With the growth of the stock market in the ’90s, there was tremendous expansion in personal wealth and financial advisors emerged to help educate their clients. Clients had 401(k) plans through their employers, investment accounts with stockbrokers and insurance policies with insurance agents. During this decade, clients began to gain financial knowledge because of greater access to investment information through magazines, personal finance books and television. And with the growth of the Internet, more and more investment data became available directly to the client.
As a result of this exposure, clients have become very sophisticated and now have higher expectations of their financial advisors than they once did. This trend is especially apparent among the growing number of affluent clients, often referred to as mass affluent or high-net-worth. These clients have become the managers of their own wealth. However, they have neither the skills nor the time to handle this significant responsibility. Instead, they are relying on their advisors to provide them with the guidance they need.
High-net-worth clients often have multiple people trying to sell them many investment solutions. These people often call themselves advisors; yet most do not understand the clients unique financial picture. As a result, clients have their investments scattered across a number of brokerage institutions. Often, the higher the net worth of some clients, the more out of control they are in gaining a firm grasp of their financial assets. They typically have too many accounts to manage and too many advisors. These clients become quickly disenchanted because their advisors are unable to deliver on the breadth of service they require to maintain their portfolios. The more accounts they have, the harder it is for the advisor to obtain an accurate portrayal of his clients diverse investments, the status of their portfolios and their asset allocations.
An overall view allows you to allocate assets appropriately.
Tech to the rescue
To help them meet this challenge, a growing number of advisors are turning to technology solutions. These range from account aggregation and customer relationship management to financial planning and transaction platforms. While most of these solutions provide advisors with the pieces required to manage their clients wealth, they require a lot of time and effort to use. What is more important, they lack what advisors need the mosta comprehensive view of their clients entire portfolio.
To achieve this, advisors need web-based, wealth-planning solutions offering comprehensive financial planning that encompasses various aspects of their clients wealth. These include insurance, investments, estate analysis, retirement planning and asset allocation. Gaining access to all of these aspects of their clients portfolio gives advisors a thorough understanding of their clients wealth and enables them to provide more balanced and more objective advice.
What to look for
Here are 10 features you should look for when selecting a wealth-planning and management solution:
1. Ability to aggregate accounts. Viewing your clients entire wealth picture helps you better advise and plan for their financial future. An overall view allows you to allocate assets appropriately and ensure the best financial strategy. It also helps you identify new opportunities for increasing your revenue.
2. Ability to view your client base in one snapshot. A dashboard model is the most effective and efficient way for you to monitor your client base. A good dashboard will have two key elements: easy access to customers, and alerts and alarms to help the advisor monitor the client base at a macro level. Other elements of a dashboard might include links to financial content or stock information.
3. Balances that are updated daily. Daily or nightly balance updates allow you and your client to closely monitor your clients financial position, which is especially valuable in a rocky economic climate.
4. Ability to monitor significant changes in a clients portfolio. Alerts and alarms should be available for you to set parameters around your clients investments and asset allocations. These alerts will enable you to proactively monitor your clients financial status and provide better services and products to him.
5. Ability to provide comprehensive financial plans. The systems planning capabilities should reflect deep functionality to allow you to provide the best plan possible for your client. Planning capabilities should let you choose between comprehensive planning, which encompasses a clients entire financial portfolio, and stand-alone planning, which is based on minimum input and is targeted to a specific item. Planning options should also address both high-net-worth and mass affluent needs, such as estate and trust planning, disability income planning and education planning.
6. Collaboration capabilities. Most affluent and high-net-worth clients have multiple advisors, including tax attorneys, CPAs and financial advisors. Your ability to provide collaboration within this group and help your client better manage his finances will position you at the center of your clients financial universe.
7. Client communication capabilities. It is important for you to touch your client as often as possible, making him feel as if you can provide the type of high-touch service he needs. Easy client communicationseither by email messages or through an easily accessed phone numberwill keep you in touch, especially when this communication is tied in with preset alerts and alarms, birthday notifications and other significant dates.
8. Customized reporting capabilities. The ability to get your financial report in the style and form you want it is important. Make sure the output from your planning solution can easily translate into the spreadsheet or word processor of your choice for easy formatting.
9. Ability to conduct what-if scenarios. Your ability to show clients different financial scenarios is critical in helping them make a good decision. These scenarios are especially useful in showing the effect of trusts and charitable giving on the overall estate, as well as how different savings and investment plans can effect retirement dates.
10. Ability to provide the client with their own financial homepage. Clients today are sophisticated, and many want to be involved in ensuring their financial future. Your ability to give them their own financial homepage is not only a tremendous value-added feature, but if the homepage is customizable, it keeps your name and logo in front of them. An online document repository is also a plus because it helps clients keep important papers organized and accessible.
As important as these 10 features are is the ease with which they can be used. You should be able to reach the information you need with just a click or two. Client data input should be simple and should only need to be done once.
An intuitive, user-friendly interface will help to ensure that you continue to use and leverage your system to your benefit and the benefit of your clients.
Building your practice
A comprehensive, web-based, wealth-planning solution can serve as your competitive differentiator. In an environment in which advisors are struggling to grow their business, a holistic, wealth-planning solution can provide you with the key elements of building and sustaining successful client relationships. These elements are trust, communication, objective advice, personalization and security.
Edmond Walters is founder and CEO of eMoney Advisor, which offers a holistic, wealth-planning solution that maximizes the potential of the advisor-client relationship. You may reach him at 610-684-1100 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.