Hybrid Advice: Operating Model

Dan Mahony, Shona McCluskey

Hybrid Advice: Optimising client support in the midst of a crisis

The growing pressure on advice firms to consider how best to use digital within their operating models is not new. Efforts to attract the mass market, expectations of younger investors and the need to reduce costs have all formed pressures to date. Many firms have been reluctant to adopt technology due to uncertainties around client trust and losing relationships gained through face-to-face meetings.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a shift in the general population’s view of adopting technology within their day-to-day lives. The use of video calls and digital apps has become the new normal, used for social events and family gatherings across all generations. There has also been a growing interest on the health of savings and investments as uncertainty grows around the lasting economic impact of Covid-19.

The level of uncertainty around this “new normal” has forced firms to consider adapting their business models to a socially distanced society if they want to survive. There is value in drawing on ideas from firms across industries whose business models have been recognised as delivering excellent client experience prior to the pandemic and who have also been resilient to Covid-19. This is no different for advice firms and could also pose a prime opportunity to transform the advice industry and bridge the advice gap.

Some key areas of focus for advice firms considering a digital hybrid advice model include:

  • Opportunities to use technology to make productivity gains and reduce the cost to serve
  • Long-term impacts of responses to Covid-19 on their operating model
  • How to capitalise on technology to simplify historically complex areas such as risk and compliance

Firms must consider both the opportunities and risks which adopting technology such as Video Conferencing, Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence can bring. The problem of generalist tools not suitable for the advice journey is no longer an issue. There has been a great amount of innovation in this space with firms such as Aveni developing solutions specifically for financial advice firms. Actions taken now will create winners and losers in the industry and it is time for advice firms who have historically relied on face-to-face client meetings to act now and create new opportunities.

Operating Model

It is important for advice firms to consider the long-term impacts when incorporating digital within their business model. Although there is pressure to “act now” in a knee-jerk response to Covid-19, firms must carefully plan, assess and remain focused on the end client. Advice firms are under growing pressure to consider how digital tools can best be deployed in a hybrid advice model.

With a variety of digital tools on offer, what key questions should financial advisers consider to ensure they create long-term opportunities for their business?

Hybrid Advice Operating Model image 1

Key Challenges

  1. Building a Digital Advice Capability – implementing an omni-channel hybrid approach that captures a wider segment of the market with a streamlined and personalised service focused on delivering value to the client. Digital should be embedded across the end-to-end proposition regardless of the client’s entry point
  2. Lead Flow Capability – enhancing lead flow through automated routing across the hybrid proposition depending on client needs and preferences, recognising the interconnectedness of client journeys
  3. Technology Integration – seamlessly integrating technology into the new digital model and delivering consistent advisory experience regardless of client channel whilst simultaneously improving adviser efficiency. Leveraging and enhancing existing infrastructure
  4. Risk and Compliance Framework – balancing the need for regulatory compliance whilst maximising the client experience and outcomes
  5. Fulfilment and Continuous Engagement – utilising innovative portfolio management functionality and CRM techniques to retain existing clients and meet their needs

Operating Model

How do we build a digital capability for all of our clients?

When incorporating digital within the advice process, firms must think about how they deliver a personalised client experience that works for all and does not disadvantage certain groups of clients. For example, some clients may be familiar with using digital for many aspects of their day-to-day life, preferring a quick process with less guidance, whereas others may require an additional amount of direction and support.

How do we maximise lead flow capability?

Financial decisions are not always straightforward for clients. Firms must allow clients the opportunity to reflect within the digital journey, replicating the consideration time clients would have between face-to-face meetings. When designing the digital journey, points to consider include the ease of the sign-up process, whether clients can easily pick up where they left off, availability of multiple entry points and clear signposting.

How do we manage the integration of technology?

Integrating short-term technology solutions in a quick response to the Covid-19 challenges may cause challenges later down the line. There is a risk of fragmented client journeys from the use of multiple systems in the end-to-end advice process. Consequences of this can include the need for manual workarounds, poor client experience and minimisation of potential productivity gains.

How do we ensure client data is safe within a digital and advice journey?

The simplification of the advice process for the adviser must be balanced against the need to protect the client, particularly in a digital advice process. It is crucial that firms are aware of where this data is stored, how it is being used and have embedded appropriate controls in the technology infrastructure as well as policies across the organisation to reflect this change in offering.

How do we ensure that we continuously engage with clients and build lasting relationships through a hybrid advice model?

It is crucial for firms to have strong portfolio management functionality and customer relationship management systems to ensure they can serve the needs of their clients remotely. System features which enhance relationship management include a single system which provides audit trail, detailed note storage and client contact prompt capabilities.

Having successfully come through the initial shock caused by Covid-19, we see this as a moment of both opportunity and risk for our clients. This has the potential to radically transform advice firms’ abilities to bridge the advice gap. However, firms must leverage early success by developing robust operating model and technology strategies to avoid fragmented client journeys and poor client experience.


Alpha FMC are experienced in supporting firms develop and implement hybrid advice models and would be pleased to discuss this in more detail. Please contact Dan Mahony or Shona McCluskey.

Please also see below a link to our first article in the Hybrid Advice series.

About the Authors

Dan Mahony Alpha FMC
Dan Mahony
Director – Head of Pensions & Retail Investments

Dan is a Director and co-lead of the Pensions and Retail Investments practice at Alpha. He has particular expertise regarding the UK intermediated distribution market and product innovation. Dan has also led numerous distribution change and strategy initiatives across intermediated, direct to consumer and corporate sales functions.

Shona McCluskey
Shona McCluskey

Shona is a Manager at Alpha in the Pensions & Retail Investments practice. Shona has over five years of consultancy experience and has delivered a number of transformation and regulatory implementation projects. She has worked with a range of clients including global wealth and asset management firms, global banks, with a more recent focus on UK pension and retail investment firms.