With Americans clocking more hours of screen time every day, phones are becoming the most crucial channel through which financial advisers can catch — and hold — the attention of clients in order to build long-term relationships.
The importance of staking out territory on client devices has been a common refrain for years, but the full potential of capturing this “real estate” is only now becoming evident in the wealth management industry.
After the upheaval of the last year, it’s clear clients want the steady assurance that only a seasoned adviser can provide. Yet they also want that experience to be enhanced by and integrated with the most vital tool they use to manage their lives — their phones.
Clients are effectively gravitating toward a comprehensive, mobile-based wealth management experience that unifies all their account information in one place; grabs their attention with relevant, personalized notifications; and allows them to engage with their adviser in ways that create value and connection.
In short, the race to create an “adviser in your pocket” is on — and the outcome will shape the future of our industry.
A GAP IN THE SERVICE MODEL
Just a few years ago, many observers called the rise of robo-advisers a death knell for human advice. Those services featured inviting apps with automated push notifications that alerted users to account fluctuations or current market news.
Client adoption of robos never lived up to their billing, though, and the pandemic proved once and for all the inadequacy of impersonal, algorithm-driven advice. Many robo investors found themselves in crisis, with no human on the other end of the “push” to soothe their nerves and explain what to do next.
This gap in the digital service model made it painfully obvious that, despite their accessibility and next-gen features, robos were not the answer to the real client service challenge facing our industry: how to communicate and collaborate in a personalized, human way while ensuring maximum flexibility and accessibility at scale.
Bridging this gap is both the most urgent obstacle and biggest opportunity facing advisers and wealth management firms today. Succeeding in this challenge will mean creating a new model that combines a human adviser’s empathy, dedication and holistic understanding of a client’s financial picture with the scale, accessibility and immediacy of online advisory platforms.
PERSONALIZED COMMUNICATION AND COLLABORATION AT SCALE
Consider the current model for adviser-to-client communications when there’s significant market volatility or a single event that depresses portfolio values. For many advisers, the model is to call each of their biggest clients and work to control their emotions. Some clients may not pick up. Some conversations may go longer than intended and prevent the adviser from reaching other clients. Clients further down the list may be stuck in anxious limbo for days.
Now think about a near-future scenario in which mobile adviser-in-your-pocket technology enables vastly streamlined client interactions and leverages an integrated suite of digital tools to grab clients’ attention, set up deeper conversations and help them stay on track.
In this scenario, following the initial market event, an adviser sends push notifications to all of their clients, each with the client’s name and a preset personal detail, directing them to access an app for more information. A majority of clients tap in and read a personalized thought leadership piece on the event and what it means for them.
A subset of the clients who read the piece will click on an embedded button that directs them to a page where they can view their adviser’s calendar and schedule a phone call over the next several days. During the call, the adviser makes a personalized recommendation.
In this hypothetical situation, the adviser touches their entire client base through the initial push and offers a more detailed discussion to those who want a deeper experience. Clients who don’t request a phone conversation still receive a personalized communication that answers their questions through a level of interaction that aligns with their needs. Those clients who don’t open the initial notification benefit from having the option to explore further.
This is just one example of the power of personalized client communication at scale. The beauty of the emerging adviser-in-your-pocket model is that these intimate client connections can be happening every day, on a vast array of planning and advisory topics — not just during market dislocations.
GETTING ON BOARD
The takeaway is clear: Clients today expect a service experience that combines a personalized, human touch with the convenience and integration offered by their mobile devices. Scale will obviously play a big role in determining which wealth management firms will be capable of successfully developing and delivering this type of technology suite. For advisers, the stakes couldn’t be higher, since those who are first to market with these capabilities will have a significant competitive advantage as adviser-client relationships continue to evolve.
Peter Clemson is senior vice president of digital solutions at Advisor Group.
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