From challenging times come some of the most incredible innovations and scientific breakthroughs. As we all navigate the COVID-19 way of life, we’ve all had to figure out new ways of working, communicating and basically getting stuff done remotely.
This time of remote working and self-isolation is making way for the complete digital transformation of entire industries. In health, we’ve seen GPs and pharmacists go online to see patients and financial advisory and accounting are no different – as Peter McCarthy said in a recent Startup Daily article, this digital transformation of our sector is something we’ve been talking about for the better part of a decade.
“Without face-to-face meetings, advisors have had to think very quickly about how they could better leverage technology to build and maintain their client relationships,” McCarthy said.
The use of online forms – or digital fact finds, tax checklists and onboarding forms – which help advisers digitise the engagement process by eradicating paper to streamline data collection, is up over 300% since December 2019. Digital signing of documents is up 225%, a direct result of less face-to-face meetings and people working from home.
On the subject of remote working, as we’ve previously mentioned a Federal Government Telework Advisory panel in 2012-13 sought ways to encourage businesses and their employees to embrace “telework”, we were devising strategies to incentivise industry to move the needle on remote working practices. Never did we conceive that a global pandemic such as COVIDCovid-19 would one-day force this change upon people, and do so literally overnight. Back then, technology was improving to help accommodate telework, but today we are truly in a great position to embrace this and there are many signs that technology is delivering.
Let’s start with the all-important pipes or networks needed to cope with the surge in demand and Australia’s growing appetite for data. In early April the NBN reported that weekly activation numbers had surged to 42,000 premises in consecutive weeks, up from previous averages of 32,000 in the prior 6 months. Peak business hour upstream speeds were reportedly topping out at 1.02Tbps during April, which was a 104% increase over the pre-COVID timeframe. Importantly, it seems that the NBN in Australia is coping reasonably well with the sudden increase in demand. Notwithstanding, upload capacity on the network had to be increased in order to address the demand and further enhancements are likely to be needed. As you’d expect, much of this increase in traffic is related to the huge uptake in video conferencing services, but it seems it is not all about work. For example, the busiest traffic day on the NBN was apparently April 8th which happened to coincide with an online update to the popular video game “Call of Duty”. “Sure boss, I’m really busy here in my home office” as the sound of machine-gun fire echoes in the background.
Home video conferencing is the new communications medium of choice and the industry is booming. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are clear winners here. Zoom’s share price is up from $68 in January to over $144. Interesting to note it’s PE ratio is tracking at 1,532. By comparison, the average P/E for the S&P 500 has historically ranged from 13-15.
Video conferencing is the new communications medium of choice and the industry is booming. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are clear winners here. Zoom’s share price is up from $68 in January to over $144. Interesting to note it’s PE ratio is tracking at 1,532. By comparison, the average P/E for the S&P 500 has historically ranged from 13-15. Other tech companies providing solutions that promote remote working are seeing big lifts in their share prices. Microsoft is up 32% since late March. Atlassian is up 26% in the same timeframe. Slack is up 40%. This is all based on greater uptake of their platforms and related to that, the market’s expectation that this will continue to be a trend long after COVID lockdowns are lifted.
Closer to home, myprosperity is also seeing a substantial increase in the use of its platform. This trend, however, goes beyond remote working and speaks to the renewed economic uncertainty that is facing clients. Speaking with myprosperity CEO, Stephen Jackel since the beginning of 2020, partner logins to the platform have doubled. Assets added by clients is up 110% and liabilities even higher at 200%, possibly signalling that households are increasingly concerned about debt levels and wanting to get on top of it. Furthermore, the use of Digital Forms and Fact Finds is up 300% and just in the last month, Opportunities have seen an increase of 35%, driven on the back of in-application surveys and a clear signal that clients are seeking help from advisers.
Clearly advisers are turning to digital technology to stay connected and their clients not only want it but are in fact demanding it. In our video interview series, myprosperity@home we’ve had the opportunity to speak with numerous advisers on how they are coping in this new remote world. Whilst they have not had a choice, overall the mood is very positive and it seems that being forced into isolation has prompted a rethink on how technology can make a substantial and sustained impact on how the industry will operate. For me personally, I believe the hardship caused by COVID-19 will bring about long-term positive change in the way technology can help bring about better outcomes for advisers and their clients.