The 1990s introduced “the triple bottom line” as a measure of the integrity and sustainability of a business. Investors wanted to know their money was doing something meaningful, understanding that the “triple” in question is profit, people and the planet. The concept evolved into Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) and is increasingly mainstream, less niche.
In fairness, the ’90s didn’t have the technology to support ESG. But now advisors can have validated information at the touch of a button, if they have first invested in tech and data (gathering). For instance, today’s advisors can have a client complete a simple, scientifically validated questionnaire that reveals essential information. This enables the advisor to make accurate, appropriate investment suggestions that match the client personality and risk tolerance, as well as their ESG inclinations.
In support of such, every financial advisory business has some form of tech stack. If it’s easier, think of it as the data ecosystem – all of the tech the firm invests in. Still, not everyone has a plug-in that leverages that tech stack by revealing important behavioral data on clients or delivers behaviorally focused scripts on guiding clients. For those without such, tech makes such a plug-in easily accessible, without reinventing the existing tech stack.
Amp up advice with tech
Connecting technology with financial advice and behavior enables advisors to work more effectively with people.
Tech stacks that match clients to advisors and not just safeguard against advisors putting clients into high-risk or low-risk investments can help advisors fully appreciate what ESG means to clients. Behaviorally understanding clients and taking a figurative walk in their shoes is always beneficial in other ways too. This is when a financial advisor and client can truly develop a solid partnership with a mutual view of the world (including as it pertains to ESG investment needs).
Talking recently to a colleague about this very subject, I was interested to learn that a large gap often exists in the tech capability of firms and the very financial advisors who want and need real-time nudging data on and for clients. While advisors are struggling to keep all the balls in the air, my colleague’s firm steps into the gap to work with advisors to understand the tech stack at their fingertips, so they can use it effectively. (And why not maximize that tech investment?).
One such area: Understanding the client’s need to invest in ESG businesses. What’s behind the “whys,” among other questions. Is it to feel good, look good or to genuinely see such an approach delivering not only wealth creation but a quality life?
For advisors to listen and understand the behavioral shift in investors (their clients!), they need to better connect people to technology and business requirements in order to get investors to accurately connect. (That’s where the aforementioned discovery questionnaire pays dividends.) This enables advisors to deliver targeted advice that satisfies ESG requirements for the investor.
An advisor’s most significant impact must surely be in connecting – via technology – investor feelings to the investment strategy that matches their emotions and still creates the wealth they require for life goals. When advisors get this right, it delivers an incredible capacity to bring about positive change in investors’ lives.
THAT is the bigger picture of the advisor-client relationship – and one that is easy to lose sight of, when focusing on the proverbial trees.
Where ESG comes from, is going…
The shift toward ESG doesn’t always come from an analytical brain; more often it originates from feelings. If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that we are all taking time to consider the next season of our lives, including what we will focus on. What we might do differently.
Thus, savvy advisors are alert to the market for ESG-based investing as it becomes both increasingly popular and more complex, primarily due to upcoming regulatory and compliance changes.
Even now, there are indications that all providers of financial products must consider client ESG preferences when deciding and advising the suitability of investments. Firms and advisors who have already invested in tech that fosters tailored, behaviorally focused client and portfolio management are ahead of that curve – already meeting or exceeding standards that have not even been implemented yet.
In-depth data at an advisor’s fingertips is what this market demands, especially when it comes to popular niches like ESG investing. Advisors can provide more informed, focused and client-specific client guidance. On the flip, clients can make more informed, less-stressful investment decisions, while also seeing that they are part of a process in which they are “seen” and heard and which they can be confident is transparent.
These are some of my insights regarding ESG and technological solutions; I’d love to hear your insights on the same.