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5 Tips for Designing a Top Client Portal

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Client portals are one of those special tools that can make life easier for advisors and their clients. But not every client portal will have this kind of impact. A badly designed portal can frustrate clients and make life harder for your team. That’s if you can get them to use it.

A good portal, on the other hand, helps clients better understand their finances and your value. So what makes a portal good? That comes down to user experience, or UX for short. The best experience is going to vary based on your users (clients), and the five best practices in this article can help you design it.

1. Build with purpose.

Start by thinking about how your clients might use the portal. Is it primarily a way to communicate? Share documents? Check performance?

If you aren’t sure, think about the questions clients ask most frequently. If you get a lot of clients asking about performance, you might want to put reports front and center on your portal. 

After you’ve thought through the client side, think through how the portal can help your team. Make note of common sticking points to see if a portal can help.

Remember: Portals are only effective if people use them. If your portal serves a purpose everyone (your team and your clients) will be more likely to use it.

Tip: If you feature performance, consider the data sets being used. Using shorter time frames, like the previous day, might inspire clients to log in more regularly, but it could also lead them to focus on short-term market moves.

2. Design matters.

There are many components involved in designing a good UX, but let’s boil it down to two: functional design (organization and how the portal works) and visual design (branding and graphics).

On the functional side, you want to create a hierarchy. Determine which information and features are most important and make those prominent and easy to find. We sometimes see advisors include too many features, or give all features equal weight, which can overwhelm investors.

You can also use design to help you prioritize. Use the brightest colors in your brand’s color palette to emphasize the most important information. I also suggest advisors take a step back and simply review whether the portal looks and feels professional. Remember, these days clients log in to portals daily, whether it’s online banking or e-commerce.

To meet their expectations, make sure your portal features your brand colors and logo. The best portals look and feel like an extension of your website and your in-person communication.

You could take things a step further and create a unique experience for different client groups. For instance, I work with an advisor who serves a lot of CrossFit entrepreneurs; he decided to design a template portal that features CrossFit colors for those clients.

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Tip: Test your portal design internally with your staff. Then, consider adding a few of your closest clients. Perhaps, start by rolling it out with yourself, staff members, or your closest clients. 

3. Keep things simple.

The simpler you can make a client’s experience, the better. Think of it like this: Clients often hire an advisor so they don’t have to juggle the different aspects of wealth management and financial planning. If they have to log in to multiple tools, it can detract from your value proposition and your tools can create more questions than they answer.

The best client portals consolidate all the relevant information into one access point. On the backend, this means the technology syncs all the different technologies you use. Keep this in mind as you add to your ‘tech stack,’ and ask how new providers will sync with your portal to ensure a seamless client experience.

4. Balance security and convenience.

Security is particularly important for advisors since you’re dealing with sensitive financial information. There’s also compliance to consider. Some portal providers ensure this security is built in. If not, make sure you follow best practices: long and complex passwords, two-factor authentication, session time-outs, and hiding sensitive information, like account numbers.

The other half of this equation, however, is making sure that security doesn’t inconvenience your clients. If logging in crosses from ‘secure’ to ‘hassle,’ clients may not use the portal. You can counteract some of this hassle by making other parts of your portal as convenient as possible. For instance, make sure there’s a mobile app version of your portal. 

Tip: Explain the “why” behind security measures like dual factor authentication. Something along the lines of, “Your security is important to us, and this added step helps protect your data.”

5. Let clients customize.

In the same way that clients are used to a sleek design, they may also expect to have some control over their experience. Improve investors’ user experience by letting them adjust their portal based on their own priorities and preferences. Clients may also be more likely to use a portal they’ve designed themselves.

It’s also important to make sure your portal works two ways: Don’t just share reports with clients. Add value by making it easy for clients to share information with you, whether it’s notes or documents.

*** Andrew Ladwig is an 11-year veteran of the financial services industry, where he’s worked with insurance firms, broker-dealers, wirehouses, and now financial technology for RIAs. Ladwig has been with portfolio reporting firm Advyzon for 2.5 years and hosts Advyzon’s client portal webinars, in addition to assisting individual advisors. 

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(Image: Adobe Stock)