors to Utilize Financial Planning Software
Financial planning software has come a long way over the years, driven by industry-shifting events like DOL, COVID-19, and Reg BI. How can we transition from selling products to providing financial advice and engage clients to utilize financial planning? How can financial planning impact customer service? Can financial planning help clients during COVID-19? And most importantly, how can we increase advisor adoption of financial planning software?
These are questions Midwood Financial Services clients ask on a weekly basis. The experiences of Frost Bank’s Investment Services program provide insight to the answers.
The Frost partnership began just weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020. Frost Investment Services needed to build out its financial planning capabilities. The institution was looking to increase advisor usage of financial planning software by showing them how the software could significantly enhance the growth of their practices.
Angela Holliday, president of Frost Investment Services, wanted every client to be offered a financial plan. In a BISA Industry TrendWatch Podcast, Holliday reiterated her goal of financial planning being a hallmark of the program. What was needed was higher usage—increased adoption rates resulting in increased productivity. Frost uses eMoney for financial planning, branded Wealth Connect. After collaborating with Holliday, Midwood’s Training Team built a customized series of training modules to be delivered in a virtual setting.
Before COVID-19, most training was done in person. Class size was typically 20 or more attendees. The pandemic forced a transition to virtual training. To hold audience attention and improve engagement in the virtual setting, multiple smaller classes were facilitated with just three to five attendees. The focus was on regularly scheduled training and ongoing active engagement.
Mike Clements, group sales manager for Frost, stated that the use of Wealth Connect has grown significantly since the launch of the series of three unique financial planning virtual classes. Financial advisors are now increasingly utilizing the software while holding virtual meetings with clients. It has changed their behaviors. According to Clements, this will have a positive impact well beyond the pandemic. The financial advisors have learned, adapted, and now say that while seeing clients in person in our offices is always good, it is no longer absolutely necessity.
The efficiencies experienced utilizing financial planning in virtual client visits has enabled their most senior advisors to manage their books of business more effectively. Clements is provided metrics to measure progress to ensure beneficial results. He added that the high-speed and stable Frost VPN system contributes to the continued acceptance and success of this rollout.
Holliday further stated in the podcast that these new behaviors have also decreased the succession planning issue that many of Frost’s most senior advisors were facing. They now realize they can extend their tenure five to seven years due to the increased flexibility that the virtual landscape has provided. She also said that what was learned in 2020 with efficiencies related to planning and the pandemic is key to the 2021 planning process.
After many years utilizing a more traditional wholesaling model, Midwood made the decision in 2016 to build out a separate training department. This strategy was prompted by the DOL ruling and feedback garnered at various industry roundtables. One thing was certain, more training was needed within the financial institutions channel, especially financial planning training.
Building out their training capabilities was a considerable undertaking, but the overarching goal was to become both a training and wholesaling partner within the Financial Institutions channel. Fortunately, Midwood found a training leader from one of the largest banks in the country. The team of four trainers has extensive experience working in bank and credit union programs and has an average tenure of 23 years in the industry.
Midwood’s financial service training offerings run the gamut from practice management to sales skills, generic product positioning, licensed banker development and compliance. The audiences for this training may be financial advisors, licensed bankers, branch staff, back-office support, sales management, or call center staff. And increasing financial planning, above all, is what moves the needle for client engagement and satisfaction.