90% of independent financial advisors already make extensive use of digital solutions
BNP Paribas Cardif has published the results of its 11th annual market survey of Independent Financial Advisors (IFAs) and their clients. Conducted with KANTAR TNS, one of the world’s leading market research agencies, the 2017 survey by BNP Paribas Cardif focuses on the impact of digitization on the profession of financial advisor, as well as the expectations of IFA clients with regards to digital solutions.
Digital transformation among the top three priorities for IFAs
The digital transformation of their business and digital solutions figure among the top priorities for 67% of IFAs. Adapting to new regulations remains an essential objective for the great majority of them (93%), as does finding new growth outlets (70% of IFAs).
Digital technologies will have a major impact on the environment of IFAs and their day-to-day work. 73% of them believe that digital solutions make client diagnostics and online simulations more accessible and 70% feel that digital solutions simplify contract subscriptions. These advances simplify their work.
What’s more, 74% of the independent financial advisors find that their clients are increasingly better informed thanks to digital channels: 43% of IFA clients search for information on their own regarding the management of their assets. This research is not done to verify the investment choices made by their financial advisor, but above all out of curiosity (91%), to find additional information (83%), or to better understand the recommendation of their advisor (79%).
Given the increasing use of digital solutions, over 80% of IFAs (82%) believe that it is important and indeed indispensable to invest in the digital transformation of their activity in order to take advantage of the tools and solutions provided by the different actors in their market. Asked about their digital priorities in this area, 72% of them cited digitized transactions (subscriptions, account access, contract signatures, etc.) and 52% cited the development of digital solutions for communicating with their clients (videoconferencing, instant messaging, etc.).
At the same time, there is a gap between the digital maturity of IFAs and the interest of their clients in digital solutions. For example, while 79% of IFAs would welcome all-digital transactions, only 46% of their clients are interested in such solutions. Furthermore, 85% of IFAs say that they are comfortable with digital tools, compared with just 69% of their clients. The greater digital maturity among IFAs can be explained by the benefits they derive from new technologies in terms of faster responsiveness and management efficiency. These digital tools let them save time in processing files, freeing up more time for their advisory role. This is significant since the quality of advice is the primary reason that clients choose independent financial advisors.
9 out of 10 IFAs frequently rely on digital solutions in their day-to-day activities
Digital solutions are very much a day-to-day reality in the management of IFAs’ business activities, and they are already very well equipped in terms of digital tools: 72% of IFAs have tools for online contract subscriptions, 69% have online solutions for accessing and archiving contracts, and 69% have digital interfaces to execute transactions for their clients’ investments. 91% of IFAs are equipped with at least one of these three types of digital tools.
Overall, three-quarters of IFAs feel they are sufficiently informed (73%) and prepared (76%) for the digital transformations that are reshaping their activity. Still, 53% of them articulate a desire for more support and training given the constant evolution of new technologies, making ongoing training essential.
The importance of personal relationships in a digital environment
Robo-advisors – platforms that offer automated investment advice – are viewed as an opportunity by just over half the IFAs (52%), and nearly half of them (45%) are ready to use them or already use them to improve the advice they provide for their clients. Only 8% of IFAs see robo-advisors as a threat constituting competition for their activity.
Awareness of platforms that provide automated financial advice is rising among IFA clients, but remains limited: 38% of IFA clients have already heard about them, compared with 31% in 2016.
Use of robo-advisors remains at very low levels, and their potential among clients has declined (13% of clients say they would be ready to try them, down from 16% in 2016). The main blocking point remains the fundamental role of a personal relationship, cited as essential by 97% of IFA clients. A full 89% of the clients in the survey say they have greater confidence in the expertise of an IFA than a robo-advisor.
“The arrival of new, ultra-connected generations will increase the role of digital solutions without diminishing the importance of personal contact. In the context of this change in society, IFAs see digitization as an opportunity. They have access to new tools that help them strengthen their client relationships while facilitating their day-to-day work,” says Jean-Christophe Boccon-Gibod, Head of Partnerships and Digital Business, BNP Paribas Cardif France.
About BNP Paribas Cardif
No. 1 worldwide in creditor insurance, BNP Paribas Cardif creates innovative savings and insurance solutions designed for performance in a world shaped by the emergence of new uses and lifestyles.
A subsidiary of BNP Paribas, the company has a unique business model anchored in partnerships. BNP Paribas Cardif co-creates solutions with distributors in a variety of sectors, who then market the products to their customers.
BNP Paribas Cardif is a recognized global specialist in personal insurance, serving 100 million clients in 36 countries with strong positions in three regions – Europe, Asia and Latin America.
With over 10,000 employees worldwide, BNP Paribas Cardif had gross written premiums of €27.1 billion in 2016, 57% of which was generated outside France.
About KANTAR TNS
KANTAR TNS is one of the world’s largest research agencies with experts in over 80 countries. We provide actionable insights to help companies make impactful decisions and drive growth.
With expertise in market understanding, innovation, brand and communication, shopper activation and customer relationships we help our clients identify, optimise and activate the moments that matter to drive growth for their business.
We are part of KANTAR, one of the world’s leading data, insight and consultancy companies.
Find out more at www.tnsglobal.com
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 Methodology: telephone survey conducted by KANTAR TNS between 15 May and 7 June 2017 covering:
- a representative sample group of 271 independent financial advisors (sample group validated as representative using quotas on size of business and region)
- a sample group of 500 IFA clients and prospects with financial assets of 75,000 euros or more (sample group validated as representative using quotas for gender, age, region and personal savings assets).
 Source: Finaccord
 Headcount of legal entities managed by BNP Paribas Cardif: nearly 8,000 employees