Posts Tagged ‘wealth management 3.0’

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Clients Do Not Want Help. Until They Do.

November 27, 2012

(This was originally published as a guest post for my friends at the management consulting and strategic communications firm Beyond the Arc: Understanding how customers really want help.)

On the same day I published a post on the Clientific blog about the sometimes disappointing allure of technology (Technology is Not a Silver Bullet), the always insightful Discerning Technologist Brad Leimer shared a a post from The Financial Brand on LinkedIn (Big Study Examines Retail Channel Preferences).

The study, sponsored by Cisco, showed strong consumer preferences for non-branch channels such as web, mobile, phone and ATM for many types of interactions. However, branches were the preferred channel for such things as “Apply for a loan” and “Support from banking representative”. (See below)

What explains the stark differences? First of all, as Ron Shevlin of Snarketing 2.0 says,  just because a person visits a branch for help or to complete a transaction doesn’t necessarily mean that they prefer to do it that way. It may mean that the web site or phone representative was inadequate to meet the client’s needs.

Secondly, and not to get all snarkety myself (that’s Ron’s sole province), but clients really don’t want your help. Until they do.

Results Not Process

Much has been written about the so-called “customer experience”– everything that a customer comes in contact with during their lifetime interaction with your brand; direct and indirect, obvious and subtle, conscious and unconscious.

Successful firms correctly attempt to measure the expressed and latent needs of clients. The best keep in mind the words of the great ad man David Ogilvy, who has been variously quoted as saying multiple versions of “People don’t want quarter-inch drill bits, they want quarter-inch holes.”

I have long found inspiration in the work of now-retired Harvard Business School professor David H. Maister, and I have been using some variation of his 2×2 matrix below for at least a decade.

Maister uses a healthcare analogy to describe the key operational and profitability metrics of different departments, and I have found it useful to help financial firms think through their various activities and how they provide value to their clients.

Pharmacy (Low Touch/Standardized Process)
For a financial firm, these are the things that just need to get done quickly and accurately. For the most part clients have little preference as to how.
• Account Opening
• Transactions
• Balance Reporting
• Transfers
• Basic Service Issues
Nursing (High Touch/Standardized Process)
These are items that might need a little more hand-holding, even though the processes and protocols are still well defined, and good client-service skills can go a long way to improving client satisfaction.
• Standard Credit
• Product Advice
• Estate Settlement
• Discretionary  Trust
• Complex Issues
Brain Surgery (Low Touch/Specialized Process)
These activities require specialized skills, but the real value comes from applying the expertise, not necessarily from the advisor/client relationship.

• Custom Credit
• Asset Allocation
• Basic Trust Admin
• Complex Assets
• Basic Estate Plans
Psychotherapy (High Touch/Specialized Process)
For financial firms (and especially wealth management firms), this is the top of the value chain. It’s what happens here that drives most loyalty/at-risk measures. Diagnosis is key, and it is from here where brain surgery may be prescribed.
• Goal Setting
• Financial Planning
• Complex Estates
• Succession Matters
• Nonfinancial Issues
• Moral Support

Bringing it All Together

Clients may well be willing to use your new app for certain things, utilize your web site to download transactions and contact your call center to change their address. Those things may improve your operating margins– as long as they work.

The face-to-face interactions that do the most to improve the client experience are not the ones that solve the issues that could have been (and should have been) solved via other channels. It’s the ones where they are really receiving the time and attention from someone who understands their situation and their goals and is helping them get to where they want to be.

Clients don’t want your help. Until they do.

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Secrets of Successful Wealth Managers

November 15, 2012

Firms that succeed with affluent clients over an extended period of time do a number of things well. Through the work of my consulting firm Clientific we have distilled the twelve core principals that successful wealth managers follow.

The 12 C’s work like building blocks, from the bottom up. Begin with the first four, components of a strong strategy. Once those are set, work on the next four, the key elements of executing that strategy. Finally, the final four are the things that differentiate top firms from their competitors.

A solid strategy and strong execution provides a fulcrum upon which your differentiation can be leveraged. I have listed some sample questions to ask yourself for each point, but this is in no way an exhaustive list. Feel free to contact me at clientific.net if you have any questions or would like a custom assessment.

