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How One Firm Used Data Aggregation Tools to Create Client-Friendly Onboarding
• Mike Hemmert • May 29, 2020
Engaging clients is the key to establishing long-term, productive financial planning relationships. Powerful data aggregation tools allow advisors to quickly pull together the data they need, improving the client’s experience as well as the firm’s efficiency.
Having immediate access to a client’s full financial picture helps to engage them right away, which is important for setting the foundation of a long-term planning partnership. But it also helps advisors spend more time planning for clients over the course of the whole relationship, deepening engagement with the plan at every step of the way.
Manual Data Entry Cannot Keep up with Modern Financial Planning
There’s a lot of information that goes into a financial plan. Manually entering all this data into planning software is highly inefficient, especially when the advisor is doing all of the data entry. It’s difficult to realize a strong ROI on financial planning when advisors are limited in the time they can actually spend planning.
Sullivan Bruyette Speros & Blayney (SBSB), a fee-only RIA based in Virginia, ran into this exact problem several years ago when they were attempting to expand their planning services alongside the growth of their firm. Their existing wealth management solution was limiting, particularly because of the time-consuming data entry that was involved. As soon as their advisors could deliver a plan, it was already out of date.
Every time that advisors returned from client reviews, they then had to manually input new information to create a new report. The process was slow, error-prone, and time-consuming for advisors.
For firms like SBSB, finding the right data aggregation tool is critical for evolving service offerings.
Understanding Advisor and Client Connections
At the highest level, there are two types of connections: advisor and client connections. The latter is all the individual account information that a client owns, such as bank or credit card accounts, and it’s often the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about aggregation, especially for client onboarding. While this information is important for developing a financial plan, advisor connections are vital.
These connections aggregate an advisor’s entire book of business. Custodian and third-party software that advisors commonly use can be aggregated, allowing for all the data an advisor manages from that service or partner to be pulled through one connection, as opposed to individual connections for each client account. Advisor connections are a major source of efficiency that create more time for advisors to spend collaborating with clients on their plans.
For SBSB, utilizing both advisor and client connections has been critical in streamlining operations. The data their advisors needed was immediately available for internal use. That way, they could very quickly access data, run a project, and present to clients when they had questions.
After identifying and investing in the right data aggregation tool, they were able to much more efficiently serve both new and existing clients, helping eliminate the slow and error-prone portions of their planning workflow.
The Rise of APIs for Financial Data Aggregation
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are changing how data is aggregated. Essentially, APIs are the way that two applications communicate with each other. Compared to parsers and other forms of data exchange, APIs offer a whole different level of security and reliability. When advisors leverage API connections, clients only have to input their data one time, and can rest assured knowing their information is safe and secure.
What’s more, APIs allow for data to be constantly updated. This is important, as it gives advisors constant access to the most up-to-date data, helping them produce better plans for their clients.
Being able to model more accurate scenarios gave SBSB advisors more confidence in their plans, and clients benefitted from having a single view of their financial situations.
Engaging Clients Through Their Whole Financial Life Cycle
Just like with SBSB, finding the right data aggregation tool can be game-changing, especially for onboarding and retaining new clients. Financial planning becomes far more efficient, and more profitable, when the laborious task of aggregating data is automated.
Data aggregation is an essential part of the planning workflow, but there are still a number of other ways that advisors can engage with clients at every step of the relationship for higher productivity and profitability.
Our on-demand webinar, “9 Ways to Engage with Intent”, outlines in detail several ways that advisors can engage with clients for long-term, productive financial planning relationships. Watch the webinar today and learn ways to improve the return you’re seeing on financial planning.
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