Expert: James Barker, Backbase
The many interpretations afforded by the phrase ‘online client experience’ was reflected in a wide spectrum of conversation, touching upon issues as varied as on-boarding strategies and robo-advice, to artificial intelligence and cyber-fraud.
Most attendees observed that the online client experience was an area of growing focus in their organisations and that they hoped to use the session to share and learn best practice from one another.
- A blended delivery model, combining self-service and advisory, should be offered to deliver to different segments profitably.
- Online client communications need to be targeted and timely; it must therefore be supported by a holistic client data-set.
- Concerns around cyber-crime may discourage some from using online offerings.
- Advisers are currently unsure of the full potential of FinTech in the industry but see opportunities to partner for efficiency gains.
- Digital marketing should share quick snapshots of relevant information with clients that they can access on-the-go.
The discussion began on the topic of cost effectiveness, with delegates exploring different ways for advisers to use their online strategy to service client segments profitably.
For example, a low-cost, self-service advice option can be used for mass affluent/affluent clients, while those who are older or at the higher end of the wealth curve generally prefer having a choice between self-service and face-to-face.
A comparison was made with the health sector, where pre-appointment interaction is increasingly moving online to gather patient data effectively prior to face-to-face consultations. The same principle could be applied to wealth management, with technology being used to streamline account opening and providing a portal for viewing information, with the option of meetings in person for some clients.
For some delegates the challenge centres on encouraging take-up of the online solution once it has been implemented. Walking clients through the platform and demonstrating how to use it has proved effective for one adviser in convincing people to try it out.
Client communication channels
An excellent digital proposition is integral to the high-net worth experience, improving the efficiency of client interactions. Delegates commented, however, they sometimes come across internal push-back when proposing this view, with some Relationship Managers worried that their role is put at risk, rather than enabled, by digital communication.
In practice digital channels are being used to support client touch-points. One delegate suggested that the fundamental of good client communication was having access to a holistic data-set, from across the organisation, to make sure the content being sent out was sufficiently tailored.
“Communications need to feel personal, relevant, and contextual. They should feel designed for them, not for people like them.”
A holistic data-set will be needed to understand the gaps between RMs and their clients. A challenge for advisers is that they are often less good at capturing and using so-called ‘dark data’, the soft information about their clients that needs to be centralised and shared with the rest of the firm. If done well however, this information can support advisers during the wealth journey – beginning with on-boarding but allowing them also to contact them at key events in their lives to help them handle change.
“We need to be wary of information greed as that will lead to client fatigue. Clients don’t want to feel like they’re in a mile-long origination process. We don’t always need to ask clients what they want – we can use back-office analytics instead.”
For many HNWIs the immediacy of online is not only incredibly attractive, it can drive value in the face-to-face relationship too. Delegates talked about using technology to gather relevant client information prior to meetings – one way of ensuring those conversations stay focussed.
But many of the attendees were as concerned as their clients about the possibility of cyber-crime. The older generation particularly are most anxious about sharing sensitive details online or by email, resulting in a challenge to advisers:
“The most natural thing to roll out first on an online platform is statements – but in fact that also tends to be the most sensitive bit. The stuff that usually follows is research, portfolios and advice – all of which tend to be less sensitive.”
The role of FinTech
There was some speculation as to how FinTech should be viewed, with delegates commenting that the industry is ripe for disruption from an Uber-style proposition. In the near-term, FinTech partnerships could help advisers streamline and automate back-office operations.
In the longer-term, advisers do see the opportunity to upgrade their back-office and move away from legacy systems. The challenge remains choosing between ‘quick-fix’ replacements and entirely changing them.
“Given many wealth managers have a 36-month time horizon and are facing high client expectations, a replacement can come with considerable costs: the expense for smaller firms, the risks (e.g. of losing client data) for larger ones."
For several delegates, the primary focus of the online experience right now is digital marketing. There was some debate as to the most successful strategy for posts and shares, with the learning that the effect should be non-intrusive, with a series of ‘sound-bite’ updates. These snapshots should pique client interest, encouraging individuals who want to know more to follow up.
During the discussion, it became clear that advisers are at different stages of their online client implementation journey. A strong conclusion from the session was that the online experience doesn’t have to be segregated from the overall client experience – indeed it should be an integrated part of the client proposition. The key challenge for advisers is to align the digital strategy with how clients want to engage with providers in other parts of their lives.