The pandemic has forced every wealth management firm and brokerage to accelerate their print-to digital transformation. Broadridge’s most recent data shows 87% of advisors think the pandemic has fundamentally changed how they communicate with their clients.
Smart firms will be leveraging this change to ready their advisors to do more: with their time, with their tools, to engage and retain clients. It’s both a jolting change and a big window of opportunity. And it’s not going to go away—if anything, now that it’s had such a powerful and prolonged start, it will only get bigger.
Accelerated transformation for investors
Recent Broadridge surveys of investors and consumers found that:
- Fifty-seven percent of respondents have switched to paperless communications with their financial advisors in the past two months, or plan to soon
- A remarkable number of firsts: since the start of the pandemic, over one-third of respondents made an online payment; almost a quarter accessed a bill or statement online; nearly 25% deposited a check online—all for the first time
- The number of respondents who said they “always go paperless” is up 35% since the onset of the pandemic
Overall, what did we discover investors are looking for in their digital experience?
First, a more human experience with communications tailored to their needs. Next, they expect choices and control in how they receive communications—some choosing texts, others preferring paper, still others delighted to dive into a full library of online research (frequency varies considerably from one investor to the next). Finally, expanded functionality, with comments such as “Leverage virtual meetings and online chats as much as possible” and “Don’t require actual paper documents. Virtual signatures [are] good enough.”
Advisors dissatisfied with paperwork
For decades, paperwork was simply a less-liked part of being an advisor. But as paperwork rose in lockstep with new regulations, and the industry lagged others in moving to a true digital experience, frustration mounted.
In a recent survey, we discovered just how frustrated advisors are:
- Over half of millennial and Gen X financial advisors think of leaving their current firm for one with better technology tools (59% of millennials, 55% of Gen X).
- Most advisors think paperwork is the worst part of their job and stated that they would “get more of my clients’ investments if I had better tech tools.”
In a September Reimagining Communications podcast episode with Kirby Horan-Adams, executive vice president of investor and investment solutions at LPL Financial, she emphasized how much advisors care about having the best tools.
“We've seen our organic growth double in the first quarter of 2020. Our retention is at 98% and more [advisor] recruits are coming,” she said. “And the second reason why they come to us, after payout, is our technology stack, right? Because the advisors are really understanding that we do have an advantage here with the systems that we have. It's great to see our investments pan out.”
Kirby and I went on to discuss e-signatures versus wet signature—how to move an approval process that was totally designed around paper into the digital world. Again, a real challenge. But, at the same time, a real opportunity.
“The independent broker-dealer space is ultra-competitive,” Kirby said. “And the ClientWorks portal has allowed us to go out to our advisors and recruits to say: ‘This is a real differentiator. It’s more efficient; it's helping you with growth; it's helping you go after new clients.’"
The real winners will be those who can integrate the best digital tools into the returning (I hope it’s returning) hybrid experience. As Kirby noted in the podcast, “It's not just having tools to have tools! If they don't talk to each other and they're not integrated, it creates a lot of inefficiency, a lot of entering data twice, a lot of questions for the advisor and their staff.”
As every day goes by, we move more into the world of millennial and Gen X advisors who expect better digital tools, along with investors who expect a more seamless, personalized experience. Increasingly, firms that put a strong emphasis on updating tools and providing an integrated experience will be able to recruit and retain the best advisors.
Matt Swain is managing director and practice lead, Broadridge Communications & CX Consulting.