What needs do your clients or students face that fintech might fulfill for them?
Consumer fintech — financial products and services powered by technology (especially digital or mobile technology) — can be tricky for a financial adviser or educator to incorporate into their practice, because companies and products change, merge and disappear so quickly. But that’s not a good reason to ignore them altogether.
A majority of Americans (83%) say they “overspend” at least sometimes, according to a recent survey by NerdWallet. That includes 84% of those surveyed who say they make a monthly budget but have spent more than they planned at some point. I know budgeting isn’t a solution to financial woes, and no piece of technology will solve all of your clients’ problems. But financial apps can lessen the burden of money management and help clients work toward life goals without worrying about money all the time.
To guide your clients toward a smooth adoption of useful fintech tools, consider these questions in your practice.
1. What are their financial needs?
Always start with your clients’ needs in mind.
You might be tempted (as I often am!) to tout a new tool you’ve discovered because it’s exciting for you. Or you might be in a position to earn affiliate revenue or sponsorships for driving users to an app. Always consider clients’ needs and circumstances before recommending a tool that might encourage behavior that could harm their relationship with money.
For example, a spend-tracking app like Mint might help one client feel in control of their finances, while having their finances constantly tracked and measured might add anxiety for another client. For the latter, a simple digital cash envelope bank account like Qube Money might be a better fit.
2. What’s their comfort level with technology?
Some folks are resistant to fintech apps or online banking because they’re not comfortable with digital or mobile technology in general. You can’t simply point these clients to an app and leave them to it.
In a project by the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders and the coaching resource platform Change Machine, practitioners noted age is an important factor in fintech adoption. But they also noted that coaching, influence from close relationships and visual guidance were major factors. So you have an opportunity to guide resistant clients in fintech adoption; you just have to provide the support and education they need to feel comfortable on a new platform.
Think like a coach and help guide clients toward apps that are right for them. For example, the money management app Cleo might be obviously marketed toward Gen Z customers, but its AI chat feature might actually make the app more user-friendly to older clients who are already familiar with texting and chat technology but haven’t used budgeting or banking apps yet.
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3. Do they trust financial institutions?
The NALCAB/Change Machine project also found trust to be an important factor in fintech adoption. Many populations — especially those who are traditionally underserved by the industry — are skeptical of financial institutions and hesitant to hand over information and control of their money.
If you sense hesitation, talk with clients about their experiences with financial institutions. Have they felt served and supported in the past? Are financial services available in their preferred language? For example, Dinero en Mano is a Spanish-first (with an English option) money management app, a rarity in the industry.
4. Is the technology inclusive of your clients’ identities?
Like a lot of technology, fintech is often created and run by wealthy white men. As powerful as the tech can be, the exclusivity of its decision makers can leave holes in its capabilities and understanding of its users’ needs.
Review options with clients to understand which fintech features will serve them and whether they feel represented by the tools you’re sharing.
Change Machine has developed a Seal of Inclusivity to help advisers determine whether a product or service is equitable. You can use its criteria to vet fintech yourself:
- Is it inclusive and accessible, including for folks with a poor banking history, low access to technology, an Android smartphone (or no smartphone), no bank account, no computer, etc.?
- Are the fees and minimum deposits, balances or investments low (or zero)?
- Is the company transparent about how it makes money and how it uses customer data?
- Does the company offer easy access to customer support to ask questions, dispute fees and manage transactions?
- Does the app prioritize the users’ financial interests and security over engagement?
On that last point, for example, a micro-investing app that encourages regular trading with small investments might lead clients toward greater risk than their circumstances call for. The community finance app SoLo (which I use as an individual), in contrast, serves those users with small amounts to invest without encouraging risky stock trading (while meeting additional goals of equity and inclusion).
Don’t be afraid of fintech
Even if you’re not an early or eager adopter of technology in your own life, remember this technology can be valuable for your clients and students. Listen to their questions and financial needs, and work with them to search out and vet fintech tools that can make their lives easier.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.
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