Digital client onboarding is the future for wealth management firms. While some have embraced paperless onboarding processes to save time and money, research shows that gaps still exist between wealth managers’ and clients’ preferences and the realities of onboarding at many firms.

Client onboarding is the process of introducing new clients to a wealth management firm with the goal of a long-lasting relationship. Wealth management firms understandably require clients to fill out many questionnaires and forms before the work of advising clients can begin. This leads to some unnecessary challenges.

Going digital with client onboarding can streamline client interactions, create more time for wealth managers to work with clients, and give clients options they actually prefer.

 

Streamline Client Interactions

One of the most obvious advantages of digitizing onboarding is streamlining client interactions. 37% of wealth managers view the account opening process as the most cumbersome part of client interactions. Paper forms are often repetitive and difficult to track. Advisors also spend a surprising amount of time ensuring paperwork is completed and filed when the process is done manually.

Crucially, paper onboarding is also prone to mistakes and missing information. With digitized client onboarding, paperwork is submitted correctly the first time and available in real-time. Additionally, not in good order (NIGO) rates can be reduced to low single digits, saving clients and financial advisors stress.

At the end of the day, digitized onboarding is faster and more accurate than old-fashioned paper systems. Electronic processes allow new account paperwork to be electronically signed, recorded, processed, confirmed, tracked and transmitted within minutes.

 

Spend More Time With Clients, Less Time on Paperwork

If you ask most wealth managers and their clients what work really matters, it’s not onboarding paperwork. Filling out repetitive forms and chasing down signatures are a waste of time when digitizing onboarding paperwork could give advisors more time to serve their clients.

Of wealth managers surveyed, 59% agreed that the time they spend on account opening paperwork cuts into valuable client facetime. And, this time adds up — financial advisors spent less than 20% of their time meeting with clients. A paperless process would free advisors to spend more time with clients.

Digitized onboarding cuts down repetitive data entry as well. Integrated systems provide real-time access to client information when integrated with client relationships management platforms (CRMs). Paperless systems allow wealth managers to get right to work when a new client is onboarded and keep up to date with changes.

 

Giving Clients What They Want – A Digital Experience

In addition to saving wealth management firms time and allowing them to focus more on serving clients, digital onboarding is rapidly becoming the norm. Younger generations of investors, Millennials and Gen Z, expect digital offerings from their firms. However, the convenience and ease of digital wealth management have begun to transcend generational divides, and even older investors prefer these tools.

The majority of clients would prefer digital-only account opening, but that preference isn’t currently reflected in the options available to them. Although only 40% of firm accounts are opened via digital-only methods, 65% of customers would prefer it. This means there’s a 25% gap between what clients want and what firms are offering.

Digital client onboarding gives wealth management firms a competitive advantage over firms that stick to a paper process. More efficient paperless processes save clients and advisors time. More accurate paperwork populates CRMs in the cloud so financial advisors can work with real-time information from anywhere. This is more important than ever as tech-savvy clients expect digital offerings like onboarding, performance dashboards, and self-service financial education.

Docupace’s cloud-based platform can enhance your customer experience and save your financial advisors valuable time. Are you ready to learn about Docupace’s paperless client onboarding solutions? Request a demo today.

 

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

Despite uncertainty and upheaval over the past 18 months, the wealth management industry has remained resilient. Many firms used the pandemic and sudden shift to remote working as a wake-up call to improve both employee and client digital offerings. These firms have upgraded their outdated, manual processes or software with modern, automated solutions to maintain their competitive advantage.

But as the pandemic wanes (thankfully), wealth management CEOs are looking to the future. The road ahead is paved with many unknowns. Perhaps the most important question is which capabilities and offerings will determine the success or failure wealth management enterprises. The Boston Consulting Group’s 20th edition Global Wealth report provides an outlook for the future based on what today’s firms need to be successful tomorrow.

The Landscape of Wealth Management is Changing… Again

The wealth management industry has survived numerous economic crises and digital upheavals over the past 20 years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is the industry’s biggest challenge yet. With unemployment records finally pulling away from all-time highs and many global economies fiercely fighting off recession, financial leaders are concerned for future success.

To ensure wealth management CEOs successfully navigate the myriad of complex choices, BCG has created a Wealth Management CEO Agenda for industry leaders. These recommendations are divided into near-term actions that address immediate demands COVID-19 and provide funds for the future, medium-term actions that increase future competitive advantage, and foundational capability building critical for long-term success. This CEO Agenda centers around three main focuses: Protect the Bottom Line, Win the Future and Build Capabilities.

Protect the Bottom Line

Addressing the immediate demands of COVID-19 starts with keeping revenue on the table. Today’s firms must focus on smart revenue uplift, particularly onboarding, sales, and enablement, and optimizing the front office setup.

