The Role of Education in Financial Technology Adoption
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Hug a teacher today (even if only virtually)! Whether you are interested in changing the world, learning a new skill, or mastering a piece of software, those who provide instruction are opening doors to you that might otherwise remain closed.
Education and training, regardless of your career path, are important. They stand as core pillars of my approach to helping advisors create successes in their business. Creating a common, foundational understanding of how to use a service is a huge part of what a team must work on each and every day. Your efforts will alleviate some commonly recognized industry problems under the umbrella of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
The wealth management and financial advice profession is a difficult one to enter. Advisor trainee failure rates are high, regardless of an advisor’s race or gender. But a 2020 Cerulli survey found that there are more barriers to entry for women and BIPOC advisors. Those stumbling blocks at this stage in an advisor’s career can feel insurmountable for the individual while at the same time contributing to the perpetuation (and possible widening) of the existing diversity problem throughout our profession. Education and training can play a huge role in breaching those barriers to achieve diversity among financial advisors that matches the clients they serve.
The specific barriers the survey discussed affect recruiting and retention. A lack of emphasis on teaching/training means little attention is being paid toward addressing these issues. Providers of solutions must convey the benefit to everyone who uses them. Challenges and barriers exist for those who have been in the profession for decades as well as for the newcomers, even if those challenges present in a different form. New technologies can be intimidating for the advisor who has been tied to file cabinets and notepads over the course of a long career, even if those technologies offer the promise over time of making their work lives easier. Expecting seasoned advisors or those just entering the profession to simply pick up and run with any new (to them) tool or technology without a little assistance and training is setting a huge percentage of them up to run their practices at less than maximum efficiency or effectiveness.
We check our egos at the door when it comes to client service. It’s a nice thought to believe that advisors and clients will be motivated enough to fully understand your software or tech offering to read the manual in their spare time and teach themselves how to use it with little or no direction from the company who sold it to them. But a nice thought is all it is.
Given the above context, I have found great success in providing a fun, energetic learning environment to meet the needs and diverse goals of each office and advisor we encounter through deep consideration of the following three things: diverse learning styles, varying experience levels, and the importance of repetition.
1. Diverse learning styles
Did you know there are seven primary learning styles that many teachers aim to use when teaching a classroom? Shout out to those educators who are responsible for engaging students’ minds with auditory, verbal, visual, tactile, social, independent, and logical teaching styles throughout their lesson plans to serve their students equitably and better ensure everyone understands. As primarily a logical type of learner, I have benefitted from the shift toward an educational future where more emphasis has been placed on each of these learning techniques in classroom spaces; for example, virtual spaces like webinars run by financial service and technology companies with whom I work in collaboration. As learning is opened to all through these different approaches, participation grows and we learn more from those we are there to teach than we would otherwise, which is a huge win for all parties involved.
2. Varying experience levels
Beyond learning styles, there is also each student’s experience level to consider. Often teachers have classes where students have varied skills sets, and catering to this to make content engaging for students at all levels is an important part of making sure the material lands. Making education scalable to the student’s comprehension level is key to being inclusive.
Vendors can create two tracks for newer and more experienced users. For newer users, keep it to the nuts-and-bolts. For more experienced users, focus on how to strategically tackle common situations.
By offering those two learning tracks, students don’t need to worry that they’ll be either bored by information they’ve heard many times over or, conversely, looking for a life raft as they swim in a sea of high-level nerd speak.
3. Repetition is key
You know how when you watch a movie for a second or third (or 50th) time you may catch details of the story you missed out on previously? Sometimes a previously missed detail is integral to the storyline. The same goes for teaching financial advisors about software. Throughout my career teaching advisors, I’ve found that repetition is often key, which is why I make available similar lessons on a recurring basis for all our users, rather than just those who are new to our platform.
I’ve heard people say they learn something new every time they take a class. This is a result of creating environments where each session is attended by different groups of people -- the questions and topics for discussion are never static. For example, a more data-driven advisor may find they appreciated the opportunity to understand the back-end and context behind a technology, whereas an advisor focused on client communication may be more excited to refresh their practice management skills by paying attention to what has the greatest impact on client service.
A focus on education is a step toward making the wealth of our world available to more people by advancing and implementing inclusive learning strategies that meet the vast range of advisor needs across all identities, backgrounds, and perspectives. By focusing on the above and dedicating resources to facilitate greater understanding of the solutions they offer, fintech providers can be confident that every advisor they serve is equipped with the information they need to leverage that solution to their benefit and the benefit of their business.
Rick Williamson is the director of training at Redtail Technology