How a Crisis Accelerates the Need for Holistic Planning and Education for Clients
•Alois Pirker•October 13, 2020
A few months ago, I would have given a different answer to the question, “What do you see influencing the future of advice in the next 5 to 10 years?” But the coronavirus pandemic has permanently shifted priorities for most people, including investors and financial professionals.
Investors now are taking a step back and taking stock of their situation. We’re not only in a health crisis, we’re in a markets crisis, and we’re experiencing an income crisis, with 72 percent of people having less income now than before COVID1.
For financial professionals, the current crisis puts existing client relationships under threat. In the Great Recession, people panicked and went to their financial planner for help, but didn’t always get the direction they sought. So, they found another financial professional who could give them the assurance and guidance they needed, when they needed it the most. This crisis may be very similar and financial planners must counterbalance any anxiety among their clients with reassurance that their plan is still on track.
Proving your value to clients is a powerful way to maintain relationships, especially in how your advice helps clients reach their most important goals. I believe we’ll see two prominent trends following the current pandemic and associated market volatility.
Providing Holistic Financial Guidance Digitally
The COVID-19 pandemic is a catalyst for change for both investors and financial firms. It represents an opportunity for your practice to follow the industry’s transition to providing holistic advice. As many activities that were face-to-face have gone virtual because of the pandemic, adopting digital forms of communication and planning across your firm is imperative.
Last year, when my firm, AITE Group, surveyed financial firms, we found many hadn’t invested significantly in planning or communications technology. Back then, you may still have had time to transition into a digitally-powered firm. Today, you no longer can have one part of your business digital and not another. Firms that never invested in the digital office—technology such as screen sharing or other ways of communicating virtually and working remotely—now realize how badly they need these technologies. But they need more than just the channels of communication. They also realize how much they need digital planning tools to engage clients in this environment.
As investors take a step back and look at their progress toward financial objectives, it’s a crucial time to have the tools in place to serve them with comprehensive advice around their most important goals. Using digital modes of engagement to provide clients with holistic financial planning is essential for retention—today’s crisis will only spur investment in these kinds of technologies, as firms must compete to keep clients satisfied.
Engaging Clients Through Education
Our research shows education will play an increasingly important role in connecting with new clients, enhancing existing relationships, and growing your business. The three fundamental ways education will be important are in:
Increasingly smart communication with clients. It’s not just about getting multiple opens on an email. It’s about leveraging all the channels at your disposal in intelligent ways to engage clients meaningfully, at scale. This will involve more targeted or personalized communications based on each investor’s unique needs. Driving personalization at scale in this way allows for more impactful communications, which foster more productive planning relationships.
Positioning clients to be served holistically. Most investors aren’t aware of the breadth of solutions available to them. They’re not aware of how to best manage their money or about much of what goes on in the financial world. So, educating them on concepts like why they need portfolio-based investing, or why they need investing at all, can help you connect them with the right financial solutions from the outset. Firms can capitalize on the emergence of hybrid advice and digital tools to bring clients into a better setup where they can be served holistically.
Helping clients understand their plans better. More of the financial planning process is opening up to the consumer, whether that’s through financial wellness apps or client portals in planning software. But that doesn’t mean they know what those tools are showing them. It’s important to educate them on what they’re seeing so they can help themselves, remain involved in the planning process, and realize for themselves the change they need to reach their goals. This will drive much deeper engagement with financial plans, which may improve both client retention and the profitability of financial planning.
This crisis will accelerate change in the financial services industry. It presents an opportunity for firms to introduce more technology and take a holistic approach to financial advice.
When clients are trying to reassess their economic positions and make shifts in their financial goals, it’s essential to engage them digitally, through with educational material, and show them your value as a holistic planner.
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About the Author
Alois Pirker is the research director for Aite Group's Wealth Management practice, specializing in trends in the wealth management market. He has published extensively on topics including digital transformation in wealth management, the registered investment advisor space, financial planning, separately managed accounts, and advisor-focused platforms and tools. Mr. Pirker has been quoted in various media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Reuters, American Banker, Investment News, Financial Planning, Ignites, and FundFire. Since its inception, Mr. Pirker has been part of the panel of judges for the annual Global Private Banking and Global Wealth Tech Awards presented by Financial Times’ Professional Wealth Management magazine.