Strategy- What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Clientele– Who are your target customers? Who are your best customers today? Are you targeting high net worth clients, with over $1 million in assets? Or the ‘merely affluent’, those with $100,000 to $1 million? What about the ultra high net worth– those with $25 million or more? All are attractive segments, but the keys for success are different for each segment.
  • Clarity– What exactly is your value proposition? What problem(s) are you solving for your clients? What do you stand for? What do you not stand for? If you don’t have clarity about why you’re in the business and why others should do business with you, how will you expect your clients to know?
  • Context– How does your firm fit in to the competitive landscape? Are your competitors big banks? Community banks? What about independent brokerage and money management firms? How do the legal and accounting communities address wealth management needs– are they referral sources or competitors? How will you balance all of your stakeholders– clients, shareholders, employees, community, centers of influence?
  • Culture – What’s it like to work with you? What’s it like to work there? What kinds of things do you reward? How do you make decisions? What roles do you expect your team members to play, and how do they fit with one another? What kind of individual and team incentives do you have?

Execution- How are you going to do it?

  • Competence– ‘Great service’ alone is not enough in wealth management. Your team has to have the technical skills needed to meet the complex borrowing, investing, financial planning and estate planning needs of your clients. They also have to have the ‘EQ’ to attract, retain and grow client relationships. How will you assess your team’s talent? How will you develop skills and hold people accountable? Are your current processes adequate, or will you need to adapt new talent management protocols?
  • Consistency– Having great technical and interpersonal skills will only matter to your clients if you deliver results consistently and in a way that meets or exceeds their expectations. How will you manage consistent delivery and a consistent client experience?
  • Client Intimacy– It’s easy to assume that positive, friendly client relationships are close and intimate; yet their are countless examples of advisors being shocked to learn important details from a client that are already well know by a competitor. How will you advisors move from information to insight? Think of the difference between a monaural AM radio broadcast and a Dolby THX surround sound experience. Often the difference involves understanding and addressing non financial goals and issues of your clients.
  • Courage– It takes managerial courage to truly execute. The best plans and strategies are worthless without the tenacity and discipline to execute and make necessary course adjustments. General George S. Patton said “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”  Change management, sales management, coaching– all kinds of leadership– require courage and discipline.

Differentiation- What makes you different?

  • Client Advocacy– The old saying “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is trite, but true. Clients have to trust you, and the most important element of trust is truly looking out for your client’s best interests. Character and integrity are table stakes, but you must be a true advocate for your client’s best interest. How do you demonstrate this to your clients?
  • Client Experience– What’s it really like to be your client? What are all the touch points clients have with you, and do they represent your brand the way you want? What about the automated letter they will receive if they accidentally overdraw their account that typically maintains six figures? Will they receive the same letter as every other customer? What will that do to their perception of your relationship? Do your call center, web presence and mobile offerings support your brand or detract from it?
  • Content– How do you communicate your ideas? You have already established what your company does and does not stand for, how do you demonstrate it? How do you present yourself as a thought leader? Do you have and communicate a distinctive viewpoint?
  • Connection– Content is usually outbound, but you have to have inbound communication channels too. What kinds of events do you attend and organize? How do you use social media to engage your clients? How do you really understand what your clients think about your brand, what they like and don’t like about your policies and practices?

We have entered a new era and the days of simply ‘build it and they will come’ is over. Firms that successfully address these and similar questions will be the ones that will succeed in this complex new era of wealth management.

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Five Shifts that Define the New Era for Wealth Management

November 6, 2012

(This post was also published today on the blog of my consulting firm clientific,  follow me there too.)

Five massive foundational shifts are impacting financial service providers of all types, and they are impacting those that serve affluent clients in especially unique ways. Many of the strategies, skills and behaviors that enabled success in the past are now at best ineffective, and completely irrelevant in some cases. Advisors and firms serving affluent clients must adapt to these new realities to be successful in the future.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” 

— General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U. S. Army

The first shift is economic. The global financial crisis begun in 2008 is still having a long-term impact on the creation, growth and preservation of wealth. Today’s low growth, low yield environment will likely stick with us for some time, and today’s advisors have to be able to help their clients navigate the realities of the new economy. Firms cannot count on rising portfolio values to increase revenues.

The second shift is regulatory. Partially as a result of the financial meltdown, central banks and regulators all over the world are the in middle of redefining the rules and regulations that today’s financial advisors will likely have to live by for the rest of their careers. Some of the important revenue streams of the past have been curtailed or eliminated—think overdraft fees, payday loans, interchange fees, some mortgage fees, etc. And we are not even close to done, as of October 1, 2012 only one-third of the provisions of Dodd-Frank had been finalized, and another third have not yet even been proposed.

