It’s all about face time.

Wealth management firms want advisors to spend more time with clients, and will be rolling out new technology to free them up to do just that, according to a survey by Ernst & Young.

“It has become clear that the benefit of adding support services quickly outweighs the cost,” according to the study, Enhancing the Advisor and Customer Experience Through Technology.

Over 75% of wealth management firms surveyed said they have initiatives in place to increase face time with clients, and less than a third of firms surveyed believe their current client-related technology is effective.

“Firms want advisors to spend a larger slice of their time with clients,” E&Y principal Marcel0 Fava, head of the firms’ Americas wealth management division, said in an interview. “And they’re dedicating resources to do that.”

New mobile technology is high on the list, Fava said.

“It gives firms a first-mover advantage, increases advisor effectiveness and allows them to do more with the same amount of money,” he explained.

Approximately 75% of wealth management firms surveyed plan to invest in mobile tools to increase advisor collaboration and effectiveness. Larger firms said they would use mobile technology to deepen client relationships by providing greater access to information, while smaller firms plan to use mobile applications to introduce new products and services and increase sales.

Proprietary tools used for data and interfacing with clients will also come under scrutiny, Fava said.

Almost 80% of client and advisor-related technologies used by wealth management firms are proprietary, according to the study, yet only 40% of survey respondents said their client technology is ineffective.

The widespread availability of affordable technology platforms present firms with a cost-saving opportunity “to migrate from proprietary products to more packaged products,” to maximize return on investment, Fava noted.

Wealth management firms say they will concentrate on “designing segment-specific servicing models that provide different levels of high-quality service” over the next two to five years, according to the E&Y study.

Advisory firms should consider taking a “one kitchen, many restaurants” approach to segmentation, Fava said. “There should be one core platform with specific components for each specific segment.

Regulation, compliance and risk management are the most important near-term challenges facing wealth management firms, according to the survey.  Over one-third (38%) of firms surveyed saw regulatory compliance issues as their main operational challenges, and said they are currently allocating 22% of their overall operating budget to these areas.

“Regulation and compliance are the biggest enemies of growth, because the more firms have to spend on them, the less they can invest in advisors and technology,” Fava said.

The fast growing “self-serve” direct online channel, which drew attention at the recent Tiburon CEO Summit in New York, was “definitely” a threat to the mass market segment of the advisory business, but not to more affluent segments, Fava said.

“The low cost and effectiveness of that model is appealing,” he said, “but as you move up in net worth and complexity it’s less so. Households that need tax effective financial strategies will still be   willing to pay for the skills of personal advice. That can’t be automated, and you can’t do it for 15 basis points.”

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