It is frustrating to think that upper limits are set, not on the capacity to advise or the availability of new clients, but by interminable tasks and the need to generate pages of compliance blurb, which is often impenetrable or meaningless to the average investor.
For those unwilling to accept this status quo, embracing automation and becoming paperless is an increasingly likely solution.
Advisers need to look beyond the traditional back-office systems that only store contact information, create a single view of client holdings and monitor remuneration. Whilst they may have served an adviser well to date, even the most sophisticated back-office system is unlikely to make the difference for an adviser trying to operate in today’s environment.
Focus on service
A common theme across the globe is a far greater emphasis on the service proposition advisers are giving clients. Advisers not only need to provide greater transparency on fees but also clearly demonstrate that the advice they provide is suitable for a client’s needs. In short, advisers need to show the value they provide to clients and they need to do it regularly.
In addition to demonstrating the value of their service, advisers also have a large administrative burden: they need to disclose their fees and get client opt-in regularly, produce statements of advice following delivery of advice, and make sure they are on top of all their compliance requirements, just to name a few. This can be tough to scale with a back-office system that only records activities rather than focusing on the client’s experience.
The real question to ask is, “Does the client value, or even see, all the effort that occurs in the back office?” Probably not. To our mind, simple back-office systems just can’t deliver in this new environment. Advice businesses need customer relationship management (CRM) systems if they want to grow their client base and provide a strong level of service that a client sees and values.
CRMs offer a tool to build and manage the relationship with clients, rather than simply being a mechanism to keep everything in one place. They are used to help deliver the service to the client, rather than just store the history of it.
A good CRM assists from the very beginning of the client relationship, at an introductory call or fact find, through subsequent meetings, implementation and ongoing service. Online engagement tools will assist throughout the entire lifecycle of the client journey.
Establishing a workflow
The right CRM provides advisers with an opportunity to evaluate and streamline their workflow. It helps a business consider how they can deliver their client proposition efficiently while eliminating cumbersome processes. The more an adviser ‘rinses and repeats’ the model they build within a CRM, the more they become aware of areas that have been inefficient and are able to tweak their workflow accordingly.
With a healthy workflow established, an adviser can work out the time and cost to deliver their service proposition for each different types of client – silver, gold, platinum, for example. The CRM then supports that service, issuing reminders for client meetings or updates at the appropriate intervals. This maximises time spent WITH the client rather than on the client.
High touch engagement
A CRM also allows the adviser to create a factory-repeatable process. Advisers can communicate at scale because they no longer need to individually contact each client to take action, the CRM does it automatically. It allows a high-touch service without additional work for an adviser.
The adviser’s focus then becomes about the delivery of the service rather than the production of it. CRMs have built-in tools to deliver on that engagement through online portals, where it is possible to view investment positions, update information digitally and communicate freely with the client. This creates new, modern ways for advisers and their clients to interact.
Be Entirely Digital
No matter the industry, every business has a digital experience, whether they consider it or not. More than 5 years ago, mobile/tablet eclipsed traditional computers when it came to connecting to the world.
If an advisory practice has not considered and invested in its digital experience, it may already be creating a negative outcome for their clients.
A simple and highly effective way to create a digital experience is with an online engagement platform such as an investor portal. Investor portals can allow for instant and secure communication between adviser and client and with investors having access to their wealth information in real-time, there is the opportunity for advisers to engage with their clients in a more meaningful way. Many also provide a shared document hub to allow the facility to manage ongoing requests or activities between the parties.
With digital signatures becoming more widely adopted, the entire onboarding process can be delivered through a digital platform too. From fact-finding and risk profiling to delivery of statements of advice, investors now can input and receive this information digitally and provide the necessary authorities to process the same way too.
Embrace AI and learn from your data
Artificial intelligence (AI) is finally reaching the everyday market by providing great insights into client engagement. Utilising a CRM allows adviser businesses to store the full audit of every contact point with the client.
AI within CRMs can help business owners and advisers understand the common patterns in their business model. Whether there is a certain part of a process that takes too long in the onboarding stage, or if activity has dropped below the average. It can even let an adviser know which clients have not been contacted and the risk that this may bring. Each insight can help drive greater business efficiency and alert businesses to maintain their high levels of engagement with the client.
With well-defined digital portals, businesses can also track investor logins and how their clients are interacting with their financial situation. This can create fantastic insight on the comfort levels of the client, alerting advisers to make contact. If, suddenly, an investor logs in far more frequently than their average, it may indicate that their stress levels have changed. Be it market conditions, or a need to make a withdrawal for personal reasons, AI can alert the adviser to contact the client to offer support and guidance.
Every login and interaction on digital portals offer advisers insights into their clients and the opportunity to provide more personal support than ever before.
Integration of investment platforms and CRMs
This perhaps is one of the most exciting aspects to come in 2020. The reality that CRMs and investment platforms will be able to work harmoniously, creating the ideal experience for the adviser and the investor.
By integrating your CRM with the investment platform, the result is a complete set of data about the financial situation of the client and a holistic view of your client base and their wealth management experience.
Today, the implementation of advice and the actual execution of it takes the longest time in the financial planning process. Advisers need to create the advice, investors need to approve it before the adviser then submits the request to the platform provider to execute. If this is all done on paper, the amount of double entry can be as high as 7 instances of the same information being input between paper and systems. The time delay and the risk of error can be enormous.
With an integrated experience between both CRM platform and investment platform, the input of data can be reduced to just the one entry with acceptance being the trigger to pass information between systems. Time and error should shrink substantially offering an even better experience for the client.
As we enter a new decade, the shift in focus from ensuring the job is done to ensuring the job is done well is a welcome change. The more businesses can focus on the client’s experience, the better the outcome will be for everyone. Embracing the capability of their technology will give advisers not only more time, but the potential for more clients to engage with too.