The third shift is demographic. Various research projects that anywhere from $18 Trillion and $56 Trillion of financial wealth will be passing down from the Traditionalist and Baby Boomer generations to their Generation X and Generation Y children and grandchildren over the next several years. Gen X and Gen Y could have a combined wealth that exceeds that of the Baby Boomers as early as 2018, and they do not want “their father’s Oldsmobile”. Even with the more conservative estimates, this is a huge threat for those advisors and firms who don’t adapt to the changes. And it is a massive opportunity for those that do.

The fourth shift is competitive. The global financial crisis caused the weakest firms to disappear while the biggest and strongest got bigger and stronger. (In some cases, only bigger.) It is more important than ever for smaller firms to differentiate themselves in ways that are really relevant. Simply being “the bank” of, say Cozad, for example is no longer enough.

The fifth shift is technological. The tools are already here to radically improve client intimacy and client engagement. The rapid adoption of the iPad and other tablets give wealth managers the opportunity to change the dynamics of the across-the-desk transaction into the shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration that really engages the client. Big data and analytics give firms the power to better understand client behaviors and preferences, if they bother to listen. Social media opens up whole new avenues of client contact.

The challenge will be for firms to adopt the right strategies and then have the discipline to execute. As in every era, we will have winners and we will have losers, and success will go to those who embrace the possibilities of the future while staying relevant to their clients.

You might also like:

Wealth Management 3.0 is Here, Are You Ready?

The Convergence of High Tech and High Touch in Wealth Management

© 2012 JP Nicols. All rights reserved.

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Finovate Fall 2012 Best of Show Winners

September 17, 2012

Another Finovate conference is in the books. The Best of Show winners included MoneyDesktop, one of the companies on my watch list for accelerating the convergence of high tech and high touch, and one that should have been on my list, but had eluded my foresight (Learnvest).

FFBOSWinners2.jpg


New York welcomed the Finovate road show to town with weather was so perfect that it faded into the background like a perfect picture frame. For the most part, the show graced the perfect frame beautifully, with attractive and engaging interfaces being the rule. So much so that Aite analyst and Snarketing 2.0 blogger Ron Shevlin mused about the attendees being “SedUIced”  by interfaces over business impact.

It’s a shame that intermittent WiFi and cell coverage inside the hall occasionally defaced the exhibition with digital graffiti. If I hadn’t known that Javits Convention Center has distanced itself from its early reputation as a patronage mill for the mob, I would have thought that a few of the exhibitors had spurned pre-show shakedowns behind the dumpsters. (“It would be a real shame if that pretty app of yours somehow couldn’t connect to the network right in the middle of your demo…”)

Making the Complex Simple

A wise CFO I once worked with proclaimed that were two kinds of people in the world, those that make the complex simple, and those that make the simple complex.

There weren’t too many in the latter camp, the Finovate team screens and coaches demonstrators well. Still, a few seemed to have slapped technology onto a convoluted process and/or addressed an irrelevant problem; or as someone tweeted– solved problems no one has with technology no one wants. There were (only) a few moments that felt like SharkTank, and I secretly wished for the schadenfreude of a venture capitalist throwing a cold glass of reality on the smoldering embers of a bad idea.

But the majority of the demos addressed relevant problems and simplified the complex with good design, and most appropriately recognized mobile as a significant front in the fintech wars.

All of the Best of Show winners (in alphabetic order):

  • Credit SesameMint and LendingTree had a very good looking baby. Credit-centric PFM with recommendations for managing debt.
  • Dashlane addressed the sometimes laborious process of filling out multiple fields for e-commerce checkout with a single solution for any vendor on any platform.
  • Dynamics showed a payment card with a built-in switch that enables customers to choose multiple payment sources. (Parenthetically, I “invented” this a few years ago in an ideation session. I also “invented” BetaMax when I was nine. And flying suits.)
  • eToro had an impressive demo of a pretty product that I happen to categorically reject. Their CopyTrader technology enables stock traders to harness the “wisdom” of the crowds in their own gambling, er, trading. It was a definite crowd favorite, but I have seen the prequels “Internet Stocks” (1999) and “Real Estate” (2007). They were both gripping thrillers with horrible endings.
  • LearnVest was a glaring omission from my pre-show list of three firms to watch. The firm and it’s founder and CEO Alexa von Tobel have been getting much well-deserved press, and their latest contribution to the convergence of high-tech and high-touch includes the ability to collaborate with a financial planner.
  • MoneyDesktop repeated as a back to back winner. Their patent-pending “bubble budgets” provide a nice graphical representation of budget items and they continue to refine their ecosystem with synching iPad, smartphone and desktop apps.
  • PayTap offered a slick and apparently effective solution for paying shared bills via multiple payment sources and social networks. They also pitched it as a way to make it easier when you are asked to help pay someone else’s bill. I’m looking for the blacklist feature on that one…
  • ShopKeep POS enables merchants to run a store from an iPad. Another great example of making the complex simple, with a great interface.

