Emergence of the Cross-Channel Wealth Management Experience

Guest Commentary by Darrin Courtney, CFP®, Research Director, CEB TowerGroup.

Bio: Darrin Courtney is a Research Director at TowerGroup covering important topics in Wealth Management. His research focuses on how technology supports the distribution and servicing of investment products, including the advisor desktop, financial planning tools, customer relationship management, portfolio management, retirement income, and client reporting. Darrin has more than 20 years of financial services experience in operations, client service, sales, product management, and business development roles in wealth management. He joins TowerGroup from The Hartford Financial Services Group, where he was a director in their Innovation Studio, focusing on the Wealth Management division. His previous experience focused on the support, creation, and distribution of Retail, Education, Retirement, and Financial Planning products and services, including both Qualified and Non-Qualified Retirement Plans. Prior to joining The Hartford, Darrin held positions at well-known investment companies such as Scudder, Stevens & Clark, Columbia Asset Management, MFS, and AARP Financial Inc.

In recent blogs, I discussed pressing needs for both the client and the advisor from a technology perspective.  For clients, we focused on the client facing portal and how this web experience can both encourage self-service, but also enhance the advisor/client relationship.  From the advisor side, we focused on how integrating desktop systems and improving straight through processing can free up valuable time for client engagement and allow the advisor to present a more cohesive and holistic experience.  In this blog, we will look at wealth management from the enterprise level, and the need to insure a seamless experience for clients no matter what channel they choose to use when interacting with their wealth management firm.

“Much like the retail banking industry has transformed from one that focused on branches to one that is truly multi-channel, so too is the wealth management industry moving toward a multi-touch-point environment, with a true need for integration and consistency. “

CEB TowerGroup’s survey of High-Net-Worth Individuals demonstrates that options are becoming far more important to clients.  As highlighted in previous blogs, 71% prefer to use their wealth management firm’s website to access accounts, products or services.  In addition, more than two-thirds of those clients would also choose the web to access news and insights on financial markets from their wealth management firms.  This is not to say this is the only channel they wish to use however, as for simple questions over 67% would choose the phone, as would 61% for problem resolution.  When it comes to something like financial planning, they prefer a face to face interaction in a branch or with their advisor at another location.  Other needs like purchasing an additional product or service,  get split up across the channels, with 36% choosing face to face, 35% choosing in-person and the remaining choosing the web or other option.  We see similar results for processing trades, with 43% wishing to do it by phone, 35% wishing to do it online and the remaining wishing to do it in person or by some other method. The obvious challenge for wealth management firms is to create a comparable and seamless experience no matter which channel a client chooses to access.  For instance, if a client chooses to run a report on their firm’s website, is the information they are presented going to be the same as they would receive were they to call into a contact center or walk into their advisor’s office?  Can a client use a smart-phone or tablet to access this info and will their advisor be familiar with the screens that they are viewing?  As simple as these questions may seem, many firms are not capable of providing this seamless experience.  Ironically, firms that lean towards a self-directed model or cater to the mass-affluent are in many ways further ahead than those that offer specialized advisory services to the ultra-high-net-worth.  As many of these firms view their advisors as the primary value prop, they have neglected their portals, mobile capabilities, and other channels that allow even the most complex clients to research their holdings, view their portfolios and in some cases actively trade on a portion of that portfolio.  As these clients begin demanding  to utilize the tools of the self-directed client, and the mass-affluent clients grow into the high-net-worth category, requiring more sophisticated advice and personalized offerings, technology will be the constant that can bring all of these channels together.  Wealth management clients view their firm as one entity and expect their experiences to be seamless, no matter what channel they choose, and no matter where they sit on the wealth spectrum.  Supporting this expectation should be a priority for firms wishing to attract and retain clients at all levels.

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