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Three Key Considerations for Implementing a Successful Client Portal

Measure success by accurate data, useful information and being understandable by clients.

What good is a great looking portal if a client calls you and says:

“I love how my new reports and portal look, but the data looks different. Not only is the data incorrect, I don’t understand what it means.”

I’ve heard advisors define their client portal needs by stating they want to deliver an “amazing client experience.” When I ask advisors to describe that, the answers aren’t clear. Let me help you – your client experience will be as amazing as the data is accurate, the information is useful, and the story is understandable.

When developing a client portal’s contents, we sometimes forget who the audience is and build a portal that we would love, based on the beautiful graphics provided by the software. Since you are not with clients every time they log on, you may not know what they are thinking when they view the contents. 

Here are three essential considerations to keep in mind as you develop your client portal.

1. Clients expect to log on to their portal and view accurate data. Clients shouldn’t be expected to verify or reconcile the data — that’s your job. Many times, advisors don’t review the data to ensure accuracy — it’s assumed until a client identifies a problem. When that happens, as in the phone call above, your client’s perception of you may be a couple notches lower and it will take some effort to get that level back up.  Even incorrect external data that you do not control will reflect poorly on you. Here are two examples of data that should be reviewed for accuracy:

  • Uploaded spreadsheets: These contain additional client information that are not housed in, or integrated with your technology, and need to be uploaded separately. Spreadsheets are a common source of inaccurate data. Have a reconciling procedure in your spreadsheet to ensure no mistakes in the numbers or calculations.
  • Data inputs from outside sources: These include data aggregation tools as well as inputs from clients. The values of other assets including external and unmanaged accounts, other income, and answers to your risk profile questionnaire should be reviewed with your clients on a recurring basis. Your clients will understand and appreciate your concern about accurate data input.

2. Clients appreciate a portal that provides useful information. It’s easy to get excited about the amount of information that can be in your portal. Before delivering a data dump of your clients’ portfolios and years of performance metrics, think about quality over quantity:

  • Can clients get the same information from your custodian’s website? Regurgitating what clients can retrieve elsewhere isn’t adding value. Value is added when the information provided answers financial questions or needs.
  • If possible through integration, include information from other sources. Together, this provides a holistic view of your clients’ financial picture.
  • When it comes to client portals, one-size-fits-all isn’t true. It’s not just the information that needs to be tailored to clients, but also the presentation manner. For example, I don’t find pie charts useful. I see little value in actual versus target allocation in a pie chart format. It’s difficult to quickly see the variance. This leads me right to the variance column in the table. How many clients would like information presented differently than a cookie-cutter display?

3. Clients look to a portal to understand how the data fits within their individual story. There are two reasons for implementing a client portal — because everyone else has one, or, you want to use technology to communicate a client’s story. Many portals enable you to log in as your client to view the information. Do this and view your world through a client’s eyes:

  • The information in the portal should tell a story. Look at it and say “at the end of the day, I want my clients to understand …” Will your clients come to the same conclusion from the information displayed? Even with accurate data, clients might incorrectly interpret the data into a different story — one that isn’t what you intended.
  • Your commentaries and market outlooks need to make sense to clients with limited financial jargon knowledge.
  • Include articles of interest (or links) for your clients
  • Encourage clients to initiate discussions. For example, the financial picture is based on the latest known lifestyle. Are there changes in your clients’ lifestyle that would necessitate a discussion? Many clients wait until well after a change in lifestyle to discuss their portfolios.

This is what you want to hear from your clients:

“I love how my new reports and client portal look – no buts!”

This article originally appeared on the Susan Glover Blog.

Susan Glover is President of Susan Glover & Associates, a technology and operations research firm for the independent financial advisory and wealth management industry.


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