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Aaron Spradlin: The vital role of AI in financial advisory practices

The intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and financial advisory practices has become increasingly crucial. 

As technological advancements continue to reshape the wealth management industry, financial advisors face both opportunities and challenges. From streamlining operations and enhancing client experiences to navigating regulatory complexities and ethical considerations, AI holds immense potential to revolutionize how financial advice is delivered and consumed. 

Aaron Spradlin, chief information officer for United Planners Financial Services and a seasoned expert in wealth management, was quoted in a recent Action! article, shedding some light on the game-changing effects of artificial intelligence (AI) on financial advisors

Focusing on the importance of maintaining trust and personal connection in the advisor-client relationship, Spradlin emphasizes the unique value proposition that advisors bring to the table. Through practical examples and thoughtful analysis, this conversation underscores the imperative for advisors to embrace AI as a tool for amplifying their value proposition and staying ahead in an increasingly digital landscape. Click on the video to watch the interview.


Suleman Din: From your perspective, what's important for readers who are going to read that article? Why is it important for them to understand the impact of AI in wealth management? 

Aaron Spradlin: You know, I remember during the interview, we talked a lot about this concept of robo and the history of trends and things that come into the market and kind of become buzz and how advisors should react to it and what it implies. 

I remember in the interview talking a little bit about what differentiates advisors from these other up-and-coming innovations. We are in a trusted relationship, technology is important, but advisors are selling trust, right? The trust economy, the whole economy is built on trust. Advisors provide a very important face-to-face conversation that is deeply rooted in what the advisor practice is bringing in the value chain – to the client. 

Technology may make you more efficient and AI may help you streamline your business. I don't see it anywhere getting into that trust relationship between an advisor and a client. You may be able to scale with different types of technologies and there are arguments we made about how technology can be used to build trust and the more transparent you are and things like that. But I think there's something so unique about face-to-face, so unique about very difficult conversations being done face-to-face that at the end of the day, I don't see it disrupting that trust relationship. 

That's what I was talking about in my conversation was more around the value proposition of advisors and where that's going to continue to be strongest, even with AI. 

Din: So it sounds like or advisors – or anybody who's reading this article – who wants to understand AI and wealth management, the imperative is to understand how to use this technology, whether it's an LLM or some or any other type of AI-powered tool to accentuate the value that you bring to the relationship with the client. 

Spradlin: Exactly. For example, a way that we're using it at United Planners is differentiating us in the market – recently we went ahead and implemented the ability to process our forms and our data that we're receiving using AI, powered by AWS, which is bringing in this ability to interpret written language as well as interpret the actual forms that are being keyed in and we're able to kind of replace people who are keying in that information with this ability to do OCR, but with an artificial intelligence built into it. 

That's a way of creating efficiency and bringing value. I think in the early part of what's happening – whether it's ChatGPT or these other tools that are out there that help advisors innovate – this robo or AI, all of these key terms are really about scale, efficiency and practice management. I don't see any of them really stepping into the true value proposition, at least right now, of that trusted relationship, whether it's a lawyer, a doctor, or a financial advisor.

Din: You know, Aaron, what kind of advice would you give to that individual who just wants to initiate and really wants to begin? 

Spradlin: You know what, it's great. What I told my CEO is to open up ChatGPT, create an account, and have some fun. That's where I would start. Go in there and ask it questions. Ask it to write you a poem about a funny story. Get a sense of what is really cool and interesting about it and have fun with it. Be leery of all the buzz and things you're hearing from a lot of the vendors that are out there. There are a lot of people using this to be cool and sound cool, but be pragmatic and wait for your vendors to start showing real results. 

Listen to the vendors, see what they're doing, be pragmatic, and have some fun with ChatGPT, to kind of get a sense of where things are going. Keep your eyes on Google, keep your eyes on Elon Musk with his AI technology and just kind of watch it progress. 

I don't know if there's a whole bunch you could be doing on your own as an advisor unless you're a billion, multi-billion-dollar producer. Even in that case, most of the work is being done by vendors and innovators – by firms like ours that are out there bringing solutions to our advisors. 

So I think they can be excited about what vendors and firms like NetApp are doing, but to really get engaged with it in a fun way, that is where I would start. 

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