Digital Transformation Roundtable: Top Ten Takeaways

September 30, 2019

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1. Machine Learning / AI
What’s the next generation of advice? It will be informed by machine learning to customize the client experience—but we must consider that AI and machine learning are still just getting started. One way to think of it? If you had an army of six year olds, what could you train them to do? They can get started, they can do basics, and they can learn and get better—and that’s what to consider for AI as we search for ways to make a high-touch client experience scalable. The art is to weave AI into the advisors tool kit.

 

2. Big Data

Big Data: the topic of every conversation. But let’s stop for a minute to consider small data: the pieces and framework that needs to be put in place to make use of the myriad of data points that are coming from a plethora of firm sources. Capturing that data set is the first step—analyzing the quality and tightly defining use cases to start making the linkage to build an organizational data framework. If the base of data is not solid the second tier of analysis and user experience delivery is significantly flawed. As an industry, we have to focus on creating the apps and tools that build on centralized financial data to support an elevated client experience.

 

3. Ultra High Net Worth Clients

Ultra-high net worth clients: the focus for many advisors, but the high-touch nature of the relationship can make it impossible to grow a business. Building in technology, especially around the CRM, can help to tailor every experience to the client…considering that for every UNHW client there is a team and a process in place, how can you extend that experience to a greater set of investors? Ultimately people need to still be involved—but better deployed. Use technology to enable the interpretive work to empower team members and advisors to deliver a more customized experience. The CRM can help systemize the process; home offices should incorporate training and fully support a single solution.

 

4. Client Portals

Pros and cons of client portals: Where is the ask coming from? Largely, from investors who are accustomed to seeing their whole financial picture to view assets, spending, budget, all documents and important pieces in one spot, continually updated. The benefit? When the client is engaged and inputting information, it can trigger next steps for the advisor around life events. The downside? Failures in communication if advisor and client rely on portals without maintaining active communication. There are many options out there, able to be branded under an advisors’ umbrella—don’t fall into the trap of piecing together “widgets” with the result of a non-integrated “Frankenstein” UI. Because the next group of investors are millennials—for whom a sophisticated experience is table stakes.

 

5. Client Preference

Client experience, enabled by technology: We are all busy and may not want to schedule in-person check-ins; are screenshares, Zoom sessions, or conference calls the right solution? Answer: it depends on the preference of each client. The same goes for content on a website (are investors coming to your site for lifestyle information? Probably not) and for the communication methodology that you use. What should guide advisor decisions? First—measurability. Look for metrics around the outreach and make sure the time spent is worthwhile. Secondly—client preference. Take the time to ask what a client wants, tighten communications, and the relationship becomes both sticky and smooth.

 

6. Plan for Growth

What is the highest and best use of an advisor’s time? It’s spending time with clients, building relationships. What do advisors do instead? In some cases up to 40% of time is spent in administrative tasks—which is time that should be spent building the business. Declare your percentages and plan accordingly to stick to a plan for growth. What should be outsourced? Everything that isn’t related to the client experience and building relationships—including marketing and communications, including operations, including “managing the business”. More and more options are emerging to help advisors outsource the parts of their businesses that don’t lead to growth; if advisors ignore them, they may find themselves unable to compete. Data shows that firms that are able to reduce back office down to 10% see their valuation grows by 15-20%–it’s about working smarter

 

7. Defining Client Base

What does persona-driven marketing mean? In short, it’s what your clients look like and what your prospects like. By taking the time to know what your current client base looks like, it’s easier to get to the point of duplicating those best clients. Figure out what they are looking for, and how they want it delivered. Personas are not necessarily about demographics, but more about where key groups of clients are getting their information. This can lead to better communication paths and a more active prospect pipeline, and/or the ability to specialize when a key niche is recognized. If home offices can help with this level of analysis, advisors can better understand their book.

 

8. Generational Growth, Financial Coach

Who is the advisor of the future? It’s the advisor that can connect across generations, understanding that the HENRYs of today (High Earners, Not Rich Yet) can become the UNHW investors of the future and building relationships now is the only way to persevere. Advisors should use technology for scale–until these investors get to the point that they are ready for a bigger relationship, at the right time for the client. Competing on price or product is useless. Instead, advisors must build the relationship through empowerment and education; use gamification tools to appeal to next-gen and discuss areas of interest that are relevant and interesting (social responsibility, wealth transfer). Advisors who think of themselves as a financial coach—a financial therapist—are those that will have long-lasting relationships.

 

9. Plan for Growth

Have a plan to grow your business. There is a changing dynamic in gathering new investors, incorporating new methods of communication (LinkedIn, blogs, texting). These tools can be helpful, but it is important to consider one key attribute: Reputation. An advisor or firm reputation is built over years and years; these methods of communication can help or hurt. Thus, every marketing or growth strategy should be carefully thought through with goals set and implications to reputation considered. Being all things to all people inevitably fails; thus, a clear focus on who you are and who you serve can make all the difference.

 

10. Marketing Automation

Marketing automation: is there a value in a busy, noisy marketplace? Customization is key, because up to 99% of “marketing” is ignored so a rise to relevancy is critical. Think through communication tactics and messages that are genuine to your firm; duplicate what works, and measure results in real time (through clicks, calls, SEO) to continue to raise awareness of your mission and firm. Don’t fall into traps such as putting calculators and widgets on a site, just because “everyone else has it”; don’t leverage canned content simply because it’s compliance approved and “easy”. Instead, determine what sets you apart and follow that path.

 

11. Bonus Takeaway:

Enterprise wealth firms believe that APIs are a cost of doing business for the solution providers they work with. Charging for those APIs (while not out of the norm) is becoming increasingly more of a negative and may become a barrier to doing business with those firms who do charge.

 

Technology isn’t the solution. It’s simply an enabler. People will always matter.