Client-facing technologies offer a bit of a contradiction in terminology, especially for those of us who have been in the industry for a while. Client-facing used to mean interactions only done by a human. As technology has advanced, more and more interactions are being handled by technology in order to allow the advisors to be more efficient. As clients become more comfortable interacting directly with an interface in addition to a traditional advisor, more RIAs and advisors are incorporating technology into their practices.
In a 2015 study by Charles Schwab, 82% of advisors identified technology as a major industry change that will allow for improved efficiency. By streamlining and automating administrative tasks, and trimming the costs that are associated with them, new technologies can give advisors the luxury of greater scalability and more client-facing time. That allows advisors to shift the conversation from “Let me educate you on your portfolio performance,” to “Do you still feel on track?”
Riskalyze’s introduction of “Check-Ins” is an example of a behavioral coaching tool that will be available to advisors in May. “Check-Ins” will allow advisors to stay in touch with their clients in between formal portfolio reviews.
Every month, a client will respond to two simple questions: “How are you feeling about the markets?” and “How are you feeling about your financial future?” (see screen shot below.) With just two taps, the client gets an adaptive visual for what is “normal” for their portfolio given the market conditions, and the advisor receives warning when the relationship needs an extra touch.
The effectiveness of “Check-Ins” will ultimately be determined by the quality of the advisor interface. How easy will it be to interpret the results? Will the results be clearly actionable? (See Smart and Agile: Riskalyze and Quovo Help Advisors Stay Ahead of Robos)
With the industry calling into question the validity of stand-alone robo advisors, traditional advisors have an opportunity to take advantage of the automated investment platforms as part of their digital channels. Technology helps scale the practice, advisor continues to deliver a customized experience, and clients gets the best of both worlds.
An emerging leader in this market has been the newly-acquired Invesco Jemstep. Their all digital platform embeds a paperless process that is can integrate with portfolio accounting systems like Orion Advisor as well as CRMs such as Salesforce. (See 3 Thoughts on Why Invesco Acquiring Jemstep Was A Smart Move)
While their automated onboarding process is seen as a major benefit, our recent review of their platform highlighted other areas:
- free portfolio analysis and account aggregation for prospective clients
- integration with Salesforce CRM to automatically create contact records when prospects register
- a dynamic proposal process with automated segmentation of incoming prospects
A competing service looking to capitalize on this trend is RiXtrema’s Advisor BioniX. RiXtrema is looking to create a solution for smaller accounts, friends and family of larger clients, and community centers of influence that come bearing lower AUM. Instead of turning away the less-lucrative accounts and referrals, the platform allows advisors to offer them a level of service that is more appropriate for their smaller (and less complex) portfolios.
The usefulness of digital channels is not limited to millennials and small accounts. A recent study from Jefferson National shows that 49% of advisors who use digital channels have baby boomers using the tools, and 52% use them with client accounts of $1 million or greater (See How Risk Tolerance Software Is Disrupting Wealth Management)
Data aggregation tools used to be hidden in the back of the advisor’s system, invisible to clients. As individual users become more accustomed to seeing all their financial information in one place, they will expect their advisor to do the same. Personal Capital, a tool for tracking personal finances, has grown to over a million registered users. With technology getting more capable and easy to use, clients and prospects can interact with embedded tools directly, without any advisor input.
The power of these massive databases of financial transactions that can be searched and aggregated almost instantaneously is just beginning to be tapped. One of the biggest players in the wealth management space, Envestnet, recently launched the Envestnet | Yodlee Aggregation Platform on the Salesforce AppExchange. This will allow advisors who use Salesforce to view held away assets owned by their clients at other institutions. Any of 14,000 institutions, to be exact, including banks, brokerages and 401(k)'s.
Also integrated into the new tools are features to help stay compliant with new Know Your Client (KYC) regulations. The impending Department of Labor rules will only increase the amount of paperwork for advisors, so any tool that can help them stay in compliance automatically, will be a major benefit.
Oranj, a relatively new player in this field, is offering a user-friendly way for clients to upload and organize their personal financial information on the advisor’s website, with or without the participation of the advisor. With Oranj, advisors can see in real-time when their clients are changing goals and accounts, providing purpose and better timing to client outreach.
Embedded tools, including data aggregation, can help advisors build relationships with prospective clients automatically, before the first in-person meeting. Visitors to the advisor’s site can linger, explore, and interact with technology before committing to a scheduled appointment.
The Internet has given each one of us the biggest microphone in human history. The challenge is, everyone has the exact same microphone, and some microphones are turned up louder than others. As Seth Godin points out, if no one reads your post, does it exist?
The industry has come a long way from its initial hesitation about the appropriateness and usefulness of social media.
ThinkAdvisor references the American Century Investment survey where nearly 43% of advisors have attributed a return on investment to social media use – bringing in anywhere from less than $1 million to more than $5 million of new business. The same survey indicated that 27% of advisors reported they had acquired a new client in part because of social media (see below.)
However, in a 2015 tech survey of advisors by Financial Planning, the most popular answer to “How often do you use social media for business purposes?” was “Never” (a clear first place winner at 27.9%.) If you are one of those people, you are missing business opportunities.
The key to success in using social media is at the intersection of content and consistency. While generating high quality content and posting it regularly sounds simple, it is not as easy as it sounds. Many advisors start a blog, and are not consistent about posting content. So what do you do about generating consistent and relevant content?
Enter Grapevine6 Publish. This Canadian start-up has built an algorithm to help you find a compelling way to start a conversation.
Grapevine6 allows you to look up a customer, a prospect, or anyone else important to your practice, on LinkedIn and pull up their profile. In seconds, Grapevine6 distills their profile to 5-6 key areas of interest, and searches through its proprietary collection of almost 9 million articles from curated sources to select the ones that would be relevant and interesting to your contact.
You can then e-mail the article as a door opener, and Grapevine6 will track the interaction with the article.
Grapevine6 can also find content that is relevant to your brand, and publish to your social networks of choice in one click. Can a week’s worth of posts can be completed in 15 minutes? Check!
According to a recent Harris Poll survey of affluent investors conducted for Wells Fargo, 79% of investors said that it is important for them to have access to their investment information any time, day or night. Beyond meeting client expectations, a client portal can help you manage client data, augment your services with technology, and even set your practice apart from competition.
The demand for a streamlined, integrated portal to serve as a gateway to all other applications has created numerous technology solutions. Three main categories to choose from are CRM, financial planning applications, and systems provided by a custodian. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so the key to the decision is clarity on your contact management process, the types of services you offer, and the number of custodians you use (see Battle for the RIA Technology Integration Hub.)
A CRM like Junxure offers a ClientView Live portal that allows clients to see all of their data across advisor systems, seamlessly integrated. The portals alerts clients to messages, and contains a document vault, performance reports, and up-to-date portfolio information. See below for a screenshot of the menu bar.
Clients appreciate the simplicity of having a single place to see all of their information, from asset allocations to key documents (see screenshots below.) Advisors enjoy the efficiencies of the CRM workflow, with process step tracking and notification. (See 5 Ways a Web Portal Can Excite Your Clients.)
Client-Facing Technology Trends
The bottom line on client-facing technology can be summarized in five words: exploding, and here to stay. There are tremendous options out there, and the playing field can be overwhelming compared to even 5 years ago.
So, do your research, but do not feel like you have to do this alone. Talk to experts. Start with an overarching strategy. Integrate new technology into your practice model, and use it to build up your brand.
Ultimately, this is not about getting the latest shiny toy on the market, but about enhancing your practice and delivering a better client experience.
Natalia Autenrieth contributed to this article.