I worked as an Investment Advisor for many years in the past, and there’s one thing which I always did to make sure I’d earn a new client: I carved out personal, face-to-face time no matter how busy my schedule was. The meat of a high-value transaction – going through the documents, clarifying concerns, actually finalizing the deal – all of that occurs in person (or it used to).
That makes sense when you think about it: if you’re buying a house or investing a large amount of money, you want to know what you’re getting yourself into. In my experience, that’s what each face-to-face meeting did for both me as a broker, and for my client. It instilled a sense of trust in the meeting for everyone, as well as the assurance that my firm took the transaction as seriously as the customer (who would often be putting their entire life savings into it).
And without that personal time, it was almost impossible to close a deal. People don’t trust what they can’t see, and they especially don’t trust just anyone with their money. And that’s a big problem, especially when you physically can’t see your clients and they can’t come see you. And even now, as economies are opening up again, 70% of consumers don’t intend to go back to business as usual until it’s safer to do so – and no one knows when that will be. The fact of the matter is that people are scared – but more than that, they also expect better service from the traditional institutions they depend on in their daily lives, especially in light of the pandemic.
This puts a lot of pressure on information and data heavy industries to build trust with customer needs in mind, especially as those needs vary based on each client’s portfolio and assets. Firms that ‘lack an ability to invest in technology and people’ will be placed under greater duress, as digitalization is driving a massive change in expectations and delivery at an unprecedented rate this year.
Many institutions are cognizant of the challenges that they face with no end to the pandemic and no firm vaccine date in sight, and some of them are already taking the necessary steps to provide their customers with personalized digital experiences. US Bank, for example, has started using co-browsing to keep that personal feeling as they continue to service customers during the pandemic. The bank’s digital lead, Elizabeth Kagele, spoke about this with Nevada Business, saying:
“Co-browsing has helped to create a ‘business as usual’ feel through a digital channel. For many people, it’s just not possible right now to meet face to face. But combining co-browse with a virtual appointment, like a phone call or teleconference, makes it feel like the banker is right there with them.”
This is especially topical as customer demographics inevitably transition to a type of customer that demands more and is able to find it elsewhere. At the same time, the financial services industry is undergoing a paradigm shift much the same as insurance, and the solutions that the industry turns to right now will define the ease with which their customers can problem solve in the coming decades.
Like I said, I’ve seen firsthand how hard it is to build meaningful, trusting client relationships – even in person – and I don’t envy the challenge that wealth management companies and advisors find themselves facing in doing so remotely. And by that I don’t mean just the pandemic, but the inevitable shift in clientele and expectations.
This Banking Journal piece does an excellent job of outlining the reality that wealth management firms will find themselves in over the next few decades. It estimates that a whopping 68 trillion dollars will pass down to the successors of the Baby Boomer generation by 2043, making it the ‘largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history.’ And those heirs are Gen X or Millenials, groups with vastly different spending habits and lifestyles. Those habits need to be accounted for, and the reality is that consumers of today expect fast, efficient service that simply can’t be delivered through just one channel. This shift is vital to understand and act on, as banking is set to lose most of its current clientele – Baby Boomers – in the not-so-distant future. And the clientele which this money will transfer to is tech-savvy, digitally-enabled, and knows there’s always a better experience to be had.
More importantly, a recent Deloitte report paints an interesting picture of the ‘next normal’, which stands to divide wealth managers in two: firms that respond to the crisis with innovative business solutions, increased agility, and more digital engagement will fare far better than the others, who may find that a reactive approach is deadly in a time of rapid change. Digitalization isn’t going anywhere, and the race to get there is a marathon, not a sprint – stop-gap solutions won’t help in the long run. However, a view towards the future, as well as the evolving needs of a changing demographic, will carry digitally-minded organizations across the finish line in the decades to come.
Your customers are expecting this level of commitment, don’t be left behind. So I have to ask: How are you preparing for the next “new normal”?