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Client Experience In Wealth Management Combines Digital, Personalized Service

A man's hand holds a phone showing stock information while also viewing a laptop spreadsheet. Client experience in wealth management is turning digital but still must retain a personal touch.

Financial advisors who want to elevate client experience in wealth management must manage a host of challenges.

Clients demand privacy about anything related to finances and may not want to talk about financial experiences at all. Combined with tight regulation of financial institutions, that may limit the ability to provide a “Shareable” experience.

Adding to those obstacles are business shifts that have rocked the industry in recent years, with clients expecting a much greater digital presence and established firms wrestling with competition from digital upstarts.

All of this is happening amid what is known as the great wealth transfer. The baby boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, will inherit more than $70 trillion in assets through 2045.

How will money managers who stand to oversee this cascade of more digitally focused assets stand out in a crowded and undifferentiated marketplace? You guessed it – customer or client experience (CX).

(Note: Client experience and customer experience will be used interchangeably in this article.)

As one industry chief executive put it: “There is simply no room for bad client experiences.”

The Focus on Client Experience in Wealth Management

Wealth managers are responding by emphasizing experience more than ever, taking steps ranging from speeding up traditionally slow and paper-filled account opening practices to embarking on “platform modernization journeys.”

Some lesser-known firms have connected with customers by building a digitally focused practice, such as Family Office Exchange, which has won kudos as a “platform for sharing leading practices in family wealth management” that “provides a global online community and listserv that gives members a place to network and have discussions.”

At the more venerable end of the spectrum, Morgan Stanley, a quintessential old guard Wall Street firm, merged “the old with the new” by acquiring E*Trade, one of the first all-electronic brokerages.

The result: Morgan Stanely’s robust wealth management practice landed the top spot among investment firms in the Forrester US Customer Experience Index. Clients praised the firm for making them “feel valued” in video, telephone, and text interactions, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Personalized Service With A Multi-Media Touch

That type of personalized, multi-media approach is essential in today’s high-stakes environment, said Douglas Wilber, CEO of Denim Social – a social media management platform that provides software to wealth management and other financial firms – in an email interview with The Experience Maker.

“Customers have many different touch points today, making a positive CX more important than ever,” Wilber wrote. “This means that every interaction on web, phone, text and social media has to be positive.”

For wealth management in particular, he added, social media presents many opportunities to connect with clients. “Social media is an ideal channel for wealth managers to create personal connections, build trust and engage authentically.”

How right he is.

While anything related to money can be emotional, money managers can also look at that as an opportunity. People tend to talk about emotional things, so if financial practitioners can somehow pick up on or evoke the right emotion, they can create a memorable client experience.

They can – and should – be doing that through social media and every other communications channel in today’s digital world. Or they can use social as an entrée into creating more of a bond through in-person financial sessions.

Client Experience In Wealth Management Is Going Digital

The wealth management boasts long-established firms that cater to wealthy clients through in-person interactions.

While the numbers of ultra-high-net-worth individuals nearly doubled globally between 2010 and 2020, the digital revolution has disrupted the traditional means of reaching them, a phenomenon heightened even more by COVID.

“While email, text, social media and virtual meetings play a critical role and particularly did so during the pandemic, they limit our ability to connect and engage in deep and meaningful communication,” wrote Eugene Elias Jr., COO and Founding Partner of Atria Wealth Solutions, on the company’s website. “It is only through in-person interactions that the depth and authenticity of true relationships manifest.”

Elias added that sitting across the table from someone and engaging authentically is so much better than communicating only digitally.

Startup firms with digital business models, combined with ever-increasing regulation and customer expectations of a heavy digital presence, are causing wealth managers to be “pressured on multiple fronts.”

And the generational wealth transfer has raised the stakes even more, as studies show that at least 80 percent of millennial heirs will seek a new financial advisor after inheriting money from their parents.

The swirl of developments means, as one customer experience survey found, that in an industry “focused on building wealth, the greatest riches go to those who deliver an excellent client experience.”

Examples Of Positive Client Experience In Wealth Management

Feeling the pressure, firms of all stripes are now all about experience.

As befitting the industry’s traditionally buttoned-down style, some are private about it, such as an anonymous client of consulting firm McKinsey that has been advising high net worth investors for more than a century.

This firm, McKinsey wrote in a case study, re-invented the stifling account-opening process, conducted research on client needs, and “implemented a new tech architecture featuring micro-services integrated with legacy systems.”

More publicly, Cyndeo Wealth Partners, a Florida-based wealth management firm that launched in 2020, captured the top spot in one digital experience survey, beating out Goldman Sachs in wealth management social media experience.

Founder Matt Kilgroe said the idea was to follow client desires and focus on “the technology side. We are excited to utilize the technological tools that allow client data aggregating as well as financial modeling.”

Related: How Data and Analytics Inform Customer Experience

Perhaps the most venerable name of all, J.P. Morgan, has also gone digital, ranking highest in wealth management digital experience satisfaction in a J.D. Power study. The study showed overall that wealth management mobile apps and websites have increasingly become the resources of choice for investors, especially younger ones.

According to one review, J.P. Morgan has achieved “an incredible customer experience” through “an unwavering focus on customer centricity,” ensuring that “every client interaction is a personalized, anticipatory experience.”

The Digital Experience Is Just One Part

Some wealth management firms choose a “hybrid” experience model, such as Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Service, which has won strong reviews for using algorithmic portfolio management and other digital technology combined with “excellent customer service, reassurance and empathy provided by a human manager.”

And individual financial advisors can create real connections with clients by finding high-emotion touchpoints; clients will let advisors into their lives if they show that they care.

AssetMark, a technology solution provider for advisors, shared two examples of this:

  • When an advisor client’s kid was admitted to UCLA, the advisor sent the parents “UCLA Mom” and “UCLA Dad” shirts along with a handwritten note that read: “Congratulations on Annie’s admission to UCLA! What an exciting future she has ahead. We are so honored to have been a part of her journey!”
  • Another advisor client’s parent needed to have surgery, so the advisor sent a care package of chicken soup and other food items to make sure they had a meal waiting for them when they returned home.

In Conclusion

Sometimes it’s the traditional personal touch that wins out, as it doe

s for one independent 35-year financial advisor who wrote that she “creates a bond with clients” through regular communication and responsiveness on multiple channels.

“Finances tend to be highly personal because they are closely tied to people’s sense of identity, self-worth, and well-being,” wrote the advisor, Sheryl Rowling. “If you can’t relate to each client as if they were your sibling, parent, or grandparent, your link with clients is merely a business transaction, not a true bond.”

Photo by Nappy. This article is part of a series exploring customer experience in different industries. 

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