Lisa Claes: Advisers need to innovate

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Planners fixated on driving new business are missing out on big opportunities in innovation within their current client base, says ING Diect’s executive director of distribution, Lisa Claes.

Claes, who was recently selected as a finalist in the Business Innovation category of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, says the financial services industry holds a wealth of opportunity for innovation.

“If you look at what the needs are for customers, they want their needs met quickly, they want value and they expect their broker or adviser to know about them, because we are in the age of ‘all about me’, then there’s a lot of opportunity for innovation.”

As tempting as it can be to pour all of your efforts into generating new business, says Claes, a focus on ways of making your existing customers happier is particularly important for planners, for whom referrals are crucial. She suggests putting 80% of your efforts into deepening current relationships, rather than building new ones.

The key achievement behind Claes' Telstra nomination was an electronic customer verification process for savings accounts.

But innovation doesn’t necessarily require personnel with specialised qualifications or complex IT systems, says Claes.

“I think the true definition of innovation is making something that’s complex simple, and in doing so enhancing the customer experience, foremost, and then as a secondary consequence becoming more efficient.”

Systems that allow core information on clients to be stored in a centralised database, accessible by both advisers and the clients so as to allow self-service when applicable, are a great way of achieving both of these goals, says Claes.

This centralised information can also assist with diversification by allowing easy transfer of data between financial products or referral partners.

“If it’s executed well, and I don’t think many are doing it well, that would be a win all round,” says Claes.

This allows advisers to have more meaningful conversations with their clients, as opposed to interactions being based around collecting data, says Claes. Every touch point should be an opportunity, and Claes says that there are reasons every day to create those touch points rather than waiting for clients to ring you.

“People want you to be interested in them and what they’re doing, so it won’t be shunned, it’ll be invited.”

Innovation opportunities are everywhere, says Claes, and she’s “a living example” that it doesn’t take a lot of specialised expertise or qualifications.

“You need to be open to ideas and immerse yourself and stimuli as you can in your environment and people and be good at connecting dots, because that’s what innovation is about; It’s the same set of inputs just put together in a different way to make something completely different. So be alert to what’s around you and listen.”

Where do you see the need for innovation in the planning profession? Share your thoughts below.