Firms that rely on ad-hoc responses to compliance and risk management processes must quickly identify where these tasks can be standardized, streamlined, or fully automated. Wealth management leaders who achieve this not only reduce costs but also improve customer satisfaction and organizational resilience.

Finally, firms must optimize end-to-end processes, streamline management and matrix structures, and embed agile working processes beyond IT teams to improve structural efficiency.

Win the Future

Given the change the industry has seen in the last 20 years, leaders must prepare for additional disruptive industry changes. BCG recommends firms focus on the following areas to remain surefooted in an increasingly crowded and competitive market while delivering exceptional client value:

 

Build Capabilities

To execute the above agenda, firms must refocus efforts on strengthening the foundational capabilities. The following are those BCG deems most important for long-term success:

 

There’s Money in the New Wave of Wealth Management

While the long-term impact of COVID-19 on wealth management firms remains unclear, wealth management firms must rise to the challenge.

Leaders and executives must position themselves and their firms for future success by refocusing and reinventing business and client processes, investing in smarter digital tools, and strengthening foundational capabilities. With this focus, their wealth management firms will be fully prepared to face the future’s unknowns.

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

Wealth management firms are increasingly expected to adopt and expand their digital offerings. But, the pace of innovation and the vast selection of tools and platforms available can be overwhelming, and some RIAs fear picking the wrong tool or missing out on the right one – the industry’s definitely under attack from the FOMO monster.

With the dazzling array of options, how can RIAs be sure they’re giving clients the experience they want, include the services sure to draw in younger investors, and still manage their technology budgets? Here’s how to choose the right technology and deliver the best experience for potential clients: Automation, Integration and Collaboration.

Increase Efficiency with Automation

Every RIA has tasks that are good candidates for automation. Whether it’s new client onboarding, compliance, or reporting, finding the right technology to automate these processes allows RIAs to scale and grow their business, increase their efficiency, and provide a consistent result every time.

Documenting the pain points in your business is the first step to making sure you pick software or technology that will actually solve your biggest problems. A list of features can only get you so far; seeing the benefits of how a platform or solution can function in your specific use cases is worth its weight in gold.

Technologies like robotic process automation (RPA), when deployed in conjunction with a strategic plan, measurable business goals, and buy-in and consensus from stakeholders, can be a way to make big gains in technology quickly.

Build a Better Tech Stack with Integration

One of the biggest challenges for wealth management firms and other financial services industries just getting into expanding their tech footprint is ensuring that the tools they choose integrate with their existing system contribute to their overall picture instead of fracture or piecemeal their reporting and automation. In an InvestmentNews study, 58% of firms reported that a lack of integration between core software applications was one of their biggest pain points or hurdles in technology processes.

Integrated systems ensure that information can be entered once and automatically update and flow into other systems and applications. Updates to CRMs are automatically populated in customer portals and reporting, allowing both the client and the advisor to have the most up-to-date information at all times.

Removing the manual efforts of syncing and reconciling fractured systems frees up advisors to work on the client-facing activities that matter to their business. In a report from Envestnet, they note that these technologies not only save time, they also bring in new markets, “Advisors leveraging these technologies have been able to lower their account minimums to open the market to work with emerging investors (while maintaining profitability) due to efficiencies gained from an integrated platform.”

As RIAs clientele continues to shift, meeting their expectations with digital tools will be essential.

Reaching a New, More Diverse Market

Younger, more diverse investors are looking for advisors that can provide the type of high-quality, personalized experience they’ve come to expect from their B2C transactions. Digital tools that offer investment education, robust on-demand reporting, and easy communication tools allow these investors to feel bought in to their wealth management plan. It also builds trust and provides a unique, collaborative experience.

For many RIAs, building a technology stack from scratch isn’t feasible. Choosing the right technology partners and vendors is a critical decision that can make or break prospecting, client retention, and efficiency in a wealth management firm. To meet these challenges, RIAs should seek out integrated, tested, and proven tools that work with their specific businesses and needs. Incorporating digital tools and digital transformation is a journey, not a one-and-done step. With the right partners and expertise to guide technology decisions, RIAs can continue to provide the value and experience their clients expect for years to come.

 

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

Automation and paperless transactions are the future. Wealth management firms that want to stay ahead the competition need to consider the right investment for their technology budgets. Digitized onboarding programs provide a vastly superior experience for advisors and clients and save time and money for firms.

Client onboarding​ is a comprehensive term that encompasses account opening as well as prospecting and client questionnaires. ​Many software tools focus on new account opening since it is the most complex, time-consuming, and expensive part of onboarding.

Here’s how digital onboarding can benefit clients, advisors, and wealth management firms.

A Better Experience for Clients

New investors want simplicity. As younger, digitally native investors begin to inherit, earn, and grow wealth, they’re looking for solutions and advisors that can match their expectations of transparency, speed, and personalization. Firms that still use mostly manual and paper-filled processes, which can be frustrating and outdated, can lead to clients and/or prospects seeking advice elsewhere.

