Delicate Balance – Could the pursuit of efficiency dilute the depth of engagement?

Financial Advisory

05 October 2023

Consumer DutyDigital platformEngagementFinancial AdvisoryTechnologyTrainingWinning Advisers

Expert: Chris Williams, Proposition Director, Nucleus Facilitator: Niall Buggy, Partner, Asset & Wealth Management, Sionic


  1. One size does not fit all, but one process can fit, if it is focused on specific client segments. However, the personal engagement with the client can make it feel unique
  2. There are different elements in the client-adviser relationship that makes it difficult to fit one size to all
  3. Technology can replace some of the non-client facing activities
  4. Business efficiency is based on the right people doing the right tasks: adviser, admin, and paraplanner
  5. Consumer Duty has made firms review their processes and make them better for client outcomes, but not necessarily to make them more efficient


Effectiveness and efficiency challenge each other:

  • Getting the balance between the efficiency (cost per unit of revenue) and effectiveness (what the client wants) is key, as is the work/life balance of staff
  • Digital only processes have not worked – making the process more efficient/lower cost is not the answer
  • Making the adviser more efficient should be the goal: all agree that the adviser should focus on seeing clients, building relationships, and winning business
  • Admin staff are experts at dealing with back-office issues, not advisers: a 3:1 ratio of admin staff to advisors was suggested as an optimal cost-effective solution
  • Paraplanner can be a technical expert to support the adviser. However, the back-office effectiveness is hampered by provider inefficiencies

Provider admin is a big burden and inefficient:

  • Adviser firms have focused on improvements in their processes for the benefit of clients, and efficiency, but platform providers are not focused on the same outcomes
  • It is common to see support staff on hold for 30 minutes or more with providers whose teams are poorly trained and can have high turnover
  • Legacy books are a particular issue, with advisers having to coach the provider over the phone
  • Providers should look at technology standardisation and better training to support back-office efficiency. However, advisers are sceptical that providers would invest if it meant losing assets

Consolidators are disenfranchising the client when client need an adviser:

  • Consolidators are a big impactor of new business: they are providing one-size-fits-all models but losing the client experience
  • They call clients “customers & “consumers” and there is no personal relationship with an adviser
  • In times of economic uncertainty, advisers need to speak to clients before problems arise
  • Effective communication between client and adviser is key to building good relationships and generating onward referrals

Getting the technology right and needing a clear data strategy:

  • Data and technology underpin the efficiency and effectiveness. Without a good quality golden source of data, achieving the efficiency and effectiveness balance in the firm will be an issue
  • Data is one of the biggest issues, especially getting a data from a provider and being able to run data check
  • Integration is key, but APIs are lacking
  • There is constant pressure to change technology, with only marginal gains: this impacts a firm’s ability to bed in technology and drive efficiency

Key takeaways:

  • Advisers would like to consolidate their platforms: but it can be hard to decide which ones are best as their service levels can change quarter-on-quarter
  • Providers - data, technology, and training: make it easy for the adviser to become efficient. The adviser wants to optimise their providers
  • Providers – work together to come up with standards: advisers are pressurised by regulators to be effective for their clients
  • Tech providers – think about advisers’ efficiency before upsetting their client focused business model with the need to use the very latest technology