Wealth Management: A Customer Experience Battleground

If client experience is the new battlefield within wealth management, how can firms win?

A panel of experts met recently to discuss how wealth management firms can use digital strategy to transform the client experience. On Thursday, September 28, PureFacts Financial Solutions and K2 Digital hosted senior executives from the wealth management industry, to discuss the challenges, opportunities and changing environment in the industry.

Moderating the discussion was Susan Silma, Practice Leader, Client & Industry Strategy at PureFacts Financial Solutions.

Panellists were:

  • Frank Laferriere, Director, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Mandeville Private Client Inc.
  • Karen Behboudi, Vice President of Digital Marketing, CI Investments Inc.
  • Ian Gibson, Director of Product, PureFacts Financial Solutions
  • Kenneth Cheung, Vice President of Strategic Growth, K2 Digital

The graphs below display the questions posed to the audience and the responses that were captured utilizing live polling technology.

 

Poll question 1: How important is a digital strategy for your clients?

23 respondents indicated that it was very important or essential for firms to prioritize digital strategy if they want to remain relevant to clients.

How has digital strategy evolved in our industry and how has that impacted the client and advisor journey?

The answer lies in how each firm views the customer journey.

Frank Laferriere: “Clients today want to talk to their advisor in the way they want, how they want, when they want. We need to be aware of this and be able to provide experiences through a [holistic] journey process that’s going to be rewarding for them.”

Karen Behboudi: “It’s not just all of the experiences, it’s the most important experiences, and how they’re able to interact. We’re not going to be perfect at every point of interaction, but we have to understand what areas are most important, and offer the most value to our clients …  those are the ones we should focus on first.”

Karen: “It used to be that we wanted to change the status quo within journey touchpoints … it was within very siloed points of interaction.. Now we’re thinking about what happens before and after that point of interaction as more of a journey. Our digital strategy has very much evolved. It’s not just about front end experiences, it’s about evolving the way we operate to be automated with the things we do in the back.”

Kenneth Cheung: “The long-term strategy is an enablement strategy through the back end. Today, it’s about letting employees scale up and do more with less, and on the front end, you’re letting clients access as much as they can, as fast as they can, when they want it. And I think what’s interesting is that we’ve taken a big swing over the last 5-6 years to say it’s a “replacement.” I don’t think it’s a replacement, it’s an augmentation strategy.”

Poll question 2: Where is your firm on executing a digital strategy for your clients?

Nobody believes they are fully digitally enabled. This aligns to research that shows there are common barriers to true customer intimacy at a time when clients can do their own research and take their business anywhere in an instant. Even in our audience of seasoned leaders, it shows that there is a lot of room to grow. Surprisingly, some respondents believe that digital enablement is just a pipe dream.

Ian Gibson: “Something I’ve see in our business is that we have gone through a focus on the data. ‘Can I put my forms online? Get a better website? Can I take stuff that used to be on paper and digitize it?’ So we’ve gone from that kind of conception of what a digital strategy is to a better relationship between the data. And I think that’s where we are today. It’s not about individual data points, but success is about bringing it all together.”

Karen: “We don’t want to just change the status quo, we want to transform. But we’re in a complex industry, and there is so much in the background. Regulatory, forms, book of records, legacy technology, old processes… but we’re getting there.”

How does a robo advisor offering help you with your client experience strategy?

Ian: “I was at an asset manager conference yesterday. There was a lot of conversation around robo. What I found interesting was that unlike only a couple of years ago, advisors looked at robo as a technology that has developed to help them do business better.”

Frank (whose firm just bought a robo advisor): “If you think about what they’re doing, they’re just repackaging someone’s assets. We already have the portfolio management systems, we had allocation. So all of this is really just making the front-facing side a little bit different. Advisors see they can use robo as another arrow in their quiver to help build more meaningful client relationships.”

