When clients entrust their financial advisors and wealth managers with their assets, they develop a relationship that goes far beyond a simple financial transaction – the currency is their family’s well-being and peace of mind. This type of relationship between a financial advisor and their client has always been a high-touch one, with in-person meetings and phone conversations at the center of each touchpoint. However, with the sheer amount of growth that communications technology has seen over the past few decades, shouldn’t the nature of these conversations evolve? Shouldn’t there be a way to achieve these high-touch interactions while allowing the client to engage with their advisors where they want, when they want and how they want?
Luckily, there is – we just need to understand the missing link between the intricacies of wealth management and the ever-changing technologies in the market.
Traditional Wealth Management
Historically, a wealth management advisor has provided services in a “white glove” fashion – every interaction has been highly personalized. The relationship between a consumer and their advisor may even have begun with a personal introduction by a friend, family member, family lawyer, etc. In an effort to retain these customized experiences, communication in the wealth management industry has remained very manual, deliberate, and often, paper-based. It is not uncommon to deal with 30-page onboarding packages rather than a simple PDF, paper monetary statements instead of online notifications, and multiple in-person meetings to continue conversations.
With such a heavy and clearly defined role in the wealth management space, there hasn’t been much room for change in the way advisors work and communicate…until now.
Recently, robo-advisors have been a hot topic in the media. Imagine an automated version of your financial advisor who is available at any hour of the day and is able to perform functions and tasks at unsurpassable speeds. Not only would such a process be simpler and faster, it would also reduce the need for real, paid employees and brick-and-mortar overhead costs. End consumers would, therefore, enjoy a sizable reduction in fees for financial advice.
Isn’t this a perfect situation? Wouldn’t this change the way we approach finance (from consultative to formulaic) in the best way possible?
The early 2000s saw the traditional marketing agency forced to embrace change by cheaper, digital agencies that were able to use technology to operate for lower costs and lower fees. It may seem like a logical conclusion, therefore, to say that robo-advisors will have the same effect on wealth management firms. This is not at all the case, however.
While it can’t be argued that technology has changed the way we do business, it can be a force for expansion rather than destruction. While traditional agencies were suffering a few blows, banks and tech companies were able to simply expand their companies online to improve their products. Online dashboards, secure chats with bankers, and mobile wallets are all strides that banks have taken to evolve the way we use money.
Like marketing agencies and banks, the wealth management industry has been affected by emerging technologies, especially now, with the introduction of robo-advisors. Today, consumers have two extreme options for wealth management:
- Traditional financial advisors with extremely high-quality client services, but tedious onboarding processes, third-party reporting services, and an overall cumbersome customer experience.
- Robo-advisors with a new brand of online engagement and access to speedy and lean processes, but high-deficiency in human advice.
While both of these options can work, what we really want is to be able to find the missing link between the two – the happy medium that is capable of taking the best of both options and creating a third, evolved solution.
Moving Wealth Management Forward
New client technologies are, without a doubt, the next direction for growth in wealth management. This does not, however, make the human element any less important for the quality of relationships between wealth managers and their clients. Said clients generally can be classified in two main groups: wealthy people, and high earners who are not yet considered wealthy.
The wealthy clients quickly realize that their money comes with the caveat of the complexities of managing it all. Estate planning, insurance, and asset maintenance are only a few of the multitude of issues with which wealth managers help. Such sensitive and high-value conversations can only take place in a secure and comfortable environment: a face to face, private setting with a real, trustworthy advisor. Furthermore, this population continues to grow, with more baby boomers reaching this age.
The high earners on their way to becoming wealthy clients tend to be on the younger side. This group has shown a greater acceptance of change and an inclination toward new technology, so naturally, it is the preferred target audience of robo-advisors and similar communications technology. This is also the population, however, that quickly begins to resent new tech that causes inefficiency.
Both of these groups ultimately need the same thing: a middle ground between the traditional financial advisor and the robo-advisors of the future. While traditional methods do tend to cause inefficiency in interactions, underdeveloped technology result in the same problems. The automation and speed that robo-advisors can provide must be combined with the high-touch interactions of a real live advisor to reach the ideal solution. Luckily, modern communications technology already makes this possible. Video, audio, and text chat along with screen sharing and CoBrowsing can make the efficiency of technology and high-quality customer experience of tradition a very accessible possibility.
Large companies like Fidelity Investments are already trying to bridge this gap by acquiring eMoney to improve the client experience. Although software companies like Personal Capital are creating tech that attempts to marry robo-advisory with human advisors to help, true in person experience is much more difficult to replicate online without the live, human interactions. 93% of communication being non-verbal, being able to see and speak to a real person is essential to building that missing link. Enabling advisors with the expertise and customer interactions skills with the tools to provide a seamless, omnichannel customer experience is the way to do it.
Clients can then use applications like Personal Capital and Glia to access a smart, human adviser conveniently, while wealth management firms can enjoy the new ability to scale their businesses easily. The ability to service clients anywhere in the country and in higher volumes with a smoother onboarding process and high-quality interactions is highly advantageous to both parties.