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How Financial Account Aggregators Can Fuel Loyalty
• Paul Vieira • January 9, 2024
Before financial account aggregators made it simple for advisors to see a big-picture view of their clients’ assets and liabilities, creating a holistic financial plan was a paper chase. Gathering statement after statement and building a snapshot of a client’s finances was laborious, and it was almost immediately out of date once created.
Now a client simply logs in to an advisor-provided account aggregation platform, proves their credentials to link in everything from a mortgage to an investment account, and the financial professional has ongoing insight into the whole landscape of their clients’ financial lives—a game-changing capability that is offered standard in some financial planning platforms.
Aggregation in the Spotlight
2023 was an interesting year for financial data aggregation services. In October, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a proposed rule intended to protect consumers’ data privacy, with a portion specifically aimed at tapering off the use of screen scraping in aggregation platforms in favor of using methods such as APIs and bulk file feeds.1 This is because screen scraping, also known as parsing, involves collecting and storing a client’s credentials and requires a client to enter credentials repeatedly over time to maintain a connection.
Organizations such as the American Bankers Association embraced the proposed rule, saying, “We welcome the contemplated move away from screen scraping, the role of an industry standard-setting body, and the clarification around nonbanks’ obligations to protect consumer privacy.”2
The following month, Mint, a free consumer account aggregation app that had millions of users, announced that it would be shutting down in 2024. Users took to social media to express their angst as competing personal financial management apps, most of which charge fees, swooped in to gain their business.
The unfolding drama underscores how a quality aggregation service can serve as a differentiator for financial planning firms.
Financial Account Aggregation Is “Sticky”
Providing a client with their full financial picture, accessible 24/7 and as up-to-date as they keep it, contributes to a sense of financial security and peace of mind. This capability empowers clients, as evidenced by our 2023 Summit research. Nearly 59 percent of investors strongly agreed that a portal with account aggregation saves time, and 49 percent said it offered a more holistic view of their entire financial picture.3 Another benefit investors noted is the ability to see all accounts in one place, cited by 57 percent of those surveyed.3
Account aggregation tools have varying levels of complexity, from simple tools designed to identify held-away assets and cross-selling opportunities to sophisticated ones that offer full net worth reporting and cash flow tracking. Once a client has become accustomed to a quality account aggregation service, they won’t want to return to multiple logins and a disjointed perspective. Having a “sticky” capability like this helps advisors show their value on an ongoing basis.
Users Gain a Sense of Ownership
Building on the benefit of a personalized financial picture, consider the increased value clients derive from tailoring the information to their needs. This taps into a cognitive bias called the IKEA effect, which leads people to value products they had a hand in creating. Similar to a bookshelf they assembled themselves, clients place a high value on the holistic view they helped put together and feel a sense of ownership over their financial data.
A Secure, Reliable Aggregation Service Is an Advantage
As the CFPB’s proposed rule shows, the industry is moving toward secure and reliable methods for financial data aggregation, including APIs and bulk file feeds. If the aggregation you provide to clients relies on more secure methods and has the latest security features, you’re well-positioned for the future.
The 2023 Kitces Report shows a high level of dissatisfaction with standalone aggregation services despite their high level of adoption.4 It also notes that a large share of advisors access account aggregation via financial planning software instead of a standalone provider.
Enterprises Look for Advisor Gains
Account aggregation is a tech solution that is high on the priority list for enterprises in the financial services industry. A report from Cerulli shows 79 percent of banks surveyed said they were seeking account aggregation services in an effort to boost advisor productivity.5 The 2023 Kitces Report shows 74 percent of advisors have adopted account aggregation technology, making it one of the tech tools with the highest adoption in the industry.4
A portal equipped with robust account aggregation can also unlock opportunities to serve high-net-worth clients, especially multigenerational households. (See how Blue Trust uses account aggregation and a client portal in this case study). Access to a client’s full financial picture empowers you to proactively tailor solutions to their goals to provide an excellent client experience.
Account aggregation has transformed from a nice-to-have to a must-have. This technology helps build trust and empower clients
Enterprises see it as a key driver of advisor productivity and client experience. By harnessing the power of a high-quality aggregation platform, you can unlock more opportunities to serve clients well.
1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “CFPB Proposes Rule to Jumpstart Competition and Accelerate Shift to Open Banking,” October 2023.
2. American Bankers Association. “ABA Statement on CFPB Personal Financial Data Rights (Section 1033) Proposed Rule,” October 2023.
3. eMoney Beyond the Plan Research Study, June 2023, n=1,507.
4. The Kitces Report. “2023 AdvisorTech Study,” August 2023.
5. The Cerulli Report. “U.S. Private Banks & Trust Companies 2021,” October 2021.
DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.
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