2013 is going to be an interesting year for financial professionals and the web. With RDR clicking into effect, I can see a fair number of financial professionals turning to the web to help differentiate their businesses from their competitors.
In an age where the general consumer has become more tech-savvy and nearly always attached to the internet, it's a good time to launch something that keeps your potential clientele "stuck" to a service you've delivered, rather than one of your competitors.
Biased as I am, I still feel that the web is under-valued and under-used in the financial services industry. The web is a lot more than just a static website; just look at the popularity of services such as twitter, trip advisor, expedia and online banking. I think 2013 is going to be the year that this changes (a little!).
Enough of the chit-chat, on with the predictions.
Prediction 1 : The percentage of financial advisers WITHOUT a website free-falls.
I know, I know, this statement gets bounced about a lot but I so wish I had figures on this for me to throw actual numbers at you. All I can work on is what I've heard from others who have access to stats from their own customers and I'm confident that in 2013, companies will realise that now is the time to launch onto the web and expand their marketing efforts.
Prediction 2 : Providers will move away from the "app" culture and more into the "web-app" camp
This prediction is purely driven by cost.
With the launch of multi-touch devices like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy there was a lot of buzz about building "apps" that advisers could download and stay connected with the provider through. Whilst that's great, the difference in quality and user-experience between the mobile app and the provider's website is often jarring. The number of tweets I saw last year from advisers venting something like "Oh my gosh, tried to log in to [provider_name]'s website and can't even find the register button" or "Pah! This portal only works in Internet Explorer 8, but i'm in Google Chrome!" pretty much sums it up.
I think that in 2013 more providers will attempt to make their own adviser portals more user-friendly and (hopefully!) even mobile-friendly, thus cutting out the need for a dedicated iPhone app (and the costs that go with it). Trust me providers, it'll pay to smarten up your adviser-facing tech.
Prediction 3 : More consumer & service focused web-apps will launch
It was quite an eventful year last year with the ol' direct-to-consumer web-app news, the most notable being that InvestorBee.co.uk got snapped up by Interactive Investor (great work guys!). Moneyscope also received a hefty re-design and focused a lot more on it's marketing efforts too.
2013 will see more of these advanced web sites, that I call "web-apps" launch, providing advisers with more tools to use with their clients and a healthy dose of competition too. I think a number of advisers will see the value in converting their own proven techniques into products that other advisers can benefit from. Worth keeping an eye on http://thetechnologycoach.net for peer-reviews on what tech is worth looking at the moment, curated by @theinvestcoach.
I still see an opportunity in the market for adviser > consumer project management web-apps and lower-end CRMs that work for the smaller advisory businesses.
Prediction 4 : Social becomes the new word-of-mouth for advisers
Social media is one of those words that I reckon drives a vast number of advisers to sleep, but there's a reason that it keeps being brought up. In 2011 and 2012, social media was used by a few advisers (in relative %) to boost their business profile and connect with other peers. My prediction is that more firms will embrace social as a primary way of gathering enquiries for their business.
I'm a twitter tart, and everyone knows that, but it's not all about Twitter. The awesome chaps at VouchedFor have created the first "open" review-based directory of advisers. I can see their site (and others) gaining traction as the "trip advisor" for financial professionals, and this will be propelled more-so when / if they launch a more dynamic "widget" that advisers can place on their site. I think that their widget needs to be able to pull in recent reviews, and average scores but that will come, I'm sure.
Consumers love "social" and advisory firms are being pulled kicking and screaming into this too, but it'll work a lot better for those that embrace it than those who try and hold back from it.
Props to the first adviser who actively pushes their clients to leave reviews on services like vouchedfor.co.uk each time they complete a project for them. I have a feeling it would do wonders for your business!
Prediction 5 : Template website providers will have to innovate to stay relevant
From my experience, template websites (in the financial advisory industry) have always been more attractive to the network members, but I wonder what effect RDR will have on their popularity.
One of the key principals of the whole RDR shift from my understanding was that advisory firms need to be more like a traditional business and compete on the services they deliver to their clients. The catchword here is differentiation.
Often the lure of a template website is the pre-written content that they ship with but with RDR, having the same content as hundreds of other sites doesn't really help you stand out. Right?
If you end up having to write your own content to stay competitive and want something on a budget most open-source content management systems like WordPress or Concrete5 (which IFA Portals uses) are free and pre-designed themes can be applied at a fraction of the ongoing cost of template websites. N.B. This is not me promoting using template websites / pre-designed themes, but I'm just making you aware of the options out there. You would get far better value from something that is unique to your business, but if your budget can't stretch that far, this is the second best.
Prediction 6 : One or more of these predictions won't happen
I'm almost certain of this prediction, but there's a chance it might not come off!
What do you think of my predictions? Have I missed one that is glaringly obvious? It would be interesting to look back at the end of 2013 to see how many of these actually came off.