At a time when consumers are no longer standing on the side of the road to hail a cab or required to make the trip to a supermarket or department store, the experience of working with a financial advisor today is almost identical to the way it was 20 years ago. Stacks of paperwork, long in-person meetings and lengthy, elaborate reports continue to define engagement between advisors and their clients. Yet, they don’t provide value for clients in our digital age.
Several years ago, when I was working as an advisor, I sat down for an annual meeting with one of my biggest clients. I spent hours preparing a comprehensive analysis of the client’s full financial picture, including my investment recommendations for the coming year based on that holistic view. I thought the client would be blown away by my report, but I was the one who was blown away. Shortly after I began my presentation, he told me, “Thank you for doing all this work, but let’s just get to the bottom line. I look at numbers all day and I have you in my life to simplify things for me.”
It became clear to me that all of the analysis and reports were more for me than for the benefit of my clients.
To further understand the expectations of today’s investors, advisors should take a step back and think about how they prefer to interact with service providers in their own lives. You don’t want frequent phone calls or emails from a vendor when you don’t need anything from them. You want to be able to access them as the need arises, and conduct any business on your own terms and in the simplest way possible.
Fortunately, advisors don’t require a time machine to give clients the wealth management experience they want. There are technology solutions available today that can enable advisors to simplify the wealth management experience for investors, and make the latter feel like they are at the controls of the advisor/client journey while also alerting advisors when they need to proactively step in and offer the benefit of their expertise.
Give clients accessibility, control & transparency right from the start
The advisors I speak with often say prospects tell them, “My financial life isn’t complicated enough for me to hire an advisor.” The best way to show investors that they don’t need to be billionaires or own multiple businesses to benefit from working with an advisor is to let them try out the experience for themselves.
An advisor can utilize modern technology solutions to allow prospects to jump in and use the software on their own to get a feel for the advisor’s services before doing business with them. Today’s digital advice platforms enable prospects to actually open accounts online, exchange messages and documents with an advisor and use data analytics to identify investment products that can help them achieve their long-term financial goals.
Prospects are much more likely to sign on as clients if they see for themselves that working with an advisor not only isn’t a hassle, but is essential for reaching their desired goals.
However, from the advisor’s perspective, these technology solutions are helpful because they alert them when clients update their financial goals or make other significant changes. They also offer a two-way messaging service that clients can use to reach out when they need help. These features give advisors peace of mind that they can effectively manage clients while leaving them at the controls, and give clients peace of mind that they can easily access their trusted advisor as the need arises.
Furthermore, some digital advice platforms available today can securely archive all of an advisor’s communications with clients going back to the prospect stage, making it easy for an advisor to justify account decisions as being in each client’s best interest.
According to a 2016 study that Harris Group conducted on behalf of Northwestern Mutual, 54 percent of investors believe the best wealth management solution combines technology with a human relationship. Digital advice technology enables advisors to provide the self-directed experience that investors want, while also making it easy to step in when investors need their support and guidance.
David Lyon is CEO and Founder of Oranj, a Chicago-based provider of digital advice solutions for financial advisors.