All in all, another great show full of smart people and innovative ideas, and another reminder that we are still in the early stages of disruptive technology in financial services.

This is really starting to get good.

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When the Affluent Become the Unbanked

September 12, 2012

Concern about those who have been left behind in receiving financial services (“the unbanked” and “the underbanked” ) have been popular topics of conversation amongst bankers and regulators over the past few years.

An important thread of these conversations has been the fact that in many cases, it is the customers who are leaving the traditional financial service providers behind, not the other way around.

I spend most of my time working with the “overbanked”– affluent families who have no shortage of financial services options, and as I have written previously, they too can find a variety of services to borrow, hold, invest and move money without the need for a traditional bank.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported on an affluent family who has “…no need, desire or want to go to a regular bank,”

Footnote to Financial Crisi: More People Shun the Bank – WSJ.com

 

 

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Why More Experienced CEOs Will Stay At the Forefront of Tech Innovation

September 5, 2012

This is as encouraging to me personally (“the average age of founders of technology companies is a surprisingly high 39 – with twice as many over-50 executives as those under 29 years old.)”, as it is generally (“The United States might be on the cusp of an entrepreneurship boom—not in spite of an aging population but because of it.”).

But I especially like the described “four character traits of a successful CEO – Sensemaking, Relating, Visioning, Inventing.” I couldn’t agree more, and I have seen an abundance of these traits in the CEOs I admire the most (and a dearth in those who leaving me scratching my head).

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Wealth Management 3.0 Is Here– Are You Ready? (Part 3 of 3)

July 23, 2012

Over the past couple of posts we took a fairly irreverent whirlwind tour through the last 150+ years of those financial services oriented specifically towards helping successful families grow, protect and share their wealth– the very essence of wealth management. [See Wealth Management 1.0 (1853-1982) and Wealth Management 2.0 (1982-2008)]

Today we will bring this three part series to a close, but we will revisit often the idea of the changing nature of the wealth management business and discuss how firms and advisors must adapt to compete in this new era.

Wealth Management 3.0 (2008-?)

If the forces of change burgeoning at the beginning of this current decade stuck out their collective feet and tripped the industry and sent it reeling, then the global financial crisis begun in 2008 and its resulting round of bank failures, mega-mergers and new regulations knelt down behind the backs of the industry’s knees and sent it tumbling noisily and unwillingly into the latest era, Wealth Management 3.0.

More banks failed in the last four years than the prior 15 years combined. Financial giants like Bear Sterns and Washington Mutual went out of business, once swaggering players like Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Mortgage ran to the protective arms of a lowly commercial bank, and Masters of the Universe like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley actually sought bank charters.

Brokerage firms all but hired costumed characters to stand outside suburban strip malls and dance and twirl signs that said “Giant Clearance Sale! Stocks as much as 80% off!”. It was, as Bill Murray’s character Peter Venkman said in Ghostbusters, a “disaster of biblical proportions”.

“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”

–Dr. Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters

Frogs in boiling water

Even firms that weren’t dying from mortal wounds– self-inflicted, or otherwise– began to realize that they were like the proverbial frogs in water that was approaching the boiling point. The persistent bull market and deregulation of the previous era had masked the steadily rising water temperature.

Former Citigroup Chairman Chuck Prince famously remarked in 2007 that “..as long as the music is playing you’ve to get up and dance”. But even MC Bernanke’s extended dance mix had to spin down sometime. And when it did, even firms without severe asset quality or liquidity issues came to realize that they had a problem in their cost structure.

The troubled airline industry provides an apt, if unfortunate, analogy. All clients deserve a safe, courteous and on-time flight, but wealth management groups were designed to deliver an experience above and beyond the minimum– they are the first class cabin of the firm. But many firms began to realize that in their blind quest for growth that their gate agents had been allowing some holders of deep-discount coach tickets to take up first class seats and drink all the champagne.

In other words, there was not always the discipline to ensure an appropriate matching of marginal expenses to marginal revenue. Worse, the industry conditioned clients to expect the first class experience for blue-light special pricing. The talent and technology needed to provide comprehensive wealth management services are not cheap; and providing them economically is a challenge (though not impossible).

