For many advisors, the need for an online strategy was not top-of-mind until the last couple of years. You may not have placed much value on giving your clients online access to their accounts and their financial information. This was not necessarily a bad decision because it’s possible that a majority of your clients weren’t requesting to view their financial information online. Of course, just a few years ago the challenge of getting online was likely one of the more significant detriments. You probably remember the slowness of Internet connections, all the compatibility issues, and the lack of experience with new (let alone cutting-edge) technology. Today, it is easy to access and use the Internet. We have computers, smart phones, iPads, netbooks—and this is just the beginning. The trend is clear, and even if today you only have a handful of clients asking questions about online access to their information, it is a safe bet that this group will continue to grow.
Given this environment, you might be thinking, “What is the big deal? It is not that hard for my clients to access their accounts through my custodian’s system.” However, it’s important for advisors to have a strategy for introducing their clients to a safe, informative and productive online channel. By doing so, you can provide better service, probably reducing your workload, and you should not be surprised to discover you have more clients using online channels than you expected.
One of the first areas to address is to make sure that you and your staff are very familiar with the online systems you offer. Don’t make the mistake of only having one person on your staff who truly understands the features and information available. Set up accounts that your staff can use to log in and access the information just like a client would do. For example, perhaps you can set up a firm account on your custodian system with just enough assets and activity to demonstrate the tools and features available. In addition, remember to “test” common error messages like incorrect user ID or password. It will go a long way when you are trying to help a client if you are already familiar with the site navigation, any error messages and, more importantly, the appropriate steps to resolve the problem.