When properly implemented, automation can provide huge benefits.
In 2010, when I set out to design the next generation of financial planning software, I had two simple goals in mind:
- It had to take less than 15 minutes to enter client data in real-time.
- It had to analyze the client’s financial situation in such a way as to eliminate the need for time consuming “what-if” scenarios.
Given the options for financial planning software at the time, a unique approach had to be adopted in order to achieve these goals.
15 Minutes of Data Entry
My first goal seemed to be the biggest challenge. But it occurred to me, all I had to do to reach my 15 minute data entry goal was to minimize the amount of information gathered.
The 80/20 Principal states that 80% of our productivity comes from 20% of our efforts. This is also true for financial planning in that 80% of a financial plan comes from 20% of the client’s information.
By limiting the data gathered in the first meeting to just the high-value information, the 15 minute goal was much easier than I had expected. Additionally, this high-value information provided everything I required to analyze a client’s financial situation.
Eliminate the Need for What-If Scenarios
My goal of eliminating what-if scenarios proved to be a bit more challenging.
In my experience, what-if scenarios are both a blessing and a curse. For many advisors they are a powerful tool that can offer clarity by answering common questions such as; What if I retire sooner than planned? What if my investments return less than expected?
The problem is that there are are an infinite number of what-if scenarios that can be run. Advisors can spend countless hours creating what-if scenarios in an attempt to design the perfect set of projections. Clients get conditioned to expect more and more scenarios and may use this situation to avoid making a decision.
To eliminate the need for what-if scenarios, the system had to automate all routine elements of the financial analysis. Implementing strategies to minimize tax and maximize returns would be done with intelligent algorithms instead of manual data changes. In simple terms, the system would need to automate the calculations that any competent advisor would already perform, but without requiring input from the advisor.
In addition, the system would also need to calculate the optimal value for the 4 Primary Planning Options™ – retirement income, retirement age, return on investment, and required savings. In any situation, no matter what the outcome of the analysis, an intelligent algorithm would automatically provide the answer.
For example: You are projected to run out of money at age 79.
- Reduce your income goal by $5,000/year
- Work 2 years longer
- Increase return on investment by 1%
- Save an additional $350/month
In the end, this automation saves time and reduces the cost of providing financial advice. Regardless of the situation, you always have the answer and what-if scenarios can become a thing of the past.
Automation in Financial Planning
Although I chose to embrace automation in the development of financial planning software, automation has application in all aspects of a financial planning practice. The challenge you have is determining where to apply automation, and how to achieve it. Start by determining where inefficiencies exist. If the inefficiencies can be properly defined, finding a solution becomes easy.