La Cible - June 2024


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Chair's message

Digital Competencies: The Keys to Creating Value for Our Clients

Every F.Pl. I meet, as well as every financial planning student who aspires to become one, is deeply motivated by the desire to help their clients achieve their financial goals. This is so fundamental that clients, with their situations, goals and needs, are the heart of the competency model in the Competency Guide for Financial Planners launched in 2023.

Putting clients at the centre of the model was no accident. This central kernel is surrounded by all the competencies we draw on to ensure that our advice has value for them and their families, now and in the future, and even beyond the end of their lives. When you think about it, it is an enormous responsibility and an immense privilege to support and guide our clients in this way.

“Of course! That’s obvious!” you say. And yes, it may seem obvious, but I invite you to take a step back and consider the keys that allow you to make a difference in the lives of your clients.

We all use many technological tools in our professional practice. These tools are so integral to our lives that we cannot do without them. In fact, in the latest version of the Competency Guide for Financial Planners, you will find the technical transversal competency “Digital thinking,” defined as the “capacity to understand the rapid digital development and use technological tools in the financial planning practice.” This little sentence is packed with meaning. I encourage you to consider how much you understand or take an interest in the rise of digital technology and how you are developing your skills with the digital tools at your disposal.

Understanding the rise of digital technology

I have stopped counting the texts, documentaries and reports I see that deal with the integration of technology into our professional lives. The authors are always reminding us about security issues for personal data, bias in certain algorithms and, increasingly, the environmental impacts of using technology that processes multiple data points to find the answers we are looking for

More specialized publications emphasize issues related to professional liability, which is a very broad concept, and how the professional judgment that supports the practice must be exercised differently now that we are using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). A 2021 report prepared under the auspices of the monitoring and investigations arm of the Observatoire international sur les impacts sociétaux de l’IA et du numérique (OBVIA) in collaboration with the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en analyse des organisations (CIRANO) for a research project proposed by the Conseil interprofessionnel du Québec (CIQ) states that some tasks will benefit from being automated by AI. Certain tasks involving decision-making will be accelerated and made more accurate because they can take advantage of more complete, higher-quality information, allowing the humans at the helm to make a better judgment.

However, we have to develop our skills to be able to do this. I am often surprised to hear professionals who have tried to use generative AI (such as Gemini or ChatGPT) complain that the tool does not provide the information they are looking for. But how much time have they invested in developing their capacity to prompt generative AI effectively? Because this is an increasingly essential competency. Just as important as it was to be able to find a word in the dictionary when we were in school!

How deep is your understanding of the tools you are using? If your client asks you specific questions about what is in the tool’s “black box,” do you know how to answer? Do you know how to make your client feel confident about it? In its Issues and Discussion paper called Best practices for the responsible use of AI in the financial sector, the Autorité des marchés financiers says:

Whenever an artificial intelligence system (AIS) could have a high impact on a consumer, the consumer should have the opportunity to request a clear, reliable explanation of the process and main factors that led to the outcomes or decision provided by the AIS. The AIS should be designed so that such outcomes are traceable and explainable. When explanations are clear, there is no need to share intellectual property or source code. Non-technical language should be used, at a level of detail proportional to the seriousness of the consequences for the consumer of an erroneous decision or outcome.

What I am trying to do is show you, using specific, concrete examples, is that we must all develop our digital competencies. Where should we start? We are all asking this question. And we are not alone. I have already mentioned that we participated in setting up Fintellect, a national task force that is exploring the rise of technology and digitization in financial planning. The members of the task force have identified three fundamental questions we should examine in the short term. One of those questions is related to the competencies that current and future financial planners need.

With the Sommet en planification financière roundtable, we also worked on a questionnaire that was completed by hundreds of practitioners across the country. The results were unveiled at the Sommet’s symposium in Drummondville last May 24.

Finally, understanding the rise of digital technology will also be an integral part of the Institute’s Congress this year on September 17 and 18 at the Fairmont Tremblant. The keynote address will be made by Hugues Foltz, partner and executive vice-president at Vooban. If you are not already convinced about the urgent need to take action and develop your interest in all things digital, he will present facts that make you sit up and think! If you are already curious and you want to take your thought process further, he will spur you to action. In short, his speech will be packed with really good ideas.

What will be left for us?

While we must develop and expand our comfort with the daily use of technologies, we must also develop the skills to ensure that our human approach is never overshadowed. In his 2016 book Humans Are Underrated,1 renowned American journalist Geoff Colvin offered some wisdom that rings even more true today:

As a result, the meaning of great performance has changed. It used to be that you had to be good at being machinelike. Now, increasingly, you have to be good at being a person. Great performance requires us to be intensely human beings. To put it another way: Being a great performer is becoming less about what you know and more about what you’re like. 

Developing our understanding about the rise of digital technologies means developing a better understanding of ourselves and our talents and continuing to work on them consistently. This is how we will gain a more nuanced understanding of our clients and learn how to support them better. Not like a machine, but like one human being connecting with another.

The Institute of Financial Planning is just the partner you need on this developmental journey. Our efforts to provide you with activities and programs that support you in the development of your knowledge, your know-how and your interpersonal skills are undeniable proof of that. We firmly believe that your competencies are the key to creating value for your clients. And when those talents are leveraged, they will open the doors to raising your practice to unsuspected heights.

Bernard Fortin, MBA, FCSIMD, C.Adm., F.Pl., FICB
Chair of the Board of Directors of the Institute

1 Colvin, Geoff. 2016. Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know that Brilliant Machines Never Will. Penguin/Portfolio.