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Reinventing Your Client Experience Post Pandemic

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The pandemic has reshaped Americans’ lives in lots of different ways—from how people shop for groceries to where they perform their jobs. It has also changed the ways many clients interact with their financial advisors.

The value of advisor-to-client advice has taken on new significance the past couple of years. Even though the economy recovered quickly from the pandemic recession of 2020, many people still face a great deal of financial uncertainty. This is especially true among Millennials, the oldest of whom are now nearing age 40 having lived through two economic recessions.

Hungry for Financial Advice

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of non-retired U.S. adults say the economic impact of the pandemic has made it harder for them to achieve their long-term financial goals. Many of them are hungry for the kind of financial and investment advice that only a professional financial advisor can offer.

However, financial advisors will need to rethink, and perhaps even reinvent, the advisor-client experience they offer to attract these investors and grow their firms’ assets under management.

Reinventing the client experience starts with rethinking how you appear to clients in the digital world. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of clients under 40 years of age say that they start their search for a financial advisor online and more than half (52%) say they use LinkedIn to find a financial advisor. A robust online digital presence is critical.

Your digital presence should go beyond just being found online, however. Many clients today expect to be able to communicate with their advisors on social and digital platforms. Therefore, you might consider beefing up your presence on social media sites commonly used by young clients, such as Instagram and Snapchat, and using these platforms to share useful information and interact with them.

This doesn’t mean, however, that most clients want an all-digital relationship with their financial advisor. According to The New State of Advice, a study conducted by Accenture, only 17% of clients prefer a complete digital relationship with their financial advisor. Achieving the right balance between the digital and human touch will be one of the biggest keys to reinventing the client experience in a way that attracts more clients to your firm.

Meanwhile, you can add new tools to your tech stack that can help you improve your client experience. These include financial planning software that enables you to project your clients’ financial futures based on different “what-if” scenarios; CRM software that lets you store personal details like your clients’ hobbies and interests; account aggregation software that lets you consolidate information from all of your clients’ accounts at different financial institutions and present it on a single, easy-to-use platform; and eSignature tools that eliminate the need for clients to make a special trip to your office just to sign documents.

Clients Want More Advisor Interaction

The good news for financial advisors is that many clients say they want more, not less, interaction with their financial advisor. According to the Accenture study, about four out of 10 clients (39%) said they wanted their advisor to be more proactive and to hear from their advisor more often. And nearly one-third (28%) said they want to meet more frequently with their financial advisor.

Increasingly, investors are also expecting a more personalized experience. More than half (55%) of clients believe the advice they receive from their financial advisor is too generic, according to the Accenture study. The same percentage believe they could do a better job of investing on their own and realize better returns net of fees. One possible reason many clients feel this way is that they aren’t getting advice across the entire spectrum of their financial lives beyond their investment portfolios.

In fact, 88% of clients view their financial advisor as a “portfolio manager.” This points to the need for advisors to position themselves as holistic financial advisors who can help clients manage every aspect of their financial lives, including banking and lending services, tax planning and preparation and estate planning.

In addition to investment management, the Accenture study reveals that today’s clients would like their advisors to offer:

  • Banking products (79%)
  • Concierge services (48%)
  • Tax advice (46%)
  • Insurance advice (40%)
  • Real estate investments and commodities (27%)
  • Cryptocurrency products (11%)

These percentages trend even higher among younger clients. For example, 97% of Generation Z clients, 91% of Millennials, and 85% of Generation X clients say they expect to receive banking and insurance services from their financial advisor.

Based on this data, becoming a more holistic financial advisor should be an integral part of reinventing the client experience going forward. This will require delivering comprehensive, holistic advice along with outstanding, highly personalized client service.

Who Do Investors Trust?

Another part of reinventing the client experience is understanding who clients trust to deliver financial and investment advice. According to the Accenture study, seven out of 10 (69%) clients said they would trust financial advice offered by technology firms Google, Apple or Facebook—even though these firms have little if any track record in providing financial advice.

Those who feel this way are attracted to the easy access to information (52%), technology tools (52%), integration of their personal and financial data (50%), and track record of innovation (38%) offered by these technology bellwethers. Given this, you may want to evaluate your current technology ecosystem to make sure client experience is streamlined and effective.

What to Consider When Reinventing the Client Experience

First, technology should be a big component of a reinvented client experience, including a robust online digital presence and the ability to communicate with clients on social and digital platforms.

Second, despite the importance of technology, the human touch will remain vital to providing the kind of experience clients want. You must achieve the right balance between digital and in-person client interactions based on each client’s individual preferences.

Third, you should strongly consider offering more holistic financial support by broadening the services you offer beyond just investment management support and advice. Your goal should be to help clients manage every aspect of their financial lives by offering banking, concierge, tax, insurance, and estate planning products, services and advice.

Finally, consider who clients today trust for financial and investment advice. According to the Accenture study, seven out of 10 (71%) clients want to work with an advisor whose values are aligned with their own.

 

Mike Watson is SVP, Head of RIA Custody at Axos Advisor Services.

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