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From Prospect to Plan: The Role of APIs in Expanding Financial Planning

Tom Sullivan July 11, 2023

Team developing APIs for financial planning

For the largest financial planning firms, leveraging APIs in the right way can help serve clients differentiated content and expand financial planning services across the enterprise.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are a software intermediary that allow two different tools to share data. In the context of financial planning technology, there are APIs that connect advisor tools for seamless data transfer or enhanced functionality, and there are APIs that connect to financial institutions for the sake of data aggregation and real-time reporting.

APIs require development resources to build and maintain. But large firms that have these resources in-house have a unique opportunity to leverage the APIs made available through their financial planning technology to unlock game-changing value for their advisors.

What Can a Firm Do with APIs for Financial Planning?

With an API connection to a financial planning platform, a firm could identify specific elements to include in a proprietary planning experience. This could be things like Probability of Success or Monte Carlo simulations. These tools and calculations can be taken out of eMoney’s planning platform and incorporated into a firm’s own proprietary experiences (reports, client websites, etc.).

The ability to extract components of established financial planning software gives firms the ability to enhance the advisor’s experience, elevate the capabilities of their existing technology, and curate a custom digital experience to aid in rolling out planning.

Engaging Clients in Planning Discussions with APIs

To give an example of how this may work, a firm I’ve been speaking with for some time has established a highly successful tax planning business. However, they would like to expand their financial planning services by having advisors engage clients in planning discussions once tax season is over. The goal is to drive deeper relationships with clients over time by bringing them on as planning clients and eventually as wealth management clients. But how can they do this?

They need to leverage individual elements of planning so they can manage the end-to-end conversation with clients over time. They need to serve different planning pieces to clients at exactly the right time to make visualizations more digestible and nudge them toward the next steps.

When clients are shown relevant, engaging content about their financial situation and given access to helpful digital tools, they’ll be far more likely to enter into planning discussions with their tax professional.

Planning Can Provide a Foundation, Especially in Hard Times

For a long time, market performance made client conversations easy. Most people are content to watch their wealth grow in a strong market. But recent activity has changed things, and now people want to know they’ll be alright.

Advisors who have engaged clients in planning see far better outcomes. We conducted a study of eMoney users shortly after the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic to see how this event had impacted advisor-client relationships. We found:1

  • 85 percent of advisors said clients with financial plans were more satisfied during the pandemic.
  • 93 percent of advisors said the pandemic had a positive effect on their relationships.
  • 4 out 5 advisors reported a positive impact on their ability to connect with clients.

In hard times, people are concerned about their financial well-being, which proves to be the perfect time to engage in planning discussions. With financial uncertainty continuing, now is the right time for firms to be doubling down on expanding planning across their whole enterprise.

A firm’s ability to expand planning will depend on its ability to skillfully present planning topics to get potential clients interested.

Using APIs to Move from Prospect to Plan

Financial planning is at the heart of a strong client relationship. It’s also the key to growing share of wallet and finding essential cross-sell opportunities. So, getting clients engaged in planning can help firms tap into new revenue. Getting them engaged is dependent on the experience being delivered. APIs support that effort through tactics like the intentional crafting of plan output and by enabling productive client conversations around core topics like the probability of success.

APIs will play an essential part in expanding planning. When firms can assemble a customized experience for clients, they can present planning in a way that’s intuitive and less intimidating for their client’s journey. They can essentially create a planning funnel, powered by the best components of their planning technology, to encourage clients to take action and start planning.

Using a financial planning technology’s client portal is a great example of how this can work. Typically, a relationship will start transactionally—a client will purchase a product, open an account, and the first steps involve collecting lots of information. They won’t share their goals or aspirations just yet, but if they have access to a client portal and a secure place to share and store documents, they’ll become more comfortable sharing their information. They may also use the portal to look at their broader financial situation.

In this way, the client portal sits at the top of the planning funnel—just like a website—where the goal is to deliver an excellent experience in exchange for some information and engagement from the user.

Once they’re interested in their portal, they may have questions for an advisor, or they may start to realize the need for a plan. The information presented in the client portal can prompt a client to take the next steps with your firm when they’re ready.

In this way, APIs enable a technology experience that complements the client’s journey at your firm.

The Digital Experience as Differentiator

With large enterprise firms all vying for the same clientele, the digital client experience will be the ultimate differentiator. Clients have high expectations for a digital experience, and those who are meeting or exceeding those expectations will have the opportunity to connect with potential clients at just the right time.

Source:

1. eMoney COVID-19 Pulse Research, May 5 – May 19, 2020, n=227

Image of Tom Sullivan
About the Author

As head of product, Tom is responsible for setting and executing eMoney’s product strategy. In this role, he oversees more than 50 employees dedicated to the evolution, development, and user experience of eMoney’s robust portfolio of products – helping to deliver a comprehensive suite of solutions that creates a powerful experience across the platform.

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