In 2021, digital communication is paramount in the dialogue between wealth managers and their clients, particularly the ability to communicate with empathy and consistency across multiple digital channels. Starting with a client portal and continuing into apps for phones and tablets, wealth managers who want to connect with their clients must ensure they provide a consistent digital experience, regardless of the channel.
With the global pandemic, one of the distinct shifts I have seen in the market is that wealth managers deepen their client relationships by focusing on planning and client outcomes, in addition to the standard discussions of alpha and beta. As part of this shift, wealth managers are more focused on enabling their clients to make better financial decisions than they were in the past.
Those at the forefront of digital communication utilize the four pillars of design—aesthetics, behavioral science, decision theory and data science. By embracing these pillars, wealth managers provide beautiful engaging experiences that provide better client outcomes and create deeper relationships than those that existed before the pandemic.
Here are some techniques all wealth managers can incorporate into their practice to make them more effective communicators.
If you ask anyone about design, this is the first thing they think of. The aesthetic pillar of design is the classic “look and feel” of an app.
There is a huge focus on how the aesthetics will resonate and engage a client and remain consistent with the communication of a wealth manager. If you have built a long-standing relationship with a wealth manager whose office is always tidy and well adorned, but as a client when you log in to their client portal or app the visuals are disjointed and messy, the aesthetics are not doing the communication justice.
Similarly, if your wealth manager is the type that always responds to a call or a message, but their app does not have easy-to-use two-way communication, it detracts from the client experience. Lastly, the aesthetics must extend to the persona of the client, truly knowing them and providing them with the right experience for them is crucial.
Behavioral science, or gaming theory, is the second pillar of design. Behavioral science makes an experience fun, ensuring more engagement with a platform. It allows financial advisors to increase the frequency of interaction with their clients in a way that the end client enjoys (and it delivers more value with each login).
These days, in the absence of face-to-face meetings, wealth managers are always looking for ways to stay on top of the changes in their clients’ lives. By using behavioral science to increase engagement, wealth managers make sure that when changes happen, they are among the first to know.
Simple examples of how apps use behavioral science are: push notifications to encourage end-users to act on information, the ability to record messages against charts to drive in your own time or the development of a community to allow clients to grow and learn together.
Some remain skeptical about the power of behavioral science; however, one need to look no further than Peloton or LinkedIn to see the power of behavioral science to build and grow a brand of devoted clients.
The third pillar of design is decision theory. Decision theory allows wealth managers to present clients with information in a way that produces better decisions, which in turn achieve more desirable client outcomes. Decision theory can be extremely personal and it underscores the power of “personas” in delivering empathetic apps and digital experiences.
A favorite example of decision theory is client trading. Many wealth managers have clients who enjoy doing some trading themselves. They have a pot of “play money” they use to implement their own investment strategies alongside those of their manager. These types of clients will range from the new investor, seeking to buy and hold Apple or Tesla because they are excited about a recent product they purchased, all the way through to the day trader, looking to test out their latest multi-leg option strategy.
If your app does not tailor the experience to each user by providing the new investor with news about companies of interest and giving them the ability to create a watchlist and collaborate with their advisor, you are not giving each persona the information they want and need to achieve the best outcomes.
The fourth and final pillar of design is data science. The application of data science to any experience is important because it gives you the ability to adapt and learn from your clients. Any digital communication platform needs to collect and catalogue events to analyze when clients diverge from the happy path.
The end goal is to use data to optimize digital workflows and journeys, finding where and how users are engaged. Looking at people, products and processes, wealth managers can clearly see where to adjust their design to provide better client experiences and outcomes. This information is the key to successful wealth management.
The beauty of data science means it allows for continual improvement to wealth management apps. Constantly monitoring, measuring, and improving the way the apps are used by clients will therefore drive better outcomes.
By embracing the four pillars of design—aesthetics, behavioral science, gaming theory, and data science—wealth managers are utilizing digital communication from client portals to apps as they win new clients, serve clients more efficiently and build deeper more empathetic relationships with their existing client base.
Will Bailey is the Chief Strategy Officer at InvestCloud.