Tech Survey 2022: How advisors are investing for the future


With a digital tool for every aspect of an advisor’s daily life, wealth management is increasingly becoming a technology business. 

The latest Financial Planning Tech Survey, finds that digital transformation is happening across the financial services industry at breakneck speed, and advisors are embracing it like never before. 

But the annual analysis reveals that even with that higher priority and a willingness to spend, wealth managers continue to have a difficult time navigating the crowded marketplace and lack confidence in their technology decisions. 

“There are numerous choices out there, and they can cause a bit of paralysis. We used to talk about analysis paralysis in the investment world, and I certainly think that that applies to the volume of tech solutions that are available out there,” said Charles Reiling, CEO of the Delaware-based independent broker-dealer and RIA platform CoastalOne. “I think firms big and small have been slow in addressing the ever-changing tech landscape out there. Firms that have older legacy systems are never integrating fast enough for their advisors. 

“It's a constant complaint as there are new, nimble solutions out there that advisors want to use. And for many reasons — and they're good reasons — firms aren’t providing.”

But if technology is focused on and implemented correctly, the payoff is well worth the stakes. For Don Patrick, chief strategy officer of Integrated Financial Group, digital tools can keep the human element of advisory front and center as a business grows.

“Technology creates capacity for the advisor so they can focus on their clients and the human aspect of it while taking away a lot of the mundane routine aspects,” said Patrick who founded the Atlanta-based consortium of independent financial planners in 2003. “It provides scale, and in a service business, it's a big deal as labor is one of the bigger expenses, but it also provides and can provide a very frictionless experience for clients.”

“That’s what’s most important. It allows for more families in America to have a financial planner and financial goals,” added Land Bridgers, CEO of Integrated Financial Group. “That really should be the heartbeat behind this. Whether you’re a millennial or 90 years old, when it comes to your finances … you want to have a real conversation with somebody, and there's no way AI or technology can provide that like a true financial planner who's got the time, resources and experience to provide that to that individual. But technology can help us connect with more individuals.”

The 2022 Financial Planning Tech Survey — conducted by parent company Arizent via an online survey completed by 250 advisors — explores the tech trends shaping the wealth management industry. 

For advisors looking to keep pace or pull away from the pack, the report provides key insights into the perceived role of technology in future practices and a look at how advisors are investing for the future.

Scroll down to see some takeaways from this year’s survey. The entire analysis can be found here.

Advisors understand that technology is crucial and it is being highly prioritized

More than half of survey respondents say technology is critical to their firms, while another 39% say it is very important. Just 7% say technology is only somewhat important, while no one says that it isn’t important at all. Technology has become such a top concern that many are prioritizing it over other business needs in their budgets such as hiring, compensation, client acquisition and conferences.
chart 1

But advisors aren’t confident about the technology they have chosen

Just 38% of those surveyed say their firm has “definitely” focused on the right tools to remain competitive in the market. The rest either have some doubts (49% answered yes,

probably), disagree with their company’s decisions (5%) or aren’t sure (8%). Confidence correlates with the size of a firm’s technology budget. Among firms spending less than $500,000 per year on technology, just 35% said they are definitely making the right decision on technology. At firms spending more than $1 million, that number rises to 53%.
chart 2

There is also a concern about being ready for the future

Only 32% of respondents say their firm is “very well prepared” from a technology perspective to support clients’ needs, while 42% say this regarding their employees. Although very few say they are completely unprepared, there is still room for improvement at many firms. Fee-only advisors with either a broker-dealer or an independent RIA report feeling the most well-prepared.
chart 3

Wealth managers are ready to spend to get better

Two-thirds of advisors agree that technology is key to serving more clients and driving business growth. More than six out of 10 plan to increase their annual budgets over the next year with another 34% saying they plan to keep it the same. Just 3% are planning on a decrease.

That statistic was encouraging to Reiling, who has seen tech spending in wealth management lag for years.

“I think we're starting to see some changes there. I think we're starting to see some of the large firms realize that maybe spending on proprietary software that is difficult to integrate is not the way to go,” he said. “And I can tell you for the smaller firms, tech has not been a big spend historically, and I think that they're seeing the light on that too. I can tell you we certainly have. If we don't build a nimble, technologically advanced, easy platform for advisors, then we're not going to be here in 10 years.”

The client comes first

When it comes to what advisors are looking for in technology, the customer is always right. When asked what is driving their firms’ priorities and investments in technology, 51% said “higher client satisfaction” while “improved client retention” and “improved profitability” tied at 42%.

Not every advisor is the same

Different types of advisors think differently about technology and display different preferences in adoption. Advisors with a bank or credit union are significantly more likely to agree on the value of technology than insurance agents. Meanwhile, fee-only advisors are more likely than employee advisors, independent broker-dealers, insurance agents and bank/credit union advisors to be using CRM, digital client portals and trading/rebalancing software.