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The Role of Self-Service in Wealth Management: A Tool for Mutual Benefit
The personal connection between advisor and client has always been a strategic focus for wealth management firms. But, as clients continue to embrace the digital experiences they encounter in other areas of their lives, an expectation is created for wealth firms to implement a comparable approach – one that blends digital ease with human sensitivity.
Which leaves wealth firms wondering how they can maintain the tailored, quality service their clients require while tapping into the business, employee and client benefits of digitization.
Firms need multi-purpose, self-service tools that allow clients to take a more active role in managing their wealth while also removing obstacles that would otherwise prevent advisors from providing the highest-level of personalization. While these tools should not be viewed as a replacement to the personal assistance demanded by ultra- and high-net-worth clients, self-service can be used to help empower the vast majority of clients throughout the course of their financial journey.
Defining Self-Service for Wealth Management
Within the context of wealth management, self-service is a broad term referring to customer service strategies that empower clients to independently resolve issues or answer questions through digital channels. While this definition is vague and open to interpretation, at its core, self-service is about enabling clients to find the content and information they need, when and where they need it, on their schedule.
Implementations can be as simple as offering clients interactive account dashboards or providing the ability to configure and design their own reports. They can also be more advanced, such as enabling clients to view their advisor’s online availability or status with an option to chat via text or video across devices. Examples of the most commonly available self-service features include:
- Knowledge bases, with searchable databases of topics, articles and tutorials.
- Social media forums encouraging knowledge exchange among clients.
- Account management capabilities enabling clients to edit and control their own accounts.
- Information exchange of personal data, goals, risk tolerance and investing preferences.
- Collaboration on financial planning inputs and/or “what if” scenarios as client needs change over time.
Regardless of their level of sophistication, self-service features aim to enable hybrid-advice capabilities for clients who prefer to manage their portfolio themselves – while retaining the ability to connect with a live person for clarification – throughout their investment journey.
Enter the Client Portal
As the “Great Generational Wealth Transfer” continues to be an important consideration for wealth management firms, the digitally native generations are becoming a progressively larger proportion of the wealth client pool. These younger demographic cohorts have different expectations for the experience they desire from their wealth manager compared to previous generations. More to the point, they are more comfortable using client portals and demand more self-service features, functionalities and real-time overviews of their accounts.
Wealth management client portals have predominantly been adapted from other industries and customized to address the requirements distinctive to that of financial services. These portals have become a critical tool for developing an engaging customer experience and fostering feelings of personalization and uniqueness. They can also help prevent feelings of helplessness that may cloud a client’s outlook. Clients don’t want to feel like just another name on an advisor’s extensive client roster.
Today, these portals play an important role in enhancing and adding value to the client experience. Digital channels and self-service capabilities help increase the number of touches at each stage of the wealth management value chain, and they also serve to transform and alleviate pain points. For example, the process of onboarding used to require a client’s physical presence and involved a lot of documentation. Today, digital document uploading and signing enable the ease of anywhere, anytime access, turning a previous pain point into a “wow” moment.
The requirements of the wealth management sector are unique in that the advisor/client relationship requires trust that is first cultivated through personalized service. Optimizing the client experience with these “wow” moments has a substantial impact on building trust and gaining confidence for all types and bands of clients. That said, developing digital self-service capabilities doesn’t just enhance the client experience; an added benefit is its ability to improve advisor productivity.
A common objective of self-service development efforts is to optimize process efficiencies through automation, which provides superior prospect and client management, and thus improves the advisor’s satisfaction. With digital self-service solutions, wealth firms can provide their advisors better technology so they can focus on high-value activities for their clients. This technology enables advisors to better segment their clients and help them identify solutions based on their needs, behavior and risk profile.
An intuitive self-service platform becomes a true value-add for clients and advisors because it unifies disparate data sources and digitizes previously manual processes. Wealth advisors will always have to address the needs of clients who expect immediate service from a human advisor. At the same time, advisors can offer higher quality service if specific functions and client inquiries can be handled automatically.
Secret Sauce: Data
Self-service’s biggest impact comes from what goes on behind the scenes. Every instance of a client accessing their portal, and every action they take within it, can (and should) be collected, interpreted and analyzed. This highly personalized information enables wealth firms to understand which data is important to each individual client, thus enabling them to tailor their portfolio advice to meet each client’s unique goals and objectives.
By applying analytics to market data, client preferences and historical performance, self-service features have the capability of highlighting relevant trends that can be used to identify and filter investment selection options across various asset classes. Further, behavioral analytics can enable systems to learn from on-going interactions and thus help provide an intelligent self-service experience. Wealth managers who invest in new self-service capabilities gain an immediate advantage by providing clients and advisors with timely, accessible intelligence.
Self-Service Helping Deliver Client Satisfaction
Self-service is an extremely powerful and multipurpose tool with immense potential across all wealth bands and across different types of services. Once implemented, it creates a self-fulfilling positive feedback loop: Features attract clients, whose use increases advisor satisfaction, which leads to better service, which attracts more clients. However, to date, leadership teams at many firms have viewed self-service capabilities as purely online tools for self-directed clients and have been slow to implement their use.
Offering an accessible, consistent, self-service experience that provides clients and advisors with a seamless platform, augmented with actionable intelligence, is one of the most beneficial ways to ensure clients their advisor is invested in maintaining a long-term partnership. Today’s wealth clients require a combination of digital self-service solutions and human-personalized interaction. In response to these demands, wealth firms keen on maximizing profit, while maintaining and growing their customer base, will need to commit resources toward strategizing and executing digital self-service. On the inverse, firms that aren’t actively implementing these expanded capabilities risk leaving huge opportunities on the table.