Client-facing enhancements top wealth manager investment priorities
The quality of wealth managers’ client-facing interactions is where the customer experience is won or lost. Increasingly, those interactions need to be digitalised. However, as the latest annual WealthBriefing/SS&C Advent Wealth Management Technology & Operations Trends report found, that quality, especially when compared to the daily digital experiences clients are exposed to in other areas of their lives, is often lacking.
The unstoppable trend
Change tends to happen in two ways: slowly, and then all of a sudden. While wealth managers have been investing in digital service capabilities for some time, many haven’t gone far or fast enough. Now they must.
The pandemic has been a game changer. Starved of in-person interactions, digital channels have filled the breach, showing how relationships can be maintained virtually. Firms with the right tools have been able to continue delivering services and advice, often at lower cost. Clients in turn have the freedom to monitor their investments and seek guidance when they need it.
Now both sides have experienced the convenience and responsiveness that digital tools and interactions bring, I see no way back. A hybrid model of digital interactions and in-person/phone meetings is the minimum going forward. And over time the balance may well shift in favor of digital delivery, especially among the younger cohort of millennial and Gen-Z wealth inheritors and accumulators coming through.
Focus on enhancements
If wealth managers are to meet clients’ high and evolving service expectations though they’ll need to improve their digital offerings. And many are, or at least are trying to.
Almost three-quarters of respondents to our survey have implemented a client portal. A further 20% plan on doing so. Similar numbers have or are planning to implement a mobile app and secure video conferencing. Customised reporting and instant messaging tools emerged as top investment priorities for those firms that currently lack such capabilities.
Automated/self-service onboarding is another area of focus. Traditional client onboarding, with its interminable application forms and manual system inputs, is an excruciating process for clients and advisors alike. Frictionless self-servicing transforms the experience. It empowers clients while enabling firms to dramatically improve their internal operating efficiencies.
Workflows, data connectivity and customisable questionnaires can automate account opening, risk profiling and investment proposal generation. Automated workflows can also help firms match the right product to each prospect’s investment objectives and risk profile, creating more tailored, relevant outcomes. With all the laborious administrative tasks taken care of, initial client meetings can then concentrate on advisors adding value with insights and advice, which in turn boosts closure rates.
Intuitive self-servicing capabilities can be a powerful addition to the ongoing service mix too. Giving clients access to on-demand, customisable reports so they can view and interrogate their assets how and when they want helps keep them both informed and engaged. Self-service trading provides clients with the flexibility to manage their own money—especially where firms back it up with portal-delivered access to proprietary and/or third-party investment research, and secure video and chat advisor communication channels.
This is what makes digitalisation so potent. It offers immediacy, customisability and collaboration, giving clients the flexibility to be serviced how they want. And by reducing advisor workloads and stimulating more responsive client/advisor interactions, advisors can stay in closer touch with their clients and on top of their needs. The increase in potential touchpoints reinforces those relationships, helping boost client retention rates and profitability.
Technology (and Covid-19) are redefining clients’ service expectations. The challenge facing every wealth management firm is to keep up. Investing in rich, integrated digital capabilities that enable advisors to better support every stage of the customer journey and provide a stand-out client offering will only become more critical to wealth managers’ success.