Your Business

What a futurist has to say to financial advisers

16 November 2017

We all need to embrace that technology is now at the centre of things, writes Sylvia Pennington

“The big thing about our future is it is not simply an extension of the past; it is a reinvention of every single thing we have seen so far,” says futurist Chris Riddell (pictured).

“You wake up every single day and things seem to be that bit different again. That’s the new normal for us.”

Speaking to the audience at the AFA 2017 National Adviser Conference, in a keynote speech sponsored by ANZ Wealth, Riddell acknowledged that many of us are bewildered by the speed-of-light change that’s become the norm of twenty-first century life.

But he says it’s coming, ready or not, so strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

The blockchain bomb

Smart phones, social media, the cloud and big-data analytics have been the key technology trends of recent years but, as we race towards 2020, expect the sharing economy, ‘blockchain’, artificial intelligence and the ‘internet of things’ to be the next game changers, Riddell said.

A blockchain is a digital ledger which prevents information being tampered with, altered or deleted by recording online transactions in ‘blocks’ across multiple computers.

Individuals’ level of trust in government and the private sector is at an all-time low but blockchain could turn this around, Riddell said.

“It will help re-establish trust and transparency – it’s going to come in and remove all those old-world processes,” he said.

“When you apply for a mortgage or credit card there’s paperwork you have to fill out, reams of it. Blockchain is going to make those applications instant and is going to make decision-making truly frictionless.

“This is the future for customer experience. Banks are investing heavily in this space and it will trickle through into the advice industry. It’s exciting.”

It’s all about technology

As digital disruption carves a swathe through every industry and profession, businesses must think and behave like start-ups, according to Riddell.

‘A classic example of this is the banks,” he said. “ANZ’s head of digital is an ex-Google employee. Banks are now employing people who are technology-focused first and banking second because that is the future for them.”

Time to up-end your thinking and company culture and do likewise if you haven’t already, Riddell told delegates.

“It is now hot to be in tech and everyone in this room is in the business of tech – that is the future,” he said.

“Every single moment in our world now is a technology moment – we are all in the business of technology, regardless of what industry we’re in, it’s always about technology.

“In the next five years, you will be unable to differentiate between our virtual world and our real world. The two worlds are combining faster than they’ve ever done.

“You’ve got to challenge the structures within your businesses that have been around for decades and were set up for the world where we’ve come from. They’re not set up for a world where we’re now going.”

While disruption has become an over-used buzz word, you’ll be on the right track if you focus on doing what you’ve always done, only better and more simply, Riddell said.

Customers first

The rise of the digital native – a term for young people who’ve grown up in the hyper-connected internet age – has seen consumer behaviour patterns change significantly; a development which has profound implications for businesses of all stripes.

“The customer is now front and centre of every decision you make,” Riddell said.

Companies need to maintain ‘razor focus’ on customer experience and create ‘incredible micro-moments’ to cut through the clutter and capture their attention, he said.

For those concerned they can’t keep pace, Riddell offered some upbeat advice: “We fear change as humans but it’s time to stop worrying and see it as a most exciting time. It’s a huge time to be a human on planet Earth.”