Unique Advisor Site Targets Ultra-Affluent

The Aspiriant site’s distinctiveness may derive from what is missing as much as from what is present

High-end wealth management firm Aspiriant got a facelift this week with the launch of a new website that stands apart from the density and verbosity more typical of the advisory website genre.

Most striking, perhaps, is not what is present on the site but rather what is missing.

“We weren’t trying to provide too much information," Aspiriant’s director of business development Cammie Doder told ThinkAdvisor in a phone interview from her San Francisco office. "We love overdelivering to clients, and we had to pull back.” 

Doder, who oversaw the site’s rollout — a process that started more than a year ago with what she calls a “brand audit” — says that restraint meant dispensing with the overly analytical approach that is a staple of financial advisor websites.

“What really gives our clients comfort is tying the analytics with the emotional side of wealth management,” she says.

The seven-city elite firm, whose average client has $8 million under management, sought to communicate that with a generous sprinkling of illustrations — such as the tender embrace of a woman and her dog that is meant to convey a client experience whose thoughtfulness and meticulousness stems from an overarching quality of caring.

The splash of color those illustrations offer are all the more noticeable because they appear against a backdrop that is mostly white.

“Seeing a lot of white space is intentional,” Doder says. “Our industry usually offers overwhelming amounts of information. It’s really hard to digest so much information if [you’re a prospect] new to this industry or space.”

In a bid to sync a prospect’s day-to-day reality with the world of wealth management, Aspiriant’s site employs simple, conversational English and yet delivers a message that evinces financial sophistication.

For example, on a page titled “why we’re unusual,” the site lists five key points using muscular verb and noun phrasing that is light on slippery adjectives; (two bullet points: “Aspiriant is built to: eliminate conflicts of interest; maximize transparency, intimacy and continuity”).

Cammie Doder of Aspiriant.Then, rather than drone on, the text concludes with an invitation to prospective clients:

“There’s a lot more to say about this unconventional vision. Some of it we’ll address on this site. But most of it is stuff we should talk about in person, if the basic idea of what we’re doing sounds like what you’re looking for.”

That’s a trope found elsewhere on the site where language such as “there is so much more to say” suggests the idea that some important areas should really be addressed face-to-face.

The site is interspersed with an abundance of links, conveying a cavernous depth that compliments its unintimidating sparseness.  The language is personable — “[Clients] like the way we combine intellectual ferocity with genuine humor, warmth and affection” — and occasionally humorous: “[When your financial plan is in place], you’re going to feel an incredible pressure release. Food will taste better, the sky will look bluer.”

Another key strategic decision was showing just two links on the opening page: “The Client Experience” and “Everything Else.”

The idea, says Doder, was to present the firm in a way that is meaningful to its users — to convey what it all entails for them.

“Everything from the illustration we chose to the caption about caring to [the five elements] we highlighted show we don’t just create a plan but we carry the plan through with you; that we have a fabulous investment team;…our ownership model; our commitment to be being independent;…the continuity in client relationships. It was about communicating in a way so that people truly understand what it is we do,” Doder says.

Besides the client experience, the “everything else” includes “why we’re unusual,” “our exceptional people,” “what exactly we do,” “offices coast-to-coast;” “news & intel” and “start a dialogue.”

The registered investment advisory firm, whose staff of 120 including about 75 client service people oversee some $7 billion in assets, formed a large team including CEO Rob Francais, Doder and representatives of the firm’s principals, advisors and asset managers to audit Aspiriant’s brand. With the communications strategy in place, actual work on the site began in the second quarter.

Doder, whose job it is to introduce prospective clients to the firm — “so that client service people can spend their time serving clients and not work on business development” — says the site is a crucial way for prospects to gain their first impression of Aspiriant.

She says that referrals from family and friends are the most common source of prospective new clients and that the website gives early insight into what “world-class asset management,” along with the firm’s wealth planning and family office offerings, look like.

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Check out 10 Tech Trends That’ll Rattle the Advisory Industry on ThinkAdvisor.

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