Digitizing the onboarding experience allows customers to use the technology they’re already familiar with: videoconferencing, digital document management, electronic signatures, biometric authentication, and more. A digital onboarding program also dramatically compresses the timeline for investors and advisors; manual processes that take weeks or months to complete are done in a day or two with the right systems in place.

Repeated requests for the same information becomes a thing of the past when a firm’s system can save and remember information about a client during subsequent interactions. Valuable information and changes aren’t lost in back and forth paperwork requests and email attachments when firms use cloud capabilities to store real-time updates to a client file.

As residual effects from the pandemic continue to disrupt in-person meetings and logistics, many clients prefer doing as much business as possible online. Building an onboarding experience that caters to those expectations leaves an excellent first impression that clients will carry throughout their relationship with their advisor.

More Time for Advisors

Advisors spend a lot of time completing tasks irrelevant to providing financial advice or services. A survey from Michael Kitces found that during a financial advisor’s average 43-hour workweek, they only spent 19% of that time with clients and 17% of that time doing business development. The rest of the time — the majority of it — is spent on non-client-facing work.

Onboarding a new client represents reams of paperwork and back-end processes that could be spent prospecting for new clients, researching or completing tasks for existing clients, and other tasks that further business growth. This leaves a big opportunity for technology and automated processes to free up valuable time.

Beyond just time, automation allows for better accuracy, quicker results, and greater transparency. Removing redundancies and creating systems that streamline communication and data transfer from client to advisors eliminates frustrations and misunderstandings that naturally occur when manual processes get in the way.

A Digital Advantage for Wealth Management Providers

The primary challenge for wealth management providers is investing in the right technology and integrating systems. Competition for investment dollars is fierce, and fintech solutions drive near-constant disruption, so firms often feel like they are perpetually catching up instead of getting ahead.

Digital onboarding experiences that integrate with existing systems allow firms to close the gap between initiating and completing the account opening process and fund client accounts faster. They eliminate manual data entry and redundant, outdated systems. And, they simplify the process for advisors and reduce the number of applications and systems they need to switch between to complete their work.

Digital onboarding platforms and processes save wealth management firms time and money while also improving the experience for advisors and clients. Choosing the right systems that offer these benefits will be key for firms looking to lead out from the competition.

With Docupace’s cloud-based platform, you can reduce errors and give advisors their valuable time back to focus on serving clients and growing their business.

Our system integrates seamlessly with leading CRMs, e-signature solutions, custodians, clearing firms, financial planning software, and more, so you can streamline operations without rebuilding your existing tech stack.

In 2017, an Australian millionaire called out his generation for spending money on avocado toast and lattes instead of building wealth and purchasing homes. This remark sparked a furor and reignited discourse about millennials — namely, who they are, how they spend their money, and why so few of them are achieving the financial success of their parents.

In wealth management, many firms and advisors are strategizing to understand how to reach this market, align with their preferences, and utilize technology to stay relevant in the face of ongoing fintech disruption.

As millennials reach middle-age, the conversation has shifted from viewing this generation as entitled teenagers to recognizing them as a powerful economic force. Here’s what wealth management firms need to understand about this demographic, including their unique challenges and opportunities.

Understanding the Millennial Wealth Gap

All generations have had their ups and downs, but Millennials — particularly those born before 1990 — had a particularly rough start out of college. Large student debt bills were compounded by one of the worst job markets in decades due to the Great Recession. This lackluster start has left Millennials behind in amassing wealth, buying homes, and making other advances afforded to the generations before them.

Despite making up the majority of the workforce, Millennials only hold 4.6% of US wealth. Data indicates that Millennials earn 20% less than Baby Boomers did at the same age.

However, there are indications that Millennials are gaining ground. Since 2016, Millennials have grown their wealth by over 80% thanks to more interest in investments and healthy stock market gains.

Factor in Baby Boomers transferring nearly $68 trillion in wealth to their children in the next 20 years and the opportunity for Wealth Management firms to work with this demographic starts to present itself.

Millennials and Technology in Wealth Management

Millennials and Gen Z are perceived as vastly preferring technology over a human connection, but the truth is more complicated. In the 2019 Edelman Millennials and the Future of Money Report, Millennial and GenZ respondents said that interacting with human advisors was less intimidating (54%) and easier to use (58%) when compared to roboadvisors or AI. And, when it comes to trust, Millennials trust financial services firms over tech companies 62% to 38% to create and deliver advice.

At the same time, Millennials prefer and expect a deeper level of personalization than older generations. This type of personalization can only be achieved at scale through technology. According to Accenture’s Millennials and Money: Next Era Wealth Management report, these digital elements are critical in their wealth management mix:

Computer-generated (robo) recommendations

 

Combining these digital elements with a human touch is the key to providing a balanced, personalized experience.

