Expert: Paul Bebber, SS&C Advent
Facilitator: Cath Tillotson
The adoption of back-office and front-office technology is increasingly widespread amongst private banks. The aims now are to improve client interactions and make the human touch more valuable in conjunction with technology.
- Technology does not have to replace everything but there needs to be a balance of advanced technology for the client’s convenience and RM interaction for more complex needs.
- Offering a range of interface tools to allow clients to self-select how they engage with their wealth manager could be a better way to manage the challenges of client segmentation.
- Technology enables banks to reduce staff to client ratio and thus cut down on their biggest costs – human capital. However having high performers will become even more important in this more compact pool of talent.
The expert set the scene by making participants aware of the increasing importance of front-end technology, and especially digital technology, to enhance client engagement.
The firm estimates that only 25% of wealth managers currently have an interactive digital interface for clients and has received more RFPs recently for digital engagement tools on top of the usual demand for back-office tools.
The expert also observed that the biggest shift toward offering an online interface for clients was in Switzerland. Five years ago, Swiss banks often did not send out statements, however now HNW clients can view them in almost real-time online.
These tools help banks to offer a fully customised client experience; all clients can interact with the wealth manager as they wish. As a result, these capabilities are superseding generic segmentation strategies (most notably the assumption that Millennials will prefer digital channels and therefore trying to identify which online tools meet the needs of this group most effectively).
The participants felt that future segmentation strategies will more likely be based on a client’s preferences for meeting with the relationship manager and their communication preferences, rather than their age or source of wealth.
However, participants felt strongly that technology will not replace human interaction in the wealth management experience. High quality advice and advisers remain critical to the solutions offered by wealth managers.
Firms must therefore strike a balance between advanced and convenient technology for simple interactions and supporting clients’ more complex needs with adviser support.
For example, giving clients the ability to look at portfolio snapshots and self-serve for simple administration tasks frees up the relationship manager to focus on having the “quality conversations” that clients need and expect.
The question was raised from one participant whose firm was resisting launching online tools whether clients become more ‘needy’ due to the abundance of information available to them at their fingertips.
The general view was that clients might access information more often, but generally only contact the relationship managers when they need expert input. This creates a degree of efficiency in the operating model that is beneficial.
Firms that want to take advantage of this efficiency however will need to provide education to their clients on how to use the tools effectively as widespread adoption will not happen automatically.
It is also important to consider whether the relationship teams at firms have the right knowledge and skills to manage the increasingly complex advisory tasks. The introduction of online tools often requires a parallel upskilling of the advisor teams.
The concerns of relationship teams also need to be managed. While many fear that their roles could be replaced by technology, it is important for management to emphasise that if wealth management firms fail to offer technology solutions to their clients, two out of three clients will consider leaving.
Participants also debated some of the practical challenges and opportunities of introducing new technology to enhance client engagement:
- Enhancing internal CRM systems so that client contact can be managed seamlessly across the organisation – including transferring interactions from self-serve to RM and back again.
- Offering video chat functions, including one-way chats that would allow the adviser to be seen by the client on “phone calls”.
- Using existing social media platforms for relationship-building communications and secure client microsites on the firm’s platform for document exchange.
- Educational YouTube-style videos to reduce the amount of time spent by relationship managers explaining technical issues.
- Ensuring digital communication channels are not over-used, resulting in clients feeling they are being spammed by the organisation. This is a particular risk as a result of MiFID II enhanced communication demands.
Technology can be used to boost the value of human in the advisory role, rather than act as a replacement. It all comes down to giving clients choices that are convenient and accessible.