“2021 will be what we make it.”
Resilience and the ability to accept change has unquestionably become our industry’s legacy from COVID-19. As we eagerly shut the door on 2020, what will 2021 bring us? Here are my predictions and hopes for the year ahead:
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
As a legal tech company, it was impressive to witness the speed with which the industry embraced technology for the better in 2020. Productivity and profitability concerns around remote working were quickly erased by efficiency gains through digitisation. The pandemic became the push that many needed to dip their toes into digital waters and experience the results first-hand. I predict that the adoption of technology and change will become even stronger in 2021, as user confidence grows and businesses see the value created.
If practices don’t have fingertip control of their businesses through the analysis of core metrics to drive faster growth and profitability through technology, I hope they use this reflective environment to do so, as that insight is going to be increasingly important. In tighter trading conditions, being able to do more with less, in a more competitive environment, will be important. Building baselines and measurement frameworks to measure business performance and success, is going to be more critical than pre-COVID.
How People View Technology and Change
Newly converted technologists will continue to view technology as the absolute enabler that it is. Changing attitudes on how people view advanced technology as part of the estate planning process will ensure the industry remains future-proof. There is a prevailing view within estate planning that technology gets in the way of human interaction. I think lockdown has taught us that is a fallacy, as actually technology enables more efficiency, which creates more time to be spent on things that matter.
However, letting go of paper-based, traditional processes and driving change can be hard, and some people within the industry are reluctant to do so. Some parts of the industry still view technology purely as a cost centre rather than an investment in growth, profitability and business viability.
There will undoubtedly be a divergence in the market between those that drive change and adopt technology, and those that don’t, and we are starting to see this now. I expect this trend to exacerbate, and one of the key determining factors of success post-COVID will be the distance achieved by organisations along the technology adoption curve.
Increased Price Pressure
There are difficult economic times ahead. Preparing your business to offer clients and prospects a number of different engagement options through increased accessibility and service options, together with improving and emphasising the value of your offering will be key to remaining competitive.
Marketing to Millennials
New digital players targeting Millennials and chasing ‘The Great Wealth Transfer’ will continue to increase. A few key facts and figures:
• The oldest of the baby boomer generation have reached 74 years of age and have begun to pass on their wealth. In the UK, this now represents 14.3 million people.
• The number of people aged over 65 in the UK will increase by 6 million over 30 years.
• £5.5 trillion is forecast to be inherited by both Gen X and Millennials over the next 30 years, £1 trillion of which will be inherited over the next decade.
• Average inheritance in 2017 was £62,000, rising to £92,000 by 2027.
Millennials are at the stage of life where they are encountering multiple life-changing events: gaining significant assets such as buying a house, getting married, having children – the time to engage with them is now: before they inherit. This demographic trust and rely on technology to deliver key services. They expect instant gratification online, spend significant time on their mobile phones, appreciate social media incentives, utilise rewards or loyalty programmes and use chat bots.
It is important to be assessing your business to ensure it meets the estate planning requirements of this increasingly important generation: from offering a mobile-friendly online Wills service on your website, to using marketing tools that can personalise their online experience and coherently communicate the importance of making a Will and associated documents.
Empathy and understanding are part of the essential toolkit when interacting with clients in the Wills and Probate sector. Practitioners have to deal with uncomfortable topics, sometimes in difficult circumstances, and never more so than during the challenges presented by the pandemic.
It is important that spending quality time with vulnerable clients, or clients who need empathy and understanding, is enhanced by the digital experience. Firms who find the sweet spot on the nexus between technology and human interaction to improve the holistic customer experience, will thrive in this new and challenging environment.
We should view technology as the enabler of improved human interaction – not a detractor, and this factor could be a defining legacy for the estate planning sector, as we consider that the COVID journey is likely to impact us throughout 2021 and into 2022.
More time to connect with clients
Having the time to connect with clients, especially during a time of worry and restricted in-person meetings, is so important. Interpersonal connection with advisers (for many, over a video call) is important to many clients and nurturing the human connection will strengthen and cement relationships. Taking the time to connect and care can mean so much and Arken has heard many stories of practitioners going to incredible lengths to provide peace of mind for their clients – it’s been inspirational.
Enabling efficiency on time-sinking tasks is the key to unlocking what you want to do more of as a business and will help cement client relationships post-COVID.
Enabling estate planning in private
You can also choose for technology to reduce human interaction and take care of straightforward tasks directly, and remotely, such as an online Will service. For many transaction-minded end clients who like instant gratification – this is ideal. This market will continue to grow in 2021 as people continue to plan their affairs from home. And sadly, in the case of those in an abusive relationship, organising their affairs online and in private, is the channel they need to secure their wishes.
I predict that in 2021, the public will become increasingly aware of key estate planning documents. Providing different engagement options, putting the client’s preferences in the driving seat and solving their problems efficiently will become pivotal in a post-COVID world.
Winston Churchill once said ‘History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it’.
What is our legacy as individuals, practitioners and as an industry as a result of COVID? Will we seize the opportunities and create a legacy, or allow our future to be determined for us?
Or to ask the question in a different way, what do you want your clients to remember you for, post-pandemic?
2021 will be what we make it.
Written By Dave Newick, CEO of Arken.legal
Dave Newick is CEO of Arken.legal, a provider of expert digital solutions for the private client and estate planning industry. Dave has worked within the technology services industry for 20+ years as a Senior Executive before moving to the UK from New Zealand, to lead the Arken.legal business.
Working across multiple business disciplines, Dave has a wealth of knowledge in marketing and customer acquisition within services businesses.
With multiple start-ups, transformations and divestments in his career to date, Dave is both a driver and avid observer of change. The human interaction with technology and digitisation-driven change is something Dave is fascinated by and passionate about.