Is Evie in the Office? How Tech Can Help You

[This quiz is based around an interview taken from the MetLife’s Life Insights Podcast interview series]

Julio Cagigas sits down for a chat with David McLean, former professional football player and tech savvy financial adviser at Titan Financial Planning. David has effectively harnessed technology to build a successful business, long before Covid-19 forced us to. Here, David shares some of his favourite technology platforms and how he’s implemented them to efficiently and effectively service his clients – both nationally and internationally.

 

 

Julio Cagigas: Good afternoon everyone. My name is Julio Cagigas and I’m the New South Wales/ACT state manager here at MetLife. Today I’d like to introduce you to David McLean. David is a former professional rugby league player who started working in the financial services over 16 years ago.

Four years after starting in the industry, David opened his own practice, Titan Financial Planning, which has been running ever since.

Over the last 12 years, David has grown the practice organically and now employs another five people into the business. David, welcome along.

David McLean: G’Day Julio. How are you?

Julio: Dave, just to start off, can you tell us a bit about how you started in the business and what your practice looks like at the moment?

David: We kicked off our business, Titan Group in 2004, starting with a mortgage business. Originally, we were in a joint venture with a sports management business named Titan Management. We’ve since bought those guys out.

Our financial planning business started in 2008. We’ve grown it organically ever since. I’ve got five staff members on the financial planning side of the business and there’s three on the mortgage side of the business.

We’ve got a little bit of a niche with the professional athletes and sporting guys that we’ve had since we kicked off the business. And outside of that, the majority of our business is centred on accumulators.

We’ve got a really young client base. The average age of our client’s about 39. Typically speaking, young families, usually middle management or trades. Mum and dad with two kids type of thing, who have a need for holistic advice – which is what we provide.
So, everything from cash flow management to risk advice, wealth creation, the whole box and dice. That’s a little bit about a bit of a top-down view as to how our business is now.

Julio: I know that you’ve got clients pretty much all across the country. In the past, I know that you’ve had offices across the country as well and I believe you still have three office locations. Can you tell me a little bit about how you deal with interstate clients?

David: We’ve now got two permanent offices. One of the Central Coast of New South Wales in Erina, which is nice and handy to where I live in Terrigal, and another office down in Norwest, which is in the North West part of Sydney, in Baulkham Hills. We had a permanent head office in Darwin. That’s geographically convenient, right?

And we probably let go of that space three years ago. The reason for that is we found through the use of technology that we were just able to deliver the same sort of service and not be up there as often.

We use a casually let office space now through Regis in the Paspaley building up in Darwin’s CBD, and we fly up there probably around six times a year and spend four to five days there at a time, just using the casually let office. Technology has played a huge part in us being able to service our clients.

We’ve got clients all over the country. Well, across the world these days, in terms of expats, particularly athlete playing sport in England and France and things like that. We had to embrace technology pretty quickly if we were going to service all of our clients.

Obviously, it’d be difficult if you’re servicing clients geographically all over Australia, the world, if you’re not embracing technology.

Zoom, we’ve been using for four or five years now, to conduct meetings. Before this whole pandemic, if you said that you were going to set up a Zoom meeting with someone, most of your clients would turn around and say, “What is Zoom?”

Now it’s the new Google, right? Everyone’s Zooming everyone now, so it’s become part of the vernacular almost.

Zoom has been a really important part of our business and will continue to be an important part of the business. Even before Covid took place, we were doing around 70% of our meetings on Zoom.

That’s played a really important part in terms of how we conduct business and I guess the demographic that we deal in. It lends itself to conducting business in that way. Being a younger demographic, those guys tend to adapt to technology really well. It’s nice and easy to use a platform that enables us to do business that way with those guys.

It was a really easy transition for us, really. I mean, there’s other technologies, things like Adobe Sign and those type of things. We’ve really tried to build our offer around technology.

Julio: What other areas, as far as technology, have you implemented into Titan to make sure that you’re able to deal with clients efficiently?

David: Zoom’s probably the biggest thing for us. We use Adobe Sign, as I said, so that makes things a little bit easier in terms of documentation execution and things like that.

Not everything can be signed on Adobe Sign, but some of the big platforms are coming to the party with that. Colonial, which is one that we commonly use is one of those, and there’s others. It makes life a little bit easier for us.

We use a lot of Google technology. We use G Suite which plugs in really nicely to enable us to operate the way we do, things like Calendly for sending our snapshot reports and reviews and all those type of things. Clients have access to our website; they can jump on and book their own meeting times and at a time that suits them.

Calendly’s been around for a little while now and it’s quite commonly used, it provides some real efficiencies in terms of diary management.

We also use a piece of software called Zapier. It’s a connector which brings technology together in the backend. For example, through the use of Zapier, if someone jumps online and books a meeting then that’ll automatically set up a Zoom meeting that’ll land in my calendar, it’ll send them email reminders. It triggers a chain of events. That really helps.

Everything’s cloud based, so we don’t run servers or anything like that. I guess being in the position that we were, in relation to being able to work remotely, when the pandemic hit, it was just a matter of being able to pick up our laptops and go home. It was business as usual. We don’t have any hard lines into the office.

Even our phone lines are run through Zoom. So, if you dial the office number, you’re dialling a number which is channelled through our Zoom software, so we could be in five different locations and the system will intuitively call people in an order in which we set, depending on a hierarchy and all those different things. It wasn’t too difficult when Covid hit, in terms of the way that we can conduct the business.

I think another really cool piece of technology that I enjoy using, and we get a bit of a giggle out of in the office, and I think you’ve met her. Our little office assistant, Evie. Evie is a virtual scheduling assistant. She’s a really good judge of character, as you would know, Julio.