Aligning Your Approach with Millennial Preferences

Customization and personalization are key to reaching Millennials and younger generations. They want a frictionless experience that allows them to customize the look and feel of their apps and portals. They also expect their advisors to know key information about them and their preferences, so when they go to an advisor for advice, they have everything they need to make an informed decision.

Millennials are natural researchers and want to know more about investing and expect advisors to help them navigate their different options. Offering information that they can self-service allows them to get up to speed and then integrate expert advice into their process. Making it easy to reach an advisor digitally whether through chat, video, or email allows them to get the expert guidance they need quickly and build loyalty and trust in the process.

As Millennials continue to amass wealth, firms can no longer afford to ignore digital offerings. Combining the features and personalization of technology with a human touch will put wealth management firms at an advantage as they tap into this new and rapidly growing demographic.

It’s a drastic understatement to say that the wealth management industry is changing. In addition to the uncertainty and disruption caused by COVID-19, shifting client demands, smarter technology, and a more diverse client base are changing how firms do business. Additionally, digital disruption is accelerating and has already shown that firms with smart, modern digital offerings are those who have earned the right to compete in the industry — those who don’t have either gone or swiftly becoming obsolete.

Successful firms, those that maintain their competitive advantage and are prepared to face the industry’s rapidly changing landscape, focus their investments on specialized “productivity” solutions. Specifically, wealth leaders invest in solutions that improve client and advisor experiences, automate repetitive processes, and ensure data compliance.

5 Areas Advisors Are Spending Their Tech Money

In response to the sudden shift to remote work and additional industry demands, top-performing firms prioritized financial investments with resources that support and strengthen digital offerings and capabilities. These include digital onboarding, robotic process automation, cloud migration, cybersecurity and virtual assistant chatbots.

Digital Onboarding

The 2019 World Wealth Report found that 90% of high-net-worth clients place service quality as the primary criteria for selecting a wealth management firm. However, many firm’s onboarding experiences fail to provide the fast, seamless, and personalized experience that today’s clients demand. A survey by Fenergo and WealthBriefing found that 28% of today’s firms take more than 20 days to completely onboard a new client.

Today’s emerging technologies streamline the entire client onboarding process, reducing onboarding time from weeks to just days. Additionally, firms that automate AML compliance and screening free up wealth advisor’s time, enabling them to focus on client needs and offer better, more personalized advice.

Robotic Process Automation

As part of improving the client experience, firms rely on robotic process automation (RPA) to automate repetitive tasks and ensure processes and operations are compliant with company regulations or standards. With faster, more efficient processes in place, employee productivity and customer satisfaction are increased.

Cloud Migration

Cloud migration has become a top priority for dozens of companies worldwide. One driving factor for this rapid growth is the substantial cost savings simply by minimizing expensive IT structures. Additionally, the cloud provides advisors, clients and home office professionals with anytime anywhere access to important financial data. A comprehensive view of processes and teams is provided to wealth management leaders, which streamlines decision-making while clients have the 24/7 access they expect.

Cybersecurity

Assets under management (AUM) of wealth management firms are expected to grow by 5.6% annually by 2025, equaling close to $147.4 trillion — those dollars are likely irresistible to cybercriminals. The top wealth management firms are all too aware of this risk which is why many are allocating financial resources to boost cybersecurity. In addition to client assets, firms need to safeguard private client information to prevent fraud, extortion, or identity theft.

With the uncertainty from COVID-19 still lingering, clients want to know that their information—and their money—is protected. Many firms have responded to this larger attack surface by rethinking their cybersecurity strategy, ensuring they have the right tools available to detect threats and alert IT professionals quickly.

Virtual Assistant Chatbots

On the horizon for wealth management firms are Millennial clients (currently age 25-40) who love technology. These tech-savvy users expect rapid access to their financial information to make fast but informed financial decisions. Should they experience issues or have questions regarding their finances, many will turn to a virtual assistant for instant help.

In addition to fulfilling client expectations, firms that utilize chatbots free up advisors’ time. With a robot answering general questions or concerns, advisors can focus on client-facing operations. Additionally, as AI and ML technology become smarter, virtual assistants and chatbots provide highly personalized, professional advice based on a thorough market data analysis.

Planning for and Investing in the Future

While it may feel like the industry has been flipped on its head over the past decade, the truth is: Fintech-disruption is just beginning. Wealth management firms can only expect these massive industry changes to continue as technology becomes smarter and client needs evolve. The top-performing financial advisors smartly channel funds into technology that not only improve firm efficiency and productivity but provide clients with a modern, seamless experience they’ve come to expect.

