One of the most pressing questions the financial planning and advisory practice firms must answer is how they will change and improve their service offering according to different digital client demands and segments.
Going digital is no longer optional but don’t forget the personal touch
There is a growing recognition that the next generation coming into wealth will have different needs and expectations around service provision. They will want a different high-touch service level combined with digital that is enabled over the channel of their choice and at the time of their choosing. Going digital was an ongoing issue before Covid but has been pushed sharply into the spotlight as advisers and clients alike needed to find new ways to connect remotely and seamlessly engage quickly.
The quality of communication is also under the spotlight. Clients do not want to spend hours form filling, giving out the same information multiple times or printing, signing and posting documents in this digital age. But what they do need is quick and quality contact on matters of importance, like if they need to discuss their premiums or portfolio quickly, if they have a significant life change or event, or just need advice and help with something. The contact needs to be high quality and limited to the things that are of high value to clients.
Good software should reduce your work and be easy to use
The firm’s adviser/relationship manager needs to be given equal importance in providing a modern client management and financial planning software that offers superior interface and flexibility in communication, functionality and automation wherever possible. Efficient digital tools will allow them to focus on the activities to add value and have a deeper relationship with the clients; they don’t want to waste time doing admin.
Thus in practice, the adviser technology toolkit needs to make an efficient and thorough job of each stage of the client lifecycle. From client lead generation, conversion, frictionless onboarding, planning, purchasing, reporting, ongoing engagement and management, there needs to be a unified software set underneath that can automate as much as possible and serve the firm to make life easier for both clients and advisers.
Digital Prospecting and Segmentation
And how a financial services firm attracts clients in the first place is vital. Although this is still very much about the human touch and the personal connection, there is much that a firm can do in attracting and engaging clients. The use of data and modern digital tools help make sense of a prospect and determine whether an approach is likely to be successful, how it should be made, and what it should contain.
Using digital acquisition strategies at the prospecting and onboarding stage is another way of appealing to clients in an age where competition between financial firms is healthy. Automating and customising as much as possible for the needs analysis process leaves the firm to tackle the personalisation and offer a superior service level.
This sort of fact-finding can be complicated, so having the right tools to unearth facts, record them, use them together with other information and make sense of it is critical. A toolkit with this capability is a great value add for a firm. It enables an individual prospect to be better segmented. If you know where someone is in terms of not just finances but also lifestyle, life cycle, and interests, you can make good progress on planning and knowing what is likely to appeal and what won’t for the type of advice approach as well as product suitability.
Supporting the human touch
Many steps can be automated when onboarding, leaving the adviser free to focus on the planning stage. One of the critical things here is to use e-signatures to make life easier and less time-consuming. In terms of communications, video conference, or a co-browsing model where both parties can enter data, it is an attractive service model in itself and leads to better information exchange and engagement.
The aim is to use the data gathered from the onboarding stage, move it along the planning and product research stages, and develop concrete auditable suitability recommendations. The adviser needs something customisable, but that can also use templates where applicable and mesh the two together.
Automating Compliance and, most notably, an elegant Client Portal
The other easy win lies in accessing and using a series of lists and templates set according to the firm’s client types and segments; this helps with risk management, Compliance, and standard documentation. Being able to enter compliance checks data once but then reuse it across several client cases is crucial. This takes out the laborious repetition for both adviser and client and shows the client a sleeker and swift level of service.
The same applies when it comes to reporting. Having a live client portal app rather than a static PDF adds significant value because it gives a much deeper engagement level regarding reporting and ongoing communications. It is far more engaging to have easy access to an online portal to check valuations, read the research, thought pieces and other analytics, thus making reporting more robust.
In-Person, Online and Hybrid – The future of work
A new technology platform is needed with a digital focus, which brings it all together in terms of the service offering. Previously this type of offering would only have been available on an enterprise-level to tier-one large firms. Our newly launched Wealth CRM and financial planning advisory software with a tightly coupled client portal, AdviceObjects.com, is accessible and affordable to all firms. Another critical element of our platform is that it requires no installation, and thus again, this makes it convenient for practice firms to create a seamless transition.
To be successful in this digital age, firms need to act now to meet the current generation clients’ needs and gear up their advisers with software tools to provide customised value-added services with superior client engagement cost-effectively and seamlessly.*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW