Who should I speak to? About what? And when?
Every good wealth manager prides themselves on building proactive, trusted client relationships. But when fees are compressed, and prioritisation is required, advisors can often find themselves wondering: which are the relationships and conversations that will yield the greatest returns?
In recent years, firms have invested heavily in technology such as CRM, to enable their client-facing teams to answer this question. Alpha’s recent study of wealth managers identified that 75% have spent over 18 months implementing technology, often as part of a wider digital transformation. The scale of investment across the industry reflects a recognition that arming advisors with the tools to increase productivity is critical to remaining profitable.
90% of wealth managers state they still have too many paper-based processes.From Alpha's recent study of Wealth Managers.
However, in building a scalable front office, implementation of technology alone represents only the foundational ‘first fix’. As with any building project, foundations delivered in isolation realise few benefits. Indeed, despite the investment, 80% of wealth managers still do not believe their client management technology to be strategic, with many struggling to realise efficiency gains. To enable advisors to identify the relationships and conversations that will yield the greatest returns, firms must therefore continue to ‘second fix’.
Stuck in the Ground: Why do so few wealth managers move beyond ‘first fix’?
Most wealth managers start their digital transformation by putting in place the foundations – implementing a CRM platform, before plumbing it into back-office systems. For many, ‘first fix’ alone represents discretionary change on an unprecedented scale. Unsurprisingly then, it is typically only part-way through that the level of investment, complexity and disruption becomes fully apparent. This initial underestimation can easily be misinterpreted as an indicator of a failing programme. However, in many instances, the issues encountered are simply the result of industry-wide constraints:
1. Legacy Systems:
Many traditional wealth managers operate dated, customised back-office systems. Such systems require complex, bespoke integrations to connect with new client management technology
2. Inconsistent Processes:
A lack of data governance commonly afflicts legacy systems. As a result, advisors have historically been afforded flexibility to create divergent data structures to suit their preferred ways of working. In integrating this data, significant time needs to be spent negotiating, often for the first time, a shared approach to client set up
3. Inconsistent Data:
Client data in this industry has typically been created over generations, sometimes following an M&A integration, and often by individuals no longer at the firm. Extensive, time-consuming remediation is therefore an unpleasant surprise often uncovered once work on the integration plumbing has begun
4. Bespoke Requirements:
The ability to meet complex, bespoke, client requirements is often a firm’s differentiator. Naturally, client management solutions ‘out of the box’ rarely meet all these requirements. It is often only through the detailed design, completed once the programme has begun, that the level of customisation required becomes apparent
Having typically invested more than expected in the foundational ‘first fix’, it can be tempting to curtail the digital transformation at this point. However, to do so limits the benefits of the investment to little more than the standardisation and digitisation of a subset of client data. In many cases, even this small benefit is not realised, with 90% of wealth managers stating they still had too many paper-based processes.
‘Second Fix’ Benefits
Full benefit realisation therefore requires advancement to ‘second fix’. This phase focuses exclusively on extracting value from the technology already implemented. By configuring systems to generate timely advisor insights, optimised front office decision-making and meaningful management reporting, leading firms realise 3 transformational benefits:
1. Increased Front Office Productivity:
When configured correctly, we have seen investment managers use CRM systems to discretely embed productivity-boosting behaviours. These behavioural nudges can range from a simple ‘referral requested?’ checkbox on a meeting note, to advisor dashboards detailing personal KPIs, such as ‘number of interactions with introducers over 30 days’. To further increase return on CRM investment, leading firms optimise internal processes to drive adoption and embed behaviours. For one firm, this has enabled the conversation in the weekly ‘Pipeline Meeting’ to move beyond a high-level review of opportunity size and probability. Conversations are now focused on best next steps, with the CRM data interrogated in real-time to direct and inform discussion. Equally, updating of existing job descriptions and individual performance criteria are further steps taken by our clients to realise productivity benefits
2. Improved Client Service:
Configuration of systems to deliver meaningful advisor insight enables efficient allocation of advisor time, and consistent, proactive client servicing. Such insights can range from alerts to a portfolio that has suffered sustained adverse performance, to the automated generation of a task to proactively speak to a multi-banked client with a known upcoming liquidity requirement. The ‘insights’ defined, and the expectations of how advisors should respond to them will ultimately be unique to each firm. However, if defined correctly, such insights can be a powerful tool for advisor looking to deliver efficient, high quality client service
3. Informed Corporate Strategy:
In addition to advisors, CRM technology can also provide significant value to leadership. Aggregated reporting on how advisors allocate their time provides insight to opportunities for further efficiency gains. Such reporting can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of the behaviours that client management systems have been configured to embed. Beyond driving efficiency, aggregated reporting can also arm leadership with objective data upon which strategic decisions can be made in response to macro events: what are our clients’ ESG expectations? How are our clients interpreting the COVID-19 situation? Which are the competitors that we are currently losing assets to?
4 Practical Steps to Realise ‘Second Fix’ Benefits
Given the size and range of benefits that ‘second fix’ promises, it can be hard to work out where to start. We therefore suggest a 4-step approach to navigate through, ensuring all benefits are fully realised along the way:
Defining drivers of productivity:
Organisations should start by documenting their unwritten client-management methodology – the shared understanding of drivers of value, opportunity and cost across client facing teams. Consideration ought then be given to the behaviours that should be instilled to maximise front office productivity. Once documented, attention can turn to defining the associated insights that should be captured in the client management systems in the form of reportable data points. Such data points can range from ‘projected income or capital inflows’ and ‘share of wallet’ to ‘marketing interests and preferences.’
Enhancing systems to facilitate productivity:
Where required, client management systems may need to be configured to capture the identified data points, or to calculate them from other data points already recorded. Additionally, to ensure advisor attention is directed to the key insights and encourage an action in response, configuration of system notifications, tasks and dashboards is typically required.
Reviewing processes to embed productivity:
Ways of working need to be agreed regarding how relationship managers should engage with system-generated insights, and the degree to which they should inform allocation of time. Policies, processes, and performance frameworks can then be updated to ensure agreed ways of working are effectively embedded.
Reporting to continuously improve productivity:
Ensuring front office leadership understand how they can sponsor increased productivity is an important step in achieving adoption. Having likely contributed to the defining of productivity drivers and insights, leadership should be familiar with the insights client management systems provide. However, equally important is to define the reporting and governance that will be used to monitor adherence to agreed client management approach.
Alpha has delivered over 50 client management programmes for wealth and asset managers globally. If you would like to speak to one of our specialists in this area, please get in touch with our team.
Unaffordable Price of Change, Unfathomable Cost of Inertia
Despite the benefits that that advancement to ‘second fix’ delivers, at this point, another substantive capital commitment is simply not an option for most. Many wealth managers are therefore confronted with a dilemma – unable to afford the change required, whilst unable to bear the cost of not delivering it. After all, the pressing need to achieve scalability that instigated digital transformation in the first place has not gone away.
However, for firms willing to embrace more innovative ways of working, a solution exists. By defining a ‘second fix’ roadmap comprised of small work packages funded and delivered incrementally, organisations can start achieving scalability, without committing substantial capital upfront. However, careful sequencing of the roadmap is crucial. Technical dependencies must be understood, cost to deliver must be realistic, and areas offering greatest scalability must be prioritised. If defined correctly, a well-considered roadmap provides the solution to wealth managers seeking to build a scalable operation on the foundations of technology already laid.