Jan 09, 2017

How will client engagement evolve by 2020?

By Joe Duran

For the past 50 years, advisors in our industry have interacted with clients in basically the same way. We have held all the knowledge, access to the answers and told clients what they needed to do. Like physicians and lawyers, clients have come to us at our offices at a time when we could accommodate them. We brought our yellow pad and pen and took hidden notes, which were then whisked away so we could build presentations with all the solutions to the client’s financial concerns. We told them what to do, and, though they seldom understood all of it, they trusted us to have the answers and take care of them. The future will be very different in three distinct ways:

  1. We will only be in collaborative relationships with our clients. We’re not the ones with all the answers anymore. The future advisor will provide a client experience that empowers and guides the client rather than prescribes the solution. That will mean better, more engaging tools, with simpler, more transparent and understandable usage. We’ll shift to being financial life guides, which is much more than answering conventional planning or investment questions.
  2. We will not be geographically tethered. Today, many advisors’ biggest competitive advantage is their proximity to clients. However, the world is changing; time is the scarcest resource, which is why many clients prefer to meet over video rather than in person for the vast majority of their meetings. That will force all of us to rethink our systems, the people that work with us and how we engage with clients.
  3. We will no longer have office hours. Imagine your clients asking any financial questions they have whenever they have them and being able to get a response 24/7. That’s what they are accustomed to in every aspect of their life. We will be no different. Office hours will no longer be a constraining factor to your clients expecting an answer.

So how does this all happen? By 2020, the modern firm will be native to clients’ smartphones, where they will be available on demand for questions and responses about clients’ entire financial lives. Information will be provided in real time through the client’s dedicated mobile portal. Plans will be dynamic and fully accessible to clients, with intuitive tools and systems that they can use with us or by themselves. We will also be serving many hundreds of clients per advisor for lower fees. Most of our client meetings will be through video conferences, and most of our answers will be delivered with video response.

Much of what we’ve done in the past will change; however, we will still earn our fees by providing our clients with perspective, empathy and discipline that machines alone can’t deliver. But we will need deeply ingrained technology to do it well, and the willingness to embrace change, which will determine who among us makes it in this bold new future.

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