Even today, a key attraction for talented advisors (and more importantly their books of business) is offering a fully Integrated Advisor Desktop (IAD) platform. The big warehouses and the successful Investment Banking Divisions (IBD) know that integrating custodians/account management, portfolio management, order entry and management, financial planning, research, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) are table-stakes these days. Whether you subscribe to Joe Duran’s “Financial Life Management” idea or not, there is an undeniable industry-wide move towards focusing on advice, rather than just selling and brokering securities transactions. The key to doing that is to make sure that you really understand your client holistically. And the only way of understanding your client is to have all the information about them intelligently laid out in front of you.
I could spend all day talking about many different firms and their successes and failures with IAD. The point simply is that even though this is table-stakes, it’s a very difficult platform to implement. Even the best firms struggle with adoption – not because the advisors don’t need the tools, but because what the advisors got was ultimately not any better than their own methods and devices. A best-of-breed and API-based solutions approach typically works well, but there’s still a lot to look at and do.
To truly understand where the industry is going, and what concentrating on advice means, you have to look well beyond the advisor user journeys and user experience. Digital transformation and a fundamental shift in customer expectations mean that customers also want to have access to a lot of this same information. So naturally, a lot of firms are developing customer-facing portals.
There are right ways and wrong ways to go about this. The wrong way, which I’ll point out is the common way, is to completely divorce the two platforms and replicate data between them. I’ve personally been a victim of the kind of chaos this creates. There’s nothing more embarrassing for my advisor than when I have more accurate and up-to-date information than their system. The right way is to leverage your best-of-breed investments and use those same APIs to deliver information to the customer portal.
There’s also so many firms that still get it wrong even though they take the right approach, and that’s because they stop at just providing customers access to their own data. Yes, customers want to know their balance, performance, and what information their advisor has on file about them. But, what customers really want is to make informed decisions about their money. They need education, the ability to get advice when and where they want, and then understand the impact of their decisions on their financial situation and goals. This means giving them self-service capabilities and letting their advisor guide them and explain how to do what they want. There’s a term for that: it’s called “providing advice.”
Executing on that requires marrying advisor journeys to customer journeys in a supportive and meaningful way. That’s why tying the IAD and the customer portal together is so key. This also means going beyond a portal for customers to access information and functions, and include options for collaboration (i.e. chat, video-conference, and co-browsing).
To learn more about IAD, customer portals, or what other firms are doing to deliver on these strategies, please feel free to contact me using the comments section below.