How Technology Has Influenced Financial Planning
Technology and investing go hand in hand today. Devices like the Apple iPhone are a part of our everyday lives even though it’s just over 10 years old. (I feel like we’ve had iPhones around forever.) So, how does the intersection of technology and investing affect us now and in the future? Here are a few thoughts.
Where Have We Been
I remember starting in the financial services business over 20 years ago the primary source of information for the stock market, foreign exchange market or overseas market was my paper copy of the Wall Street Journal each morning. I looked at where things had been the previous day, where they ended at the end of trading, then looked at a collection of articles and resources to be able to understand what happened around the world. All of it was in paper format. We would receive books and books and books of hard copy which was overwhelming to say the least. When technology moved to computers it was a very big deal when we started to receive that same information on a floppy disk or compact disc that was inserted into a very large and bulky main drive to pull up information to read on a bulky computer.
Not only was incoming information overwhelming, we also had to keep huge paper files for both us and our clients. Financial services companies would literally have an entire room filled with file cabinets. Each financial planner needed to keep each piece of paper each time someone signed something and each time a record needed to be kept, we kept them locked in a room that was locked. When you think about it today, it’s almost archaic. However, we’re only talking about a little over 20 years ago. Technology was advancing, and we knew that there would be developments to make our lives somewhat easier, but that’s how we began.
Where We Are Today
Today, North Main Financial Group is a paperless office. Everything is scanned into an encrypted system which we don’t even keep on a hard drive but rather upload to an encrypted, cloud-based system for the security of us and our clients. So much of what we accessed via book or periodical now we access on our hand-held devices, laptops, tablets…all accessible to us at the press of a button.
I’ve seen such a rapid transformation in terms of the way in which information for us, internally, is received. You probably have a similar story. It’s amazing how much our lives have changed, and how much our day-to-day professional lives and personal lives have been changed, by technology.
Let’s think about our personal lives. It seems almost hard to believe that there was a time, not too long ago, where you were probably carrying change around in your pockets in the event you needed to use a pay phone. I don’t know about you, but I rarely see a pay phone anymore. To top it off, you had to memorize phone numbers whereas now, you keep them electronically and at the push of a button you can make a call. And in some cases, we can even use voice recognition to automatically dial the person you wish to dial.
That applies to the investment universe as well. The same information that once came in via thousands of printed pages, is now accessible real time with the push of a button or two. Think about how you receive news. You are being deluged with information from around the world second-by-second, every day. I remember when CNN was the only 24-hour news channel and I remember thinking, “what in the world are they going to talk about for 24 hours?” What does that mean for the financial planning universe?
It’s a challenge. It’s a very significant challenge and there are pros and cons. It’s a challenge in the information age where there is a non-stop flow of data, information, changes, all happening second-by-second. How do you meld the relationship of having accessibility to making good and prudent financial decisions? It’s not easy. It occupies us every hour of every day at North Main Financial. How do you disseminate between the information that is most helpful, most relevant and in some cases, what is the difference between fact and fiction? We have systems that can sift through large amounts of data very quickly, so we can understand with the greatest clarity possible about what is happening in the world around us. And how it affects our clients.
How do you sift through that and make prudent decisions? We literally are sifting through information constantly to determine whether something is an anomaly or is keeping with a current trend. If it happens to be an anomaly, is that anomaly indicative of a new trend or just noise in the system? There can be a lot of volatility in the market place, short or extended term. What information do you use to figure out if it’s a short-term or long-term trend? From that point, what adjustments might you need to make?
Most of what we see is noise. Because there are so many data and information points, and often they are conflicting, they are noise. At North Main Financial we work to scrape back the noise to find what’s important and it’s not as much of a science as it is an art. We look at history and try to identify similar times and trends to help us navigate the waters. For example, think about 2008 and 2009 which for many folks was very painful form a financial and emotional standpoint. In that case, you would be hard pressed to find another time, maybe the Great Depression, that was as devastating. So, it was not a huge help and it was difficult to identify with any trends, especially since we are moving into uncharted territory. As always, we recommend reaching out to a tax advisor, your financial planner or North main Financial to help guide you through those questions.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Who knows what’s going to happen 10 or 20 years from now. It’s hard to imagine that the information distribution cycle can get any faster than it is right now. But do we eliminate more of the human connectivity part of it and does it become more of a digital and cloud-based information relay which is exempt from the human interaction? I don’t think that’s going to be the case but it’s interesting to put those thoughts together to see what’s next. For us here at North Main Financial, we want to keep that one-on-one connection with our clients because we feel that’s the best way to provide you with the best service.
In conclusion, when I think about the ways in which we can talk into our hand-held devices or the watches we wear, those were the kinds of things you only saw on Saturday morning cartoons like Dick Tracy or the Jetsons. It seemed almost mythical at the time. Today, we are literally living that out. You need to give current and ongoing attention to how technology and investing interact. The decisions you make today may or may not be appropriate one year, two years, or 10 years down the road.
Interested in hearing more about this topic? You can listen to the full episode of the North Main Financial radio show on WSIC by clicking here: Episode – Technology and Investing 10-23-18.
If you have questions or would like to talk with us further about our services, give us a call at (704) 987-1425 or visit us at www.northmainfinancial.com. If you wish to schedule an introductory meeting, we would be happy to meet with you at no cost or obligation to you.
These Blogs are provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice. Any opinions or forecasts contained herein reflect the subjective judgments and assumptions of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of SagePoint Financial.