COVID-19 created a new reality for the wealth management industry. While the short-term effects are behind us, firms and advisors are still anticipating and predicting the pandemic’s long-term effects. These changes have already completely transformed the wealth management industry — from business processes to client interaction.

Digitization, the rise of robo-advisors, a more dynamic client base, and adopting newer technology were all important trends within the industry before COVID-19. In a post-COVID world, many of these factors accelerated.

The Push to Digitize

Even before the global pandemic, many firms recognized the importance of digitizing business processes and client services. However, as COVID-19 spread, firms entered a new phase of digitization. With fintech bringing additional tools and capabilities into the industry, client expectations have shifted, forcing wealth management firms to re-evaluate their digital offerings and overall customer experience or risk becoming obsolete.

Today’s clients actively avoid any customer experience that is complicated or unclear. For advisors, digitizing error-prone, time-consuming, or complicated tasks has been a top priority to deliver higher client value. This includes processes such as onboarding, document signing, and account transitions. With COVID-19 preventing most human interactions, firms rapidly pushed to digitize these processes, and the trend is expected to continue in a post-COVID world.

The 2019 BDO Middle Market Digital Transformation Survey found that 97% of financial service firms are taking steps to implement more digital tools within their organization. Of those surveyed, 21% listed digitalization as the top priority for their firm. Firms that invest heavily in new technology to provide clients with the omnichannel experience they expect ensure their survival in the coming years.

The Power of Personalization

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the industry experienced a change in client base. Younger, tech-savvy individuals are expected to account for almost three-quarters of total income by 2025. Additionally, as the number of single or divorced women in the workforce increases, so does the need for a new type of wealth management.

This new client base demands personalization. It’s no longer enough for firms or advisors to offer generic financial advice. Today’s clients expect personal, tailored advice that matches their specific financial situation and goals. Emerging technology will play an instrumental role in the era of hyper-personalization within wealth management as technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics provide valuable customer insight.

A Human Touch is Still Essential

One of the most adopted forms of new technology within wealth management is virtual assistants and chatbots. The industry managed $460 billion in 2020, a 30% increase from 2019, and some analysts predict the industry will grow to $1.2 trillion by 2024. Within wealth management, these programs have become increasingly popular as they can provide personal, automated advice based on financial algorithms. Additionally, robo-advisors have automated much of the repetitive, manual tasks that distract advisors from client-focused activities.

However, while robo-advisors will be an integral part of the industry’s future, financial advisors are still needed. In fact, 84% of investors say that financial advisors will always be needed. The experience, knowledge, and planning of human advisors cannot be replicated by technology. Rather, technology should help support the client interaction, ensuring clients have 24/7 access to financial help via chatbots while advisors focus on client-facing processes.

Looking to the Future

As the wealth management industry continues to adjust to the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic, firms’ success will be determined by how quickly they can adapt to the needs created by the crisis. Those who accelerate their digitalization, focus on personalization and find the balance between technology and the human touch are those who are likely to succeed in a post-COVID industry.

Investors expect more services and expertise from their advisors than ever before. Many smaller RIAs have struggled to keep up with this growing expectation and the competition from larger, elite RIA firms. In the wake of COVID-19 market disruptions, merger and acquisition activity is increasing. To stay competitive in the face of these challenges, smaller RIAs need to learn from and adapt to the strategies employed by elite RIAs. Here are a few ways these larger firms play to their strengths and how firms of any size can too.

Building Teams for a Better Client Experience

Traditionally, the wealth management model consisted of a single advisor serving a client for their journey. Many RIAs still operate this way and build relationships with their clients. However, this strategy makes transitioning relationships difficult and creates an “always on” service atmosphere for the advisor.

Many elite RIAs have shifted to a team model, where clients enter the firm through a “brand first” journey and are served by several advisors with different expertise working together to help customers meet their goals. At Merrill Lynch, 75% of their advisors have teamed up with other advisors, according to Barrons.

The team model is becoming more popular because not only does it expose clients to a broader range of specialties and opportunities, but it allows for seamless succession planning when advisors retire or move on from the firm. This is important as many firms are faced with the challenge of an aging workforce. Over $2.3 trillion in assets are managed by advisors 60 and older, and the average age of wealth advisors is around 51. Younger advisors benefit from the team model as they can work directly with mentors and older advisors. As a result, investors become invested in the firm as a whole rather than one individual.

Empowering Everyone to Do What They Do Best

Today’s investor has a diverse set of needs—from investment to insurance, the range of topics that wealth advisors are expected to be experts in is growing. In many cases, it’s too much to reasonably expect from one person.

InvestmentNews’ 2020 Elite RIA Study shows that elite RIAs have invested in building specialist teams to offer deep personalization and support for their clients. Beyond just services to clients, employing specialists to handle business operations and development allows advisors to perform the tasks they’re best suited for. Marketers, technologists, and other business professionals help provide the support and polish that the RIA needs to draw in new business.

