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Reimagining the Client Experience for the Next Generation of Financial Decision-Makers

Significant demographic shifts amongst those who hold wealth in the US illuminate an opportunity for financial firms to position themselves ahead of the curve.

With the ubiquity of algorithmic interfaces across information, retail, and social media platforms, younger generations increasingly value—and expect—customized experiences. Research finds that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% report being frustrated when they aren’t provided customization. Finances are no exception to these expectations, with 70% of consumers looking to their banks to offer personalized financial advice.

Simultaneously, paradigm shifts in wealth are underway, particularly for women in the upcoming generations. By 2030, it’s estimated that females will control much of the accumulated wealth of the baby boomer generation. Meanwhile, as they’ve continued to climb the ladder in the workplace and garner higher wages, experts suggest that women executives may finally achieve long-overdue equal representation and pay by the mid-2030s. Whether through their career accomplishments or inheritance, women are increasingly gaining wealth and expanding their decision-making positions to include managing household finances.

The confluence of these trends makes it clear that a traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to wealth management won’t hold up in a competitive landscape. To keep pace, smart wealth management leaders, advisors and service providers will need to critically examine how the service they provide meets the needs of a new generation of clients.

A New Model

Rather than seeking to be all things to all people, firms have an opportunity to lean into specialty expertise, empowering advisors to become intimately familiar with the unique dynamics of specific client groups to strengthen the quality of their guidance.

In practice, helping a small business owner client plan for retirement looks markedly different from that of a corporate employee with a 401(k) and an IRA, as do the daily and long-term pressures that come with having a concentration of wealth tied up in a singular, illiquid asset that holds personal meaning.

An effective reimagining of the advisory service model will design a purpose-built experience from the ground up based on clients’ unique circumstances. At SignatureFD, this model comes to life in our approach to client communities.

SignatureWOMEN, the first of our communities, was born following the identification of a growing subset of women who found themselves in a position of independence or newly in charge of their family finances. To meet the needs of this group, we designed a community of advisors who felt passionate about helping women advance in their financial lives.

The ethos of the SignatureWOMEN community led to a reassessment of client service teams across the firm. We saw the value in pairing incoming clients with advisors based on skillsets, commonalities, and shared experience—and saw tremendous impact on client outcomes.

Today, we’ve expanded our specialized service to include niche professional communities, from small business owners to professional athletes to corporate executives. Since their inception, these communities have offered tailored financial guidance and resources to help clients navigate life inflection points while meeting their broader goals.

Forging Deeper Relationships

In a sea of optionality, a more comprehensive list of personalized offerings may attract clients, but it’s the depth of the relationship that will retain them. Empathy is the bedrock foundation of meaningful, long-term client relationships. This is where having advisors with a passion and experience for a client subset is most critical. Meeting clients where they are and understanding the lens through which individuals approach decision-making is paramount to establishing trust.

For instance, understanding the entrepreneurial drive that compels small business owners to take financial risks, or the unique pressures and isolation that female executives can face, are critical for advisors to provide guidance that not only rolls up to the client’s life priorities but can be communicated effectively.

Shared language plays a central role in instilling trust. Clients can quickly determine how well-versed advisors are in their lived experience by the language they use. Unnecessarily complex jargon and generic language are equally ineffective in fostering initial confidence and maintaining client engagement.

A re-envisioned approach translates the complexities of clients’ circumstances into frameworks that reflect their life priorities and convey them in a language they feel empowered by. This formulaic structure, which we simplify into the four ways wealth can be activated—Grow, Protect, Give and Live—not only creates a common understanding and straightforward implementation but also allows for flexibility as life variables inevitably shift.

Beyond the Horizon

The convergence of the Great Wealth Transfer, turning tides of gender parity, and the omnipresent expectation for personalized experiences have raised critical questions about how well our service models are positioned to meet the needs of an evolving client landscape.

While the commercial value of offering customized client experience is clear, personalized service must go beyond a longer menu of offerings to keep clients engaged.

We believe firms that recognize the subtler value of an approach rooted in empathy are better equipped to forge lasting client relationships and position the business for long-term success.

Heather Robertson Fortner is CEO of SignatureFD.

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