Killer app or business killer? When trying new tech, proceed with caution and overprepare


Over the years, I have seen financial advisers get caught up in “shiny new object syndrome.” It’s a malady that seems to spread every time major conferences have big, bustling exhibitor halls full of vendors showing off their latest innovations. Advisers return to their offices with big ideas for a total tech-driven transformation. But more often than not, the new technology struggles to stick the landing. It ends up half-implemented or ignored altogether.

The financial-advice industry is far from alone in dealing with shiny new object syndrome. But we tend to lag behind other industries in tech adoption and innovation. It doesn’t help matters that our profession is heavily regulated and works within strict compliance guardrails. In short, we’re especially susceptible to promises of tech-enabled shortcuts. We’re all constantly bombarded with the “next big thing” in technology: the promise of transforming our operations, making us more efficient, and ultimately, more profitable. But not every shiny new object is as good as it seems.

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It takes a lot to land the plane with new technology of any kind. Even the most well-designed solutions can’t help you if they can’t fit into your daily work. Maybe there are not enough resources available to train your team of professionals, or the software is simply too complex to use. Maybe the tool simply didn’t offer any real benefits over the tried-and-true methods already in place.

Business leaders need to remember that they don’t work with a group of robots programmed to adapt to every new software update. The people on your team have their own learning curves and comfort zones. Blindly adopting new technology without adequate training or buy-in can lead to confusion, frustration and a decrease in productivity. It’s crucial to involve your team in these decisions to ensure a smoother transition.

Getting feedback from your team will help you understand whether you have something that will see regular use, or another shiny new object. You need candid answers if something looks too complex or offers little perceptible benefit. As an example, a well-designed suite of back-office tech can give you a lot of operational room to grow, but if it only works with an outdated, proprietary client portal, you have a problem. Your end users won’t see your 

administrative efficiencies, but their frustration at a worse experience may make itself felt in your bottom line.

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To avoid these pitfalls, we need to shift our perspective. Adopting new technology isn’t just about buying and installing software. It’s about understanding human behavior. What drives people to embrace change? Do you have the resources and energy to stick the landing once you’ve signed the dotted line on a contract for an exciting new piece of technology? Will this new tool make life easier for my team?

It has been gratifying in recent years to watch independent financial advisers modernize and professionalize their services. Technology plays a key role in this process, and there are plenty of great solutions out there that create efficiency, handle complexity and maximize the person-to-person interactions that underpin the whole industry. But it still pays for advisers, and anyone buying technology, to take a selective, deliberate role in choosing their tools.

Newer isn’t always better. When you’re in the business of looking after the financial livelihoods of families, the mantra of “move fast and break things” should inspire caution, not breathless excitement.


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