Expert: Steven Greenfield, Dimensional Fund Advisors
Facilitator: Rod Bryson, Capgemini
A number of firms undertake client research to ensure they understand what the clients think of their service delivery and overall firm proposition. The regularity varies but most were undertaking regular research and finding some useful outcomes from confirming their existing thinking from anecdotal verbal client comments to highlighting small issues which they weren’t aware about - this had an impact for certain clients such as the size of the print on the documents they were issuing to clients.
In terms of measuring advisor value, firms agreed with the Dimensional research that clients really focus on the advisor helping them achieve their goals and providing peace of mind that their goal will be met rather than specific investment returns. However one or two firms had detected that with some of the clients their research had detected a trend towards greater interest from clients to ask specific returns, however for the majority of firms this wasn’t the case.
The research indicated that f2f engagement was still the key/primary way of connecting with advisers by clients but increasing numbers using email. Firms felt this research reflected how their clients engaged with them, however it was noted that an increasing number of retired clients where increasingly happy to use video chat as they were becoming used to this technology from engaging with their children and grandchildren and appreciated the convenience. It was clear that clients would want to continue the face to face engagement for key meetings with the adviser but increasingly for all basic servicing telephone, email and video chat would continue their growth with advisor ensuring they provided these services.
Linked to how clients wanted to engage with their advisors it was clear they also expected to engage at least 4 times a year with their advisor and therefore if clients were expecting to engage at this level then using different forms of engagement was necessary to be efficient. Firms felt that this was something they already do today in many respects by segmenting their clients by the complexity of their needs and the level of service they required to support those needs and in effect those you wanted a high degree of engagement due to their complex needs were given this linked to an appropriate fee level to cover the likely increased cost of providing that level of engagement.
Finally the research highlighted the topic of referrals and that 97% from the client sample would be happy to refer their advisor to friends/family/colleagues however between 41-56% of clients had made a referral and 52% of the advisors had waited at least a year before asking for referrals. During the discussion some firms felt they had a referral process in place but many questioned its effectiveness. There was also an acknowledgment with firms that advisors often lacked confidence to ask and this was equally the reason the research had indicated although clients would be happy to provide a referral, many had not as they hadn’t been asked by their advisor. During the session a number of firms felt that advisors coming into the sector and developing overall in the last 6-7 years now had all of the technical skills due to regulation and increased professionalism but equally were lacking the soft skills that the previous generation of advisors had but with less technical skill base which was something firms needed to improve. Dimensional highlighted a successful referral training service they had provided to a number of advisory firms to help advisors and firms improve their referral penetration levels.