Source: INResearch 2020 Elite RIA Study

In addition to specialized in-house employees, elite RIAs outsource other business functions in coordination with their strategic plans. Rather than spend lots of time and labor on building sophisticated platforms or technologies, they integrate tools into their systems to get up and running faster.

Adopting Scalable, Sustainable Strategies

Elite RIAs are in acquisition mode. According to INResearch, “Over the next year or two, Elite firms are significantly more likely than others to acquire another advisory firm, add another adviser and his/her clients, open an office in a new region and to enhance client acquisition strategies.”

These firms can complete these acquisitions and expansions because they implemented scalable, sustainable business strategies that can see them through periods of rapid growth. Advisors are able to come on board and pick up work easily; and as firms acquire new specialists and advisors, they can offer a wider range of services, fee services and expertise.

RIAs of all sizes can benefit from the same strategies elite RIAs use to grow their business. Utilizing the power of teams, centering the client experience, and outsourcing where possible will allow even smaller firms to scale quickly and attract wealthier and more diverse clients.

 

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

Today’s financial advisors wear multiple hats. In addition to providing financial guidance, advisors conduct client meetings, grow their client list, complete administrative or investment-management tasks, and participate in professional development. It’s not surprising that when all these responsibilities are combined, little of an advisor’s time is left for client-facing activities. In fact, one survey by Michael Kitces reported 50 percent of a wealth management firm’s time is spent on client-related activities, and less than 20 percent is spent actually meeting with clients.

Not enough time to complete daily responsibilities has become a reality for many financial advisors. Wealth management firms can increase their ROI by improving productivity with automation and leveraging digital tools to handle the tasks most likely to siphon away valuable advisor time.

Improve Productivity with Automation

New technologies and digitization have accelerated and expanded in the last 5 years, and these benefits have arrived in force in the wealth management industry. Automation enables advisors to streamline processes, improve communication, and gain deeper insight into the financial market and their client profiles. Arguably, the biggest opportunity is time.

Tools such as AI, machine learning, and big data automate administrative tasks, such as data entry, freeing up advisors’ time for client-related responsibilities or revenue-increasing activities.

Even though the possibilities for automation are virtually endless, firms need to think strategically about where they invest to maximize return, reduce the burden on their budget, and deliver the most value to customers and advisors. Here are five areas where wealth management firms can increase automation.

Client Data Collection

A key part of financial planning is data collection and entry: a long, tedious, and error-prone task. Software programs such as AutoEntry and Precise FP aggregate client data into customizable formats, almost eliminating the need for a human touch. These reports provide valuable insight into clients’ behavior, financial preferences, and the market, and are far more accurate than manual data entry. Automated data collection and entry enables the advisor to act on data rather than input it.

Compliance

Wealth management firms continue to experience increasing levels of complexity and rigor in compliance and regulation. As governments globally continue to change and increase regulation, firms can no longer take a piecemeal approach and need a holistic solution that allows them to gather evidence and complete reporting for many different regulations at one time. When these advisors or clerical staff perform these activities, there is a high degree of variability and quality in their work. Executing repetitive tasks and keeping up with new requirements is a natural fit for AI and ML platforms. Many firms are investing here to streamline processes and mitigate risk from regulators.

Client Segmentation

Elite wealth management firms have long realized the benefits of client segmentation. Today’s investors are interested in products hyper-personalized to their interests, risk tolerance, and individual client profile. Firms with systems in place to create these segmentations with ML and AI technology can offer value-added services that are a cut above the competition without sacrificing advisors’ time. A well-designed CRM system improves segmentation strategy and automates tasks such as tracking lead behavior, monitoring customer satisfaction scores, and calculating customer lifetime values.

Risk Profiling

While 70 percent of wealth management firms use risk profiling tools, this is one area where firms should balance automation with human input. Tools can gather client information, analyze the current financial market, and present calculations, but an advisor should review the results and determine accuracy. A clear picture of risk tolerance presented alongside sound, professional investment advice is possible with assessment tools and an advisor’s institutional knowledge.

Advisors spend less time calculating and re-calculating risks with the help of risk assessment tools. These solutions handle much of the manual work, enabling advisors to make a quick, informed decision based on the clear-cut numbers produced by the software.

Rebalancing

Rebalancing is arguably one of the most important tasks performed by financial advisors as it touches every part of a client’s portfolio. This is a lengthy and repetitive task without the use of technology. Automated rebalancing solutions ensure a client’s specified asset allocation stays within an acceptable range by executing the appropriate buy and sells to get the desired percentage. Additionally, it automates difficult tasks such as tax management, trade-offs, asset class customization, and substitutions. Human intervention is only required if bad data or unknown securities are detected.