But the crude cost cutting axes swung in the prior era won’t work today. Managers instead must skillfully wield a discriminating scalpel to trim away unjustified and unproductive expenses, while simultaneously investing in the things that matter to the clients. (Hint: It won’t be mahogany, marble and fine china for the clients of the future.) Firms that cannot do that will likely attract a new management team that can. (See Is Bank Merger Mania Imminent?)

Reregulation

Just as deregulation was a driving force in Wealth Management 2.0, reregulation will be a driving force in Wealth Management 3.0. This past Saturday, July 21, marked the two year anniversary of President Obama’s signing into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

So far Washington’s paper multiplication machinery has managed to turn the 848 pages of the bill into 8,843 pages of rules– and they are only 30% done with writing the rules and regulations! If this pace continues, we will have nearly 30,000 pages of new rules for firms to wade through by the time they’re done– likely sometime early in 2017.

When I was a young boy I was always intrigued with the ad in the back of my Archie comics for the machine that turned ordinary pieces of paper into $5, $10, even $20 bills! They have that machine’s evil twin in Washington. It turns massive stacks of money into prodigious piles of dense prose.

Many of the new rules will, at best, fight the last war in 20/80 hindsight; and it is very likely that the next crisis will not be anticipated therein, let alone thwarted. Nonetheless, today’s firms and and advisors are already spending time, money and cultural energy ensuring compliance with all of the new rules and regulations.

Firms and advisors also need to devise new ways to generate revenue, as some provisions severely curtail some of the most profitable business practices of the past. No wonder so many firms are looking to new wealth management initiatives to offset these challenges. (See Banker Jones and the Last Crusade: Is Wealth Management the New Holy Grail?)

For extensive reporting and resources on Dodd-Frank, excellent information is available from the law firm DavisPolk, and this infographic is a good primer on the current status.

The next generations

As formidable as are the heaving changes wrought from within the industry, those generational and technological changes from the outside may be even more profound and devastating if firms and advisors do not embrace the winds of change rustling through their own Rolodexes.

Advisors: Generation Y, the Millennials (born roughly from 1982-2000), are joining your workforce and your client base, and they will not even consider your firm’s services if you aren’t relevant to them. As my friend David Stillman likes to say:

“This is the most connected and most collaborative generation ever… They not only accept diversity, the expect it… Millennials will experience as many as 10 career changes in there lifetimes. That’s career changes, not job changes.”

— David Stillman, co-author, When Generations Collide

They have all but ditched email because it’s too slow. They communicate not only with their peers, but with other modern firms, via text messages and directly through Facebook. Your paternal smile and shake of the head as you explain that those things really aren’t your style will only confirm their suspicions of your paleontology.

They “crowdsource” recommendations for everything from restaurants to car purchases and they trust the wisdom of the crowd far more than any marketing message you can possibly craft. If other people they trust aren’t talking about you, they will will look at you like someone crashing their favorite hipster music festival in sandals and black socks (which is to say, you actually have a shot if you are cool enough to pull it off).

If they are unhappy with their experience with you, it can hit their Twitter feed and their Facebook wall, and in the matter of minutes, you and/or your firm have some viral bad PR on your hands before you can even say “Do you want those funds wired, or do you want a check”? And no, they do not want a check, thank you.

Some firms still aren’t even present on these social networks, so they aren’t even aware of the conversations underway about their brand (good or bad). Others are present, but mistake social media as merely a soapbox to push their own one-way marketing messages.

The firms best positioned to thrive in this social era are actively participating in the conversations and using these interactions as ways to build relationships and deepen client engagement.

Key attributes of Wealth Management 3.0

  • Key characteristics: disruptive innovation is the new norm; rise of mobile, social media, big data and analytics; reregulation
  • Key firm capabilities: transparency; acting in clients’ best interests; active and relevant social media presence; clear value propositions; goals-based advice
  • Key client goals: mass luxury; seamless integration for self service and full service; social responsibility (in many forms), capital preservation; social and peer validation of advisors and strategies
  • Key advisor skills: comfort with technology; social media literacy; not being lame
  • Key advisor activities: customized client intimacy; monitoring social media for risks and opportunities; tailoring holistic advice (and reporting) to relevant goals

 Coming Up: Becoming an Advisor 3.0

In upcoming posts we will continue to explore the rapidly changing landscape and discuss the skills and activities needed to move beyond Advisor 1.0 or 2.0. To be relevant and successful in the new era, you must be an Advisor 3.0.

© JP Nicols – 2012

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