As the story goes, millennials are the only clients truly interested in all things digital. This group grew up with sophisticated technology and mobile applications, so it should come as no surprise that they would expect and demand digital tools for all of their personal and business interactions.
Yet affluent clients of all ages want their advisors to have the right digital tools to quickly facilitate their financial transactions. Advisors will need to adapt or lose out, says Bijan Golkar, CEO and senior advisor at FPC Investment Advisory – they must anticipate the digital expectations of all affluent clients.
This group is especially tech-savvy, regardless of age, Golkar says. They want convenience and innovation. They want their financial advisor to provide a digital platform that provides smart investment management and financial planning solutions, whether on their laptop, smartphone or tablet.
The client/advisor dialogue
According to Golkar, it’s essential for advisors to step up their game and use technology to differentiate the firm.
“Your online presence needs to make it clear how you are helping the client,” he says. The right kind of technology can enhance the client/advisor relationship and build the advisor’s business. According to a 2016 report from Fidelity Clearing and Custody Solutions, advisors who used more tech than their peers reported 40 percent more AUM and expanded the firm’s reach geographically.
Smart advisors need to think ahead – and some are. The CFA Institute’s April 2017 Future State of the Investment Profession Study found that “48 [percent] of investment leaders expect technology will offer new opportunities for investment.” The report also found that technological innovation influenced the client’s trust in their advisor.
Face-to-face meetings are still certainly an important part of what advisors do, admits Golkar. But today, clients, and especially the affluent ones, are spending more and more time accessing their accounts online than ever before.
“It’s an extension of you being there,” he says. “You need to establish the relationship but have the tech behind it to support it.”
Understanding the end experience
And while advisors rely on their financial expertise to build client relationships, the financial tools they offer need to be just as sophisticated. The client’s end experience needs to be seamless, offering a holistic view of their accounts. “The biggest thing we are seeing now is that, as the baby boomers are retiring and wealth is transferring to the next generation, that generation really doesn’t want the handholding of an advisor,” says Golkar. They are looking online for many of their answers. That certainly helps explain the traction of roboadvisors, he admits.
Times do change, and advisors need to keep up to remain competitive. Just a few years ago, not many financial advisors had client portals. The current technology allows professionals to bring clients up to speed on their accounts in a flash.
“If there was a market correction in the past, we would have to do at least an hour or more of work to get a client up to date,” notes Golkar. But now, on a client portal, there’s transparency, and transparency breeds trust. It’s one of the best outcomes of the increasing digitization of financial advisory firms, helping to build the client/advisor relationship in the process.
The right tools
The expectations are clear: Advisors need a secure portal with integrated portfolio management, allowing for 24/7 access to the client’s complete wealth picture in one place. Mobile-friendly platforms allow affluent clients to get information when and where they need it. Financial planning solutions should go beyond investment management, providing the client with budgeting and other decision-making tools.
The client feels empowered by having financial solutions at their fingertips any time of the day or night. The technology serves to enhance the client/advisor relationship, says Golkar. “Advisors simply have to embrace the future if they want to succeed,” he adds.
The rewards are clear: According to the Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management Global HNW Insights Survey 2015, high-net-worth individuals willing to use an automated advisor accounted for up to $1.5 trillion in investable assets. As the demands for digitalization grow, so, too, do the opportunities for advisors willing to use technology to enhance the client experience.