Last quarter, my firm hosted our fifth annual conference in San Diego with approximately 300 attendees. One topic of special interest this year was how firms demonstrate their value to clients, and the impact this has on the fees they charge. The discussions that developed quickly led me to consider the role technology plays in meeting this objective. It clearly can assist in creating value, but it can just as easily send the wrong value message to your clients. Here are some areas you can review as it relates to technology’s role in supporting the overall value your firm delivers to your clients.
A fair amount of the information advisors share with their clients revolves around the reports at the end of the quarter, end of the year and tax season time. Frequently, this information involves account performance reporting, cost basis and other accounting details. Clearly, these are important reports, but the risk is that they can become the only report card your clients receive regarding the value your firm provides. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing if your clients are expecting — and you are consistently delivering — above-market returns quarter after quarter. However, my experience is that most advisors prefer to demonstrate their value in multiple areas, not just in performance returns. Do your quarterly reports and annual client reviews provide the right balance of information?
In order to avoid placing too much attention on performance numbers in quarterly and annual portfolio review reports, many advisors have embraced account aggregation tools, client portals and other reporting services that provide daily account details and information. We have discussed these technology tools in past articles, and they certainly encourage more frequent engagement with your clients. However, that leads to a very important question: Are you getting the engagement and interaction with your clients that you would expect from that technology? If your clients are consistently using the technology, then it should be adding value to the relationship. If it isn’t, you might want to guide clients’ attention in the right direction by regularly reminding them about your technology offerings and taking credit for providing those tools as part of your platform and services. If your clients aren’t using the technology, try to understand why. There is no point spending money if you aren’t receiving added client value benefits.
Perhaps one of the more overlooked and underappreciated ways that technology helps you deliver value is in your firm’s accessibility and response to client requests. By leveraging technology, you can essentially work anywhere in the world with electricity and an internet connection. It is quite a powerful message when you are able to resolve a client’s request outside your regular office. This could be when you are traveling, on vacation or even enjoying a dinner with a client and they raise a question regarding their financial affairs. How many times have you met with prospects who complained that their previous advisor always had to “get back” to them regarding questions? Of course, the challenge with constant access is that we can work 24/7 with today’s technology. Don’t expect me to tell you how to find the right work-life balance — I’m not qualified!
Your firm probably uses a number of technology solutions that are not visible to clients, but that doesn’t mean they can’t add value to the relationship. Think of it this way: You might not understand the specific details of your car’s engine, but you know what it feels like to drive it. The same can be true of your client’s experience with your firm. For example, your contact management program, document storage system, even your processes and procedures impact how effectively you deliver excellent client service. It is not too hard for a client to recognize your capabilities in these areas, especially when you are able to quickly handle questions regarding their financial affairs.
Share Knowledge, Advice with Clients
Several years ago, an advisor asked me to join his client event and talk about “client-facing” technology. It was nothing too complicated: We discussed the systems they use to access their accounts, general security best practices and other common technology questions. Ultimately, it was very well-received, and the advisor expanded their overall value by hosting this event for their clients. With your foundation of technology knowledge, and perhaps enlisting help from an IT firm or even your technology solution providers, it is possible to leverage a broad network of resources to help you accomplish the same goal.
— Read “Silicon Valley’s Audacious Plan to Create a New Stock Exchange” on ThinkAdvisor.