With the emergence of new rebalancing software, one study by Michael Kitces found that an experienced advisor who averages 96 clients only spends 2.9 hours every year investment managing a client’s portfolio, a true testament to the efficiency and capabilities of this type of software.

Increase ROI by Saving Time

Time is a precious commodity for financial advisors. When time is properly invested and managed, client satisfaction improves, and ROI increases. Advisors who recognize and eliminate time-wasters, leverage modern technology, and automate where possible are those who can spend more time on the ever more-important client-facing tasks.

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

Wealth management firms and the financial services industry as a whole are investing heavily in technology that enhances the client experience and streamlines advisors’ day-to-day work. However, despite spending a record 3.69% of revenue on technology, not all firms are seeing the returns they expected.

While fintech and larger firms continue to innovate and drive technology in wealth management forward, many laggard and smaller firms are devoting their technology spend to legacy systems that make up their core IT stack. As these systems continue to age, some firms have found it difficult to keep up with the pace of disruption in the wealth management space. As they add new tools and technologies to their systems, they continue to fracture and silo their processes, making it more difficult for advisors to do their jobs.

Top-performing firms are laser-focused on the client experience and streamlining processes. They devote their technology resources toward tools and processes that integrate with their existing systems and build on a strong foundation that will be scalable and flexible far into the future.

Creating a Technology-Enhanced Client Experience

Even with record spending on technology, firms still need to prioritize projects and choose investments that will pay off. Top firms create strategic plans that map tools and technology to customer experience initiatives.

For top-performing firms, technology is key to creating a better client experience. InvestmentNews Research’s 2020 Adviser Technology study found that nearly all top-performing firms “believe that the digital client experience is at least somewhat important to firm success.”

Firms have a tremendous opportunity to enhance their client experience and include digital tools in their offerings. A PwC survey found that “69% of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) are now using online/mobile banking, but only a quarter of wealth managers currently offer digital channels beyond email.” To keep pace with rapidly growing fintech solutions and the fierce competition for clients, firms need to demonstrate value and meet customers in the digital spaces they use.

Some of the client-facing technologies most firms use include digital signing tools, client portals, videoconferencing, online booking, and appointment management. But, enhanced client experiences look like fully digital onboarding, dashboards that allow 24/7 reports, and recommendations based on client behavior and profile.

The point of these tools and investments is to streamline communication, allow clients to self-service and research, and deepen the relationship between clients and advisors. PwC’s survey also found that only one-third of wealth management clients are very satisfied with their financial advisors, leaving lots of room for improvement and opportunities to deliver the type of digital experience their clients expect.

Streamlining Regulatory Compliance with Technology

Regulatory requirements and compliance are an ongoing reality for wealth management firms. Governments across the globe have increased regulations and stepped-up oversight. The challenge for many firms is adopting processes and integrated solutions. Many firms created piecemeal systems that left individual processes isolated from the rest of the business. Now, many are investing in rebuilding holistic systems that streamline the compliance process.

Once this type of system is in place, automation is possible. Rather than completing repetitive compliance tasks, advisors can rely on robot process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), and other tech solutions that are faster, cheaper, and more accurate. Since many regulatory requirements overlap, building and maintaining an automated system reduces the workload significantly and standardizes compliance programs.

Automation, systemization, and centering the client experience are the priorities for top-performing wealth management firms. Firms should bring technology solutions together, eliminate redundancies, and create integrated ecosystems that streamline and enhance the client and advisor experience. Organized systems keep customers up-to-date on what they need to know about their portfolio and simplify the compliance process. Dashboards and portals provide investors with several options to contact their advisors and allows advisors to see important information about clients at a glance.

Integrating back-office operations and client-facing systems isn’t a simple task, but it’s an essential part of creating and maintaining a client-advisor relationship.

 

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

The wealth management industry was well on its way to experiencing significant disruption. Fintech startups, cryptocurrency, and innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) began to rock one of the last traditional markets left standing in the wake of digital disruption.

In 2020, that change was accelerated as a tsunami of new retail investors entered the market. Even though the year was marked with turbulent markets, a new generation of investors that were younger, less wealthy, and more racially diverse than past generations entered the market for the first time, according to research from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation). This new group of investors stands poised to push the wealth management market into a new normal of doing business as they bring a host of expectations, standards, and desires to the table.

The Self-Service Investor

A rising tide lifts all boats, and the younger generation of investors has rapidly changed the wealth management landscape for everyone, including older investors. In Deloitte’s report “10 Disruptive Trends in Wealth Management,” they identify this type of investor as a “re-wired investor.”

This group wants a partnership with their investor that puts them in the driver’s seat. They want to understand the investments they’re making as well as the advice they receive from advisors and use their own research and knowledge to supplement expert opinions. The FINRA Foundation’s study found that 48 percent of investors in their sample who had an account prior to 2020 reported relying on financial professionals when making investment decisions. But, only 23 percent of new investors did so, opting instead to rely on family, friends, and colleagues (38 percent) or data from individual companies they wished to invest in (37 percent).

