It’s no secret that the role of the adviser is changing. Firms across the accounting and financial services industry are experiencing an accelerating pace of change, driven by a number of external and internal factors.
How, though, will the role of the adviser and more broadly, the firm, evolve in the future?
Macquarie has conducted a survey of almost 400 accounting and financial service firms to gain an insight into what the industry believes are the key drivers of change. The results were published recently in the second edition of the Macquarie Accounting and Financial Services Benchmarking Report.
Personalising the client experience
Unsurprisingly, the Macquarie AFS Benchmarking Report highlighted that one of the key drivers of a firm’s success is a focus on delivering a high-quality client experience. As the role of the adviser changes, increasingly, advisers are becoming a central point of contact for all their clients’ financial needs and they’re no longer simply a technical expert.
Clients now expect that financial advice firms deliver a highly personalised service, and engage with clients in a number of different ways. This is key to helping advisers differentiate themselves and it is vital that firms are able to tailor their services and offerings to their clients’ individual needs.
Macquarie’s analysis showed that through personalising the client experience, benefits can be seen throughout the client lifecycle as relationships are strengthened and client attrition is reduced. High-performing firms that are proactively personalising the client experience achieve lower attrition rates when compared to all firms, 3.6 per cent pa compared to 5.1 per cent pa.
It’s essential advisers are able to build an in-depth understanding of their client’s financial goals and aspirations and are able to identify gaps where a client’s needs aren’t being met and proactively bridge these spaces. This could be through additional services offered by the firm or through an adviser’s own professional network.
The report also found that through delivering a highly personalised client experience, firms are more likely to receive referrals from their existing client base. So much so that 74 per cent of high-performing firms attribute higher profits to increased client referrals.
Technology, systems and the next generation
Undoubtedly the relationship management skills of advisers go a long way to personalising the client experience, but the report’s findings have shown that this should be underpinned by new technologies and systems.
Through the effective use of new systems, firms can achieve significant process improvements and utilise client data more effectively in order to create a more holistic view of the client. Ultimately, this enables advisers to deliver a more personalised client experience, as well as bolstering their service offering.
Now more than ever, firms have access to a range of affordable solutions to improve their internal processes and client management. These include data aggregation tools that can provide an overview of both business performance and client insight as well as increasingly popular investment solutions such as managed accounts, which provide a more consistent and scalable approach to managing a client’s funds.
Over recent years, firms have become increasingly aware of new technologies and the benefits in which they can provide to the business as well as clients. Those firms that are investing in technology are seeing the value come through, provided they’re focused on the client.
Yet surprisingly, take up of new technologies remains cautious. The AFS Benchmarking Report showed that over a third of firms have not adopted any new technology over the past three years. This is despite 66 per cent of firms surveyed believing that improved efficiencies through the better use of technology is the most effective strategy to improve profitability in the current market.
The case for investment in new technologies and systems is supported further when it comes to considering another takeaway from the report, the importance engaging the next generation of clients. The majority of firms surveyed are looking to engage clients under the age of 44, however, it was shown that the high-performing firms are more likely to use multiple strategies to actively engage them. This includes hiring younger advisers and encouraging them to engage their own networks, as well as advisers reaching out to the adult children of their current clients.
When engaging this younger age demographic, the need for firms to provide personalised and technology-enabled solutions and processes is amplified.
These clients, or prospective clients, expect a tailored and intuitive service, one similar to services they receive in other walks of life. The more that clients are exposed to sophisticated offerings from other consumer-based industries, the more they expect a similar experience from their accounting and financial advice relationships. As a result, data-driven personalisation is likely to become increasingly important as the market evolves.
High-performing firms are more likely to be building digital experiences and service packages that are specifically tailored to the needs of younger clients. This could be through the use of dedicated client portals or mobile applications that provide real time access to key information.
It’s worth noting that 35 per cent of firms have introduced a client portal in the past three years and over 20 per cent are planning to do so in the next 12 months. When targeting the next generation of clients, it’s vital that firms recognise these clients expect a connected, responsive and information-rich experience, delivered through a seamless service.
The key takeaway is that the industry is starting to form a view of what the firm of the future looks like; one that provides a personalised client experience through meaningful relationships. These relationships will be underpinned by the efficiencies and benefits provided by new technologies and systems. Data-led insights and a connected client experience will become of increased importance as firms look to engage the next generation of Australians as clients of the future.
From a client perspective, there is an increasing desire for an adviser who is focused on their needs and who is able to navigate the changing market. This will see the emergence of the adviser as the central hub of the client experience and the first point of contact for all of a client’s financial decisions.
David Clatworthy is head of sales at Macquarie Wealth Management.