Wealth Advisors Should Balance New Technological Realities with Traditional Practices


Following months of remote work, video calls and doubling down on digital communication, the financial advisor-client relationship may be changed forever. And for the better.

The era of in-person meetings isn’t completely over. As the pandemic subsides, there will always be a place for handshakes, lunch meetings, outings and rapport-building activities. But the past year showed definitively that technology can maintain and enhance relationships, even if parties are separated by thousands of miles.

It is not simply a matter of adopting video chat platforms en masse, either. The circumstances dictated by the crisis provided an opportunity for advisors and firms to pivot in meaningful and innovative ways to enhance to the client experience. In the past year, online platforms, apps and client portals were vital, allowing clients to stay connected and engaged with their finances.

But those advancements and tools are certainly not the endpoint. Take, for example, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms. Traditionally viewed as being better accustomed to gaming and entertainment applications, these technologies have seen many uses and successes in other industries, including with financial institutions and related parts of the sector.

These technologies are no mere gimmicks. As they are refined and become ubiquitous, they will add to a long-term process of unshackling advisory capabilities from traditional one-dimensional communication and delivery tools to three-dimensional, immersive client experiences.

Glancing at AR and VR

When many people think of AR or VR, they might imagine them as technologies reserved for near-future sci-fi movies, but platforms that take advantage of their unique characteristics and capabilities are proliferating. In fact, those same people may have used them and not realized it.

Concerning VR, the technology is costlier and requires the use of less widespread equipment, such as bulky headsets that create interactive, virtual environments, but the market is growing rapidly. A 2020 study estimated the VR industry would experience 21.6%. compound annual growth over the next six years. Considering 20% of consumers used VR in 2020, that figure may explode over the next half decade.

AR, meanwhile, leverages digital assets with the help of goggles or, more commonly, mobile devices, to quite literally augment reality. The popular mobile video game “Pokémon Go” is a good example. There are also plenty of consumer uses, such as apps that help you envision how a piece of furniture may look in your home.

Although overall AR adherence by businesses is low, there is a demand. Recent data shows nearly 3 in 4 consumers would shop more often if AR was used to help make their decisions, and 61% said they prefer retailers with AR experiences.

These are technologies that are experiencing growth and are inspiring curiosity from consumers. It’s time for leaders in all industries, including wealth advisory services, to consider the possibilities.

Revisualizing the finance industry

AR and VR can create immersive experiences that transform how users receive information and visualize data. While not widely used yet, programs that leverage the technologies can be found throughout the commercial banking and investment banking sectors, hinting at what they can add to other businesses that deal with financial data.

For example, researchers in France developed a system that produced VR simulations of figures influencing security prices and delivering financial news. Another company, meanwhile, developed technology that allows people to visualize stocks in a virtual city.

The examples, however, are more user-focused. Personal finance and wealth management firms are founded on trust and interpersonal relationships, so the use of AR/VR and other emerging technologies in the sector should be aimed more toward enhancing those interactions and client experiences in ways that were never possible. They should add to the traditional model, not replace it altogether.

Pivoting to new realities

It’s hard to remember if there ever was a more opportune time for advisory firms to take advantage of new and emerging technologies. The past year, in particular, opened the window for the mass adoption of video calls, which meant advisors and clients could keep up face-to-face meetings and maintain a semblance of normalcy. Nevertheless, platforms like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams were already relatively established and do not change the paradigm very much. In fact, the very existence of “Zoom fatigue” means those platforms, while useful, may not be a technology that truly moves the needle or is sustainable.

On the other hand, AR and VR are transformative, generating experiences that feel novel. Imagine delivering traditional documents to a client that discuss their asset allocation, but you’ve added a QR code that the client can use with their smartphone’s camera, and it subsequently unlocks interactive materials that offer digital assets detailing what’s on the page. Or perhaps meetings in the future can be enhanced with VR headsets that transport users to a conference room with heightened visuals delivering information in creative, easy-to-understand ways.

Such innovations are more than toys. Firms that properly leverage revolutions in technology come across as premium, forward-thinking and efficient to clients. They also make firms more appealing to potential new hires, demonstrating a workplace that has the desire to be on the cutting-edge and invest in tools to help employees perform.

Is the future now?

It may seem far off until platforms and programs using AR or VR widely and the platforms work seamlessly for all parties. But if the past year taught us anything, it is that businesses can pivot and introduce new processes quickly — and consumers can adapt just as fast. Even self-described “tech-illiterate” people were able to learn how to use new apps and video platforms when those were the only options available during shutdowns.

More than ever, we can say we live in an unpredictable age. Among the few things we can guarantee is technologies that will evolve the client-advisor relationship in fascinating ways will flourish ever faster. That mean it is up to firms to progress alongside them and monitor the latest developments. Clients, certainly, will be looking for their advisors to significantly and meaningfully adapt to new realities.

Michael Krol is a partner and head of the Wealth Advisory Team at Waldron Private Wealth, a wealth management firm based in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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