In order to reach this type of investor, wealth management firms should have client/advisor access through multiple channels, an intuitive, self-directed digital experience, and a variety of advice resources available.

Automation with a Human Touch

Many newer investors eschew the one-size-fits-most in wealth management. Even though younger investors have less net worth, they expect to be given the same options and treated with the same level of personalization as high net worth individuals (HNWI). And fintech and BigTech startups have risen to this challenge by offering a low barrier to entry with an array of value-added services fit for their needs and investment personality.

HNWIs have also found the value in hyper-personalization. According to data from Capgemini, only 26% of wealth management firms see BigTech competition among the top disruptors to the industry. But, “74% of HNWIs report a willingness to consider wealth management offerings from BigTechs.” This is driven by the fact that traditional wealth management firms have yet to seize the opportunity to offer the level of service and personalization that BigTech solutions, like Amazon and Netflix, boast for their clients.

Wealth management firms that can harness data analytics, ML and other analytical tools to deliver tailored solutions and on-demand reporting stand to capture a large market share of new and existing investors.

New investors are zealous and eager for investment opportunities. The FINRA Foundation’s study respondents found that the top three reasons new investors opened accounts were (1) the ability to invest with a small amount of money, (2) wanting to invest for retirement, and (3) the dips in the market that made stocks cheaper. These conditions will continue to draw new investors in 2021 and beyond.

However, the challenge for financial advisory firms will be to recognize the top disruptors driven by new investors that have weaved their way into the expectations and desires for experienced investors and HNWIs. Anticipating these demands to deliver personalized, intelligent, and in-depth client solutions will allow top firms to capitalize on the best that this disruption has to offer.

Thanks to advanced innovation in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA), repetitive tasks have been automated, lengthy workflows have been streamlined, and previously ambiguous insight into customer’s financial patterns has been deepened. However, many firms have struggled to leverage these new solutions while maintaining a human touch.

Top wealth management firms have achieved a balance between adopting new technology and keeping the advisor connection by utilizing new solutions and technologies in processes that are not client-facing, including data entry, risk analysis, performance analytics and process automation. The approach ensures that clients can access technology’s ease and convenience while having access to an advisor should questions or concerns arise.

Clients Still Crave Human Interaction

Even with today’s rapid digital shift, there are still individuals who prefer a human touch. One survey by Edward Jones found that 83% of respondents preferred working with a human advisor compared to the 17% of those who preferred working with a robo-advisor.

When it comes to money, customers naturally prefer to interact with people because money management is a highly emotional issue. Regardless of how much wealth a client has, an individual’s financial goals and priorities will evolve as they move through different life phases. Because of this, many want to communicate with someone who not only understands these emotions but who has possibly experienced them as well.

For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, thousands of individuals turned to their advisors for advice on their 401K withdrawals or investment risks. Only a human investor could understand the numbers and the emotion behind the current health and economic concerns.

Additionally, an advisor has the emotional intelligence (EQ) to determine where a client is emotionally. Based on a client’s social cues, they can determine when they are frustrated, overwhelmed, or happy and provide the appropriate human response, be that advice or empathy. As advisors become an integral part of their clients’ emotional lives, a deeper, more trusting relationship is formed. Once this trust has been formed, firms can then turn to data analytics, AI, and machine learning to drive results and value for clients.

Leveraging Technology to Deliver Quality Advice

While many clients feel that having a human touch is important, they still expect wealth management firms to utilize new technology. In the same survey by Edward Jones, 95% of those polled stated they expect financial advisors to use the latest technology and tools as part of the advising process. Firms that utilize AI to analyze financial trends, chatbots for customer service needs and data analytics to understand clients’ needs or the financial markets command a competitive advantage over other firms. Additionally, this new technology increases customer satisfaction as employees can respond quickly to customer concerns.

Analytics, machine learning and AI enable advisors to provide personalized, strategic advice based on the current financial market and clients’ unique needs. Additionally, many of these technologies handle repetitive or mundane tasks, freeing up more of an advisor’s time, allowing them to focus on strategic concerns such as ensuring clients have enough life insurance or maximizing investments.

Finding the Human-Technology Balance

The emergence of AI, big data, and machine learning has revolutionized how wealth management firms do business. These technologies enable financial advisors to streamline workflows and automate business processes and bolster the way they care for clients. Rather than spending most of their time crunching numbers, analyzing financial trends, or entering data, they can spend more one-on-one time with clients, discussing future investments, business opportunities, and other large-scale priorities.

Successful wealth management advisors leverage technological innovation to provide more time for human empathy and relationship building. Achieving this balance ensures that clients get results and offers a human connection where it’s needed most.