In an effort to sell more products through financial advisers, Fidelity Investments announced Monday that it plans to reorganize hundreds of its employees.
Fidelity launched a new “client experience organization” in its institutional division designed to give a single point of contact to independent advisors, broker-dealers, traders and family offices. The company said this initiative, which will be run by Maggie Serravalli, will work across each of Fidelity’s institutional businesses, Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, National Financial, Fidelity Family Office Services and Fidelity Capital Markets, to support the more than 4,000 institutional client firms, from the initial sales process to day-to-day interactions and ongoing relationship management.
Fidelity plans to introduce new service teams for the independent advisor clients of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services. Each team consists of a client service manager and professionals in a single location that handle everything for an advisor.
“We are constantly focused on evolving and improving our service experience,” Serravalli said. “We want to improve the whole end-to-end experience, from sales to onboarding of new clients to day-to-day service.”
Serravalli said the new “team-based approach,” which will initially impact employees in its offices in Westlake, Texas, and Smithfield, R.I., would give RIAs a single point of contact that is supported by a group of “subject-matter experts.”
“We think more collaborative thinking will help our clients,” she said.
Analysts said that over the past five to eight years, Fidelity’s market share has slumped as investors have started buying more investment products through financial advisors rather than directly through providers like Fidelity. According to Aite Group, a Boston research firm, Fidelity increased its assets under custody held with registered investment advisors 34.5% last year to $390 billion, but continues to trail Charles Schwab & Co., which increased 22.4% to $590 billion last year.
When it comes to building share with advisors, Burton Greenwald of BJ Greenwald & Associates, said that Fidelity “has always been playing catch up.”
“Fidelity has shuffled personnel a couple times and they just can’t seem to find the combination that advisors want,” he said. “They have made major personnel changes in their institutional business, but they are still trailing Schwab by a wide margin. Ultimately, I think Fidelity can be effective with RIAs. They are a powerful organization that is dedicating resources and capital to building more business with RIAs. They will at some point get the share that they are looking for.”
Fidelity, which had $3.2 trillion in total assets under administration including $1.5 trillion in assets under management as of Jan. 31, tested this program with about 50 employees beginning in September, and plans to expand it to several hundred employees by the middle of this year. Fidelity said that since testing began, 97% of client requests have been completed within the agreed upon timeframe. “Not in good order items,” such as new account applications, have been reduced by nearly 50%.
Seravalli, who was an executive vice president of client experience for Fidelity’s operations and services group since June 2007, said Fidelity will be able to leverage best practices from its support of fee-based RIAs to continue to meet the needs of hybrid broker-dealer firms and brokers who are conducting both commission- and fee-based business.
“So far the feedback has been phenomenal,” she said. “Clients have been thrilled with the approach and the new level of service. We have high expectations in terms of how, through these teams, we can become extensions of our clients and help them grow their business.”