Kenneth: “Customers at the end of the day don’t recognize the actual technology. They’re drawn to what is more accessible, more digitally enabled, and available 24/7. At this point, whoever gets stronger at delivering (digitally) to their clients is going to win at disruption.”

Poll question 3: What kinds of touch points do your clients expect from your firm?

It is more important than ever that a portal is available for investors to access and drive customer engagement. We can not forget the core human touch though by coupling a personal call from an advisor. The panel discussed that human intimacy, context about their investment goals and performance, and the guidance they get from their advisor  is why investors seek advice.

Kenneth: “We are in the process of building humanistic design thinking. The idea should be that investors and advisors have the same view. So, with the click of a single button, advisors are able to see all of the transactions a client has made. It should generate all disclosure, forms – everything they need to execute transactions while making the advisor look smart.”

Poll question 4: What kinds of tools do your advisors expect from your firm?

After all these years, client onboarding is still the number one challenge for firms. Creating intimacy and trust remains a challenge if onboarding processes are not fully integrated and cross channel.

Ian : “The number one thing advisors ask about is onboarding, both through an onboarding platform, and through the advisor portal. They want to know what technologies are in place to help them serve their clients.”

Karen: “Onboarding is very important to get upfront trust from the customer. If you lose that, you do the opposite, it’s a very bad start. So I would say onboarding is one of them.”

In terms of the kinds of tools advisors will expect from their firms in the future, here are three key ones:

  • Making the financial advisor contactable via video link/chat/personal messaging
  • Responsive websites/mobile apps
  • Customer dashboards/self-reporting/interactive interfaces that allow the customer to analyse/visualize in detail the performance of their investments.

Frank: “What we’re finding is that there are different value sets for the different generations. We recognize that we need to rethink how we’ll be relevant to the next generation. And that’s become a challenge. The younger generation has become very social, which has become alarming because they don’t have the same boundaries around privacy. We’re learning how to work on social media, and the connectivity associated with accounts. We have to respect PIPEDA, while allowing them to socialize with their advisor on their desired channels.”

What do we mean by Big Data?

Ian: “We’re in the financial industry, our data has always been big. Big data isn’t just about how fast, or how much you can crunch, it’s what you do with it. So if you can actually take all that data from different sources – some of it structured, some of it unstructured, in different formats – and just sort through it and find patterns and trends out of it, I think that’s where the value of it is.”

Karen: “You need to bring in expertise who will know how to interpret data. Someone who can work with the business to explain what can be seen, and to help ask the right questions. Because it really impacts how we manage and make decisions that will affect our overall business.”

Ian: “Big data has been seen as a solution, but it isn’t the solution. It’s a tool to help create solutions. In the future, if we’re able to begin layering artificial intelligence and machine learning on top of big data insights, we may be able to actually discover things about client opportunities, and we’ll be able to serve clients better, because they’ll be able to help us ask the right questions.”

Poll question 5: How invested is your firm in understanding new technology such as Big Data, AI, and Machine Learning?

There is a lot of interest in AI and machine learning. How will we use these technologies?

Clearly asset management companies are gearing up to use these new technologies. Curiosity is rising, and it’s important to choose the right partner to ensure that these new technologies do not fall by the wayside as true digital 360 and onboarding have. The insight here is that all companies need to have an understanding of how to adopt new capabilities as fast as possible.

Frank: “From our perspective, we’re curious about these, but we haven’t placed a lot of priority on AI or machine learning. I’m not convinced that it’s evolved to a level where you can actually start forming strategy on them.”

Frank: “In our industry, we have to be relationship people. So, anything that helps with the relationship is great, but I honestly don’t believe there is a substitute for human contact. So we’re going to monitor and see what happens.”

Wealth Management is undergoing enormous change. As new technologies and business models transform the investment experience, a new generation of investors (young and old) has different needs and requirements. The Purefacts/ K2 panel discussion provided evidence that digital can help firms personalize client experiences while scaling your business.  This can be supported by data insights enabling an understanding of how these personalized client interactions drive client satisfaction and retention.