5 Factors When Digitizing Your Client Experience
Digitalization is unavoidable for RIAs and financial advisors. Firms already operate with online custodians and financial planning platforms. However, digital touchpoints fall short when it comes to client interaction.
Applying digital tools to the client relationship often appears counterproductive. It’s easy to imagine a one-size-fits-all, generalized approach to client communication, resulting in confusion and consumer dissatisfaction. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
According to Salesforce, 57% of consumers prefer digital communication in 2020, and that number has only grown over the years. A sound digital strategy often enables firms to provide a more personalized experience and meet client needs without sacrificing efficiency or scale.
While statistics on how digital transformation offers a better client experience are great, it’s important to look at how digital tools can affect your firm, individual advisors, and your clients.
Is a digitized client experience really better?
There are several benefits for both advisors and clients when it comes to digitizing your process.
For advisors, a robust financial planning platform provides numerous advantages. There are solutions for managing client portfolios, automating check-ins, monitoring portfolio risk, generating reports, and streamlining marketing. All of these save advisors time and resources—which can be better spent on one-on-one communication with clients. It can also boost revenue. One study found that using digital tools can boost an organization’s revenue by 20%.
Your clients also benefit. Digital tools allow them to better reach your office, whether by email or video call. Adding a chatbot to your site or Facebook page enables you to respond to general queries from current and potential clients faster. And since you are more efficiently monitoring their portfolio with digital technology, you can more proactively answer their concerns. When showcasing your process or explaining your recommendations, your clients may feel more confident knowing you are using the best tools available.
But simply tacking on automation or digital touchpoints as an afterthought or based on the latest trends isn’t enough.
The key to successfully implementing your digital transformation is understanding what can (and cannot) be digitized.
What parts of the advisory process can be digitized?
Financial advisory and fiduciary duty primarily lean on personalized, one-on-one interactions. Financial advisors are aware that while robo-advisors can be nice in the short-term, with small investments, most clients want an expert to manage their accounts and thoroughly explain market shifts. The last thing you want to do is generate a report without commentary, automate an templated email campaign, or send mass recordings to clients explaining the current market. All of these are possible and “digital” solutions that appear to save time and resources, but this version of the client journey still forces the client to figure things out on their own.
At the same time, completing every task manually hinders growth—and easily becomes a competitive disadvantage. Not only that but younger clients have come to expect seamless, digital communication.
The question for many advisors is what processes they can digitize (and potentially automate) without sacrificing a personalized experience. The answer is quite a lot! Here are just a few of the primary processes that advisors can digitize:
- Following-up with clients through Zoom or another video conferencing tool
- Developing financial models
- Managing client accounts
- Reviewing portfolios
- Generating investment or financial planning reports
- Building your client contact list
- Marketing, including websites, social media, videos, email and other methods
- Billing and eStatements
Including some or all of these digital touchpoints into your strategy can turn otherwise time-consuming tasks into a competitive advantage.
That said, there are some tasks you shouldn’t entirely digitize or try to automate:
- Explaining financial plan proposals with clients
- New client introductions and assessments
- Selecting investments
- Answering complex questions about a portfolio, the market, or your investment style
- Presenting investment plans
- Client service and support questions
Essentially, any task that requires complex decision-making or empathy is better left to humans, not the machines.
5 factors to consider when digitizing your client experience
Not every firm will need the same digital tools or use the same approach to digitization. Each RIA likely has their own idea of an ideal client and will use a different digital strategy to achieve a competitive advantage.
There are various factors that go into designing your strategy, but here are 5 critical considerations:
Who you work with should determine some aspect of your digital tools–particularly client communication. Elderly clients may be unable or find it challenging to use video calls or open digital files, at least compared to younger clients.
Your ideal client persona will determine the digital technology you use across all communication touchpoints – from follow-ups to billing and marketing.
However, there is something to be said for covering multiple bases. For example, if you primarily work with retirees but want to target late-working age consumers, using a mixture of digital and manual tools can work. You may offer the option for video calls, phone calls, and in-person visits, for example. You may also choose to use both digital marketing and use paper flyers or newspapers ads.
2. Compliance and Security
Whatever programs you use, from marketing to portfolio management, should maintain compliance. And being able to rapidly flag issues, identify misalignment, and analyze your book of business at a granular level both assists you in staying compliant and improving your client relationship.
But another part of digitizing the client experience and compliance is security.
The last thing you want is to expose sensitive client information to an insecure platform. The digital tools you use should have thorough security measures and keep logs of all information for potential audits. For example, Nitrogen highlights its security policies, including measures like SOC 2 compliance, risk and fraud assessment, data backups, and encryption.
3. Client usability
Whenever you use a digital tool to communicate with clients, it should be easy to navigate. A whopping 88% of consumers said they are less likely to return to a website after a poor user experience. This same perspective applies across your digital assets: Your website, financial reports, video call invites, newsletters, webinars, and more.
The best way to improve client usability is to keep things simple. From your website navigation to disclosures and email layouts, you should design for readability and accessibility.
One of the biggest challenges any independent firm faces is how to foster and cope with growth. Digital platforms offer the opportunity to rapidly complete tasks without sacrificing quality or personalization.
Digital transformation automates manual, repetitive tasks. For example, rather than review each portfolio manually for risk misalignment, Nitrogen’s Growth Platform can identify and alert you to potential issues. You can then use the time saved from automating this process towards meeting with your clients. And no matter how many clients you have, the platform will continue to analyze your book of business just as quickly.
In other words, your infrastructure can grow as you expand your firm.
Another key aspect to look for is what integrations work together. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to running an advisory firm. But being able to centralize data from your CRM, portfolio management software, research tools, custodians, and other software enables advisors to better identify market behavior and risk alignment.
The next step: Automating growth
According to Nitrogen’s 2023 Firm Growth Survey, hyper-growth advisory firms considered client satisfaction to be one of the most important factors for growth. These firms also prioritize their tech stack.
Digitizing the client experience is the first step towards greater client engagement and retention, but you can take growth a step further with automation. Streamlining your with automated check-ins, lead generation, and account alignment creates scalable processes that grow with your firm.
For more on boosting client satsfaction and retention, check out our guide to effective client engagement stratgies.