Technology that can both scale up a practice and zoom-in to offer client experience enhancements is at a premium, said, Tom Westhoff, vice president of Global Sales at Practifi, a business management platform for financial services firms, because clients are demanding better experiences with their advisors.
“This has become the client expectation, we’re living in a world now where information and data is at our fingertips,” he said. “Today’s customers gravitate towards the experiences they want. If a prospect or client is going to do research on their own financial questions, they’re going to be presented information about what’s happening in the world, it will often include information about the things they should be investing in and not all of that information is accurate. They might make decisions that aren’t appropriate, or worse, they might question what value there is in paying an advisor’s fee or a broker’s commission.”
As more advisor processes have become streamlined or automated, technological innovation is shifting to more directly enhance the client experience rather than just scaling up a practice via greater efficiencies—which should be attractive to advisors. The better the experience, the happier the clients, the happier the clients, the more likely they are to give positive referrals for your services, and more referrals means more prospective clients.
Digital client experience tools – especially those built around communication and networking – proved their worth during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Advisors need to be present and accessible, and need to be viewed as an advisor,” said Westhoff.
Those tools will continue to be adopted and used by the industry, even as the world reopens, said Westhoff. “It’s less about managing the market volatility as it is ensuring that you understand the clients’ goals, relationships and how to build and execute a plan around that.”
Advisors and clients both like the ability to stay in constant contact with each other, to some extent, and clients like being engaged with their wealth in real time.
Tools like video chat platforms make scheduling regular face time with clients an efficient and inexpensive service enhancement. But these tools also require that a firm has infrastructure to keep track of all these new client interactions.
“Advisors have had to adapt to these tools during the pandemic, or they were going to lose clients,” said Westhoff. “The ones who succeeded most embraced the gravity of the situation and began communicating with clients on more of a personal level and evolved their relationship to less of a business transactional type of engagement. They were on digital channels, but more present in their clients’ lives.”
Ideally, a firm’s technology will enhance client experience in multiple ways. By streamlining tasks, advisors have more time and resources to devote to their clients – time with clients can be used to better understand their needs and goals, leading to better financial plans, happier clients and a more successful practice.
Today’s clients are asking for more flexible, personalized advice and often disdain cookie-cutter approaches. The demand for personalization flows upward. Even within large enterprise firms, advisors are growing into niche practices offering targeted services.
“Personalized communication, personalized service and personalized representation of clients you work with is critically important because that is what people are looking for – that’s why firms work with us,” said Westhoff.
Clients are also asking for advisors that offer a modern approach to communication and advice – so for some advisors, the technology-driven client experience becomes part of their core value proposition. This may lead to a very automated approach like digital advice, or to an ultra-high-touch human approach that relies on technology to augment the client experience.
But for all the technology that advisors have adopted thus far, they still only devote a portion of their time to work that directly impacts their clients – because technology is still more often used for scaling up rather than zooming in.
Practifi can zoom in and sort clients in ways most CRMs don’t think to, allowing advisors to keep track of clients who might enjoy wine, play a sport, or who were affected by the pandemic with a tagging and filtering function.
“This helps a client start to not only feel like they have a business partner that helps them reach their goals, but also someone who understands, at a personal level, what their feelings are and how their feelings may impact their financial plan,” said Westhoff. “That transforms the experience – someone’s financial protection and independence is beyond transactional, it’s a journey that the advisor should be present for.”
Fintech should also be able to help advisors pitch their services to prospects and illustrate the value of wealth management, or scale and tier their services to meet the price point of any desired clientele.
As the world reopens, people will get back to having face-to-face meetings and attending events together again, which will allow advisors to access some of their traditional marketing opportunities. However, platforms will now handle a lot of the heavy lifting of managing schedules, invitations and interactions and helping to automate and track those tasks in real-time.
“There are life events happening in clients’ lives. They can be as simple as a birthday or more advanced like an RMD,” said Westhoff. “With data, an advisor can take action on them, knowing that’s what clients want, and that creates an opportunity for advisors to deepen their relationships.”
Fintech should help advisors stay in touch and present through key events, and readjust client goals when necessary, said Westhoff.
Clients will now also want advisors to be in touch in real time during market events, said Westhoff, opportunities for meaningful client contact that many advisors currently fail to take advantage of. Software like Practifi’s end-to-end business management platform may also help streamline client-facing processes by simplifying continuous CRM updates and easing client onboarding with automation.
“We see Practifi as a centralized operating system where all of an advisor’s most pertinent and valuable information about a client or household is available and present so they can have the best-possible view of their clients,” said Westhoff. “We want to be a proactive platform for advisors – a data-rich platform where they can hone in on what’s happening with their clients.”