Evie is a plugin that sits within our Gmail that we run our email system through, and we can copy Evie into emails and ask her to set up a time to catch up with clients. Evie will go in and set and liaise with you, backward and forward on the email, set a time, and send you an invite, put it in my diary and set up a Zoom meeting all at the same time.

Evie literally saves us hours every month toing and froing with clients in relation to meeting times. It’s a pretty cool piece of artificial intelligence.

Julio: I certainly had the pleasure of dealing with Evie and you wouldn’t know you’re actually not dealing with a human, the exchanges I’ve had with her.

And you wouldn’t have a clue that you’re actually not working with a human. And I know you’ve mentioned before that the cost that is extremely efficient for you as well.

David: Evie costs about $15 a month. It’s incredibly cheap.

We have a laugh in the office sometimes because people actually will contact us, or we’ll talk to clients, and they’ll say, “Oh, we haven’t met Evie before. Have you got someone new in the office?” There’s not many people that actually think that Evie is a piece of artificial intelligence.

Julio: Dave, just on some of those things that you’ve just spoken about, just touch on getting the client to book the meeting themselves, into your diary and so on.

Firstly, how long have you had that in place? And two, do you find yourself having to do a lot of chase up with clients, or is that like an education piece, are clients comfortable doing it themselves?

David: We’re finding that more and more clients are engaging with the technology piece.

We have a lot of our meetings booked through Calendly. You can’t just set it up and expect people to intuitively know it’s there, and jump on and book their meetings. We’ve got to communicate that with them and all those type of things. Come review time, we send out an email and reminder emails.

Another piece of technology we use, we’re part of the IOOF family, and we’re licensed through Millenium3, and one piece of technology that IOOF has been investing heavily in is a piece of tech called Wealth Report.

When it comes time to review, we’ll contact clients by phone and email and ask them to jump online and book in a time. Clients have got access to a portal within the Wealth Report, so this is for existing clients. And they’ll jump on and check and update their details and almost do the fact finding for us, in terms of updating their details and those type of things.

So, for example, when we conduct fact-finding meetings, whether they be review or new clients, it’s all done on the Wealth Report.

We can build out scenarios and show them various outcomes on the spot with clients and produce a nice sexy looking Wealth Report at the end of that, which is a little bit more engaging than probably the traditional things that we as an industry run with.

Outside of the fact that it acts as the fact-finding piece, and a client engagement piece, there’s tiles showing different insights and benchmarking, and all those different types of things. It integrates with XPLAN which is fantastic.

Over the next 12 months we are hoping to deliver totally digital statements of advice through there as well, which will be really cool, and be a new way of delivering advice to clients.

So, while we’re using it now, we think the future of how we deliver advice will be on that platform as well.

Julio: Knowing you and the technology side of things, and how much it interests you and how much you believe in that to run a successful, efficient business, have you given any thoughts around what the next three to five years may look like for you and your practice?

David: I would hope that within the next couple of years that we’re delivering all of our advice in a total digital format that’s really interactive.

Another thing which is maybe further down the track is the virtual delivery of advice where we will be able to deliver advice in a virtual setting. People will sit there and put on the goggles, and be able to run through their advice and what the future looks like in a virtual world. We see that happening in the next three to five years.

I think where we want to drive our business and where I think advice will land in the next five years is, we will be more behavioural coaches.

Sure, there’s always going to be that technical side of things, and a machine can’t replace all the knowledge and deliver all of the advice in terms of what we do now, but I think that technology will pick up a lot of that void.

I think the shift in paradigm is that we need to be more behavioural in the way that we deliver advice, and coaching, I guess, for want of a better term. The industry’s heading that way now anyway, but I think there’ll be a greater focus over the next five years or so, in terms of how we deliver and why we’re there.

We still have to have all the technical knowledge and all those types of things, but at the end of the day, I’m of the opinion that 70% of what we do is relationship with our clients. I think there’ll be a greater focus on that moving forward, where traditionally there may have been, if that makes sense.

Julio: Looking forward to trying on those goggles and see what that looks like, Dave. That should be pretty interesting.
I can’t help but think one of the questions that some advisers might be thinking is that people do buy from people with, but with all the technology in your business, what are your thoughts around that?

David: I think you’re absolutely right, and that’s going back to where advice is heading. People will continue to buy from people and that’s why I think a big majority, or 70% of what we do is relationship, right?

What we need to do is be brave and use technology as a tool to help us deliver and improve on those relationships we’ve got.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think machine and technology will ever replace the fact that there’s always going to be that human element to advice, but I think the need for that is only going to get greater as technology picks up the slack for some of the things that advisers have had to deliver on.

People will always buy from people. That’s absolutely correct. We’ve just got to learn to use technology to be able to enhance those relationships and be a bit more productive, and use that technology to help deliver better outcomes for clients. I think that’ll only help strengthen the relationships we’ve got, not take away from them.

Julio: That makes sense to me, and one of the issues in the industry is the cost of giving advice. So, by using technology and being more efficient, I think that’s going to help with the outcome there.

Like you said, people will deal with people, but it’s what we use behind the scenes, the technology to make it as efficient as possible.

Dave, is there anything else that you’d like to touch on as far as the technology side of things?

David: I’ve always tried to be a little bit of an early adapter with technology. My wife is our practice manager and I know when new technology presents itself, I think, “That’d be really good in our business” and she goes, “Oh no, what’s coming now?”
But if it doesn’t improve our business by 20%, then we don’t adapt it.

Julio: Dave, thanks for your time today.

 

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