By Stuart DePina
For RIAs, one of the most obvious, and immediate, benefits of an interactive client portal is a reduction in paper—and the operational costs that come with printing and mailing reports, commentary, invoices and updates every quarter.
Besides helping RIAs go paperless, a client portal offers so much more to both advisors and their clients. A browser-agnostic and mobile-friendly client portal that is fully integrated with other wealth management technology applications can easily create, and comprehensively present, a full picture of each client’s wealth. This personalized, holistic view of an investor’s financial life forms the basis for much more meaningful engagement between advisors and their clients.
My belief is that firms that have yet to adopt a client portal for their practice will struggle with being able to both meet the evolving needs of today’s investors and appeal to the next generation of investors.
Don’t fall behind. Below are five ways that a client portal can help your practice stay ahead of the curve. These tips are not only useful for those of you who have not yet adopted a client portal, but also for practices that may not be receiving the full benefit of the client portals they’ve already implemented.
Your practice’s client portal should enable you to:
1. Clearly Demonstrate the Value You Provide: Modern client portals strengthen an advisor’s value proposition by offering a single point of access for investors to obtain a complete picture of their wealth, and track their account performance to financial goals. This holistic financial picture enables advisors and clients to engage in higher-level discussions that can lead to well-informed investment decisions and better outcomes.
The client portals available today can also set up live data feeds that import real-time data from multiple custodians, and incorporate that data into performance reports. Since client portals can be branded with your firm’s logo and provide biographical and contact information for members of a client’s service team, clients who log in to the client portal will know that it’s your firm—not a custodian or another third party—that’s providing real-time performance updates, and helping them understand that performance.
2. Proactively Service Clients as the Need Arises: When a client portal is fully integrated with a client relationship management (CRM) system, you can utilize the CRM’s automation of workflows to send alerts when a client is in need of service. For example, if a client posts a document in the client portal, the CRM system would automatically send you a notice and begin the process for how you can respond.
You can also program the CRM to send you and your team an alert when a client hasn’t logged in to the client portal for a certain number of days, so you can check to see that everything is okay.
3. Personalize the Wealth Management Experience for Clients: Today’s client portals can be easily configured into multiple versions, providing you with a manageable set of options that meet the needs of the majority of your investor clients. However, if larger clients or ones that need more attention require a unique experience, advisors can readily customize a one-off client portal to meet their needs.
Also, if a client calls you with a question about account information in the client portal, you should have the capability to log in to see exactly what the client is looking at, which makes it easier to get to the bottom of the issue.
The client portals offered today aren’t just available 24/7—they can also be securely accessed on mobile devices and with any browser. This enables you to securely log into the client portal during meetings in a client’s home, or in your office, and review in-depth reports pertaining to the client’s household.
4. Take a Holistic Approach to Managing Clients’ Wealth: If your portfolio management and reporting applications work with data aggregators to compile and import information about a client’s accounts at different financial institutions—including insurance plans and 529 plans—then you can aggregate real-time information about all of a client’s financial accounts under the family/household section of the client portal.
This setup provides you and each of your clients with a consolidated, holistic view of their finances in real time, which you can use to work together to make much better-informed financial decisions.
In addition, client portals available today enhance the holistic wealth management experience by allowing a client’s accountants and attorneys to log in to obtain up-to-date unrealized gains and losses data and other account information they need to, for example, file a client’s tax returns.
5. Better Engage with Prospects: The operational efficiencies created by client portals enable you to spend more time growing your business through prospecting. Using a modern client portal, you can create a demo account for a family or household with similar characteristics to the prospect, who can login to the client portal and see firsthand how you service and engage with clients.
If you have data aggregation and analytics capabilities, you can show prospects their aggregated financial data, and how it can be used to create holistic financial plans, in the client portal.
As you consider how you can best utilize a client portal within your practice, don’t just assume your clients aren’t technologically savvy enough to make use of a client portal—you might be amazed at the extent to which they want to harness this offering. Plus, if the majority of your clients make use of a client portal that can deliver the above benefits, you and your colleagues can reap the rewards of a turbocharged business.
Stuart DePina is Group President of Envestnet | Tamarac, which offers a web-based platform unifying portfolio management, rebalancing, modeling, trading, billing, and reporting for independent RIAs.