People are now accustomed to interacting with service providers through websites or smartphone apps. Nearly all businesses have a mobile presence (or should have one) and almost everyone has a smartphone they can use to access their information.
Today’s clients expect the capability to interact with their advisors whenever and wherever they choose through a customized access point designed exclusively for their use.
The benefits in offering a client portal, though, go beyond just meeting modern expectations.
A client portal allows for clients to conveniently access all of their financial information and for advisors to easily manage an abundance of client data.
Additionally, utilizing a client portal allows advisors to distinguish themselves from their competition. Advisors who augment their services with technology and provide better avenues to engage with clients will set themselves apart from others in the marketplace failing to keep up with the times.
Having a clearer touch point between the advisor and the client also supports the value of the services being provided. The portal visibly reinforces the results generated from the advisor’s services and, in turn, increases the perception of its worth.
The decision to adopt and integrate a client portal into your practice, though, is not an easy one. There are several options to be considered, and some of those options are linked to larger business issues.
There are off-the-shelf client portal solutions available, but these won’t differentiate your practice from the competition. These turnkey solutions will keep you in a pretty standard, conforming box of how the world views an advisor.
That being said, any solution is better than no solution.
You could also build a custom portal yourself. There are very capable firms out there that engage with you through the entire process. You would work together to identify client interaction points and how you want them to function. They can then build your desired experience into the site.
This solution also includes practice-specific and technologically-advanced elements that can truly differentiate your firm from the competition. Additionally, a custom portal provides another opportunity to strengthen and reinforce your brand.
However, this custom option requires a great deal of capital. For most smaller practices, it can be difficult to justify that kind of investment.
You must have scale to make it work, which leads us to the third option – partnership. Smaller practices have to ask themselves, “is a client portal something I truly need to remain competitive?” If the answer is yes and if you’re not prepared to make the investment independently, then you have to figure out how to tap into the expertise that already exists in the marketplace.
Some people go into the independent broker/dealer networks, others go into RIA networks and some join larger firms. It’s only when firms come together in a larger partnership that there is sufficient scale to justify an investment in the technology.
But who you choose to partner with matters. You have to find the right fit for you. It is vital to find a partner that is already using technology to enhance the client experience and provide a different conduit for communication.
The most effective client portals help advisors simplify their practice, reduce costs and serve their clients more efficiently, all of which can appreciably contribute to bottom-line goals.
For those reasons it is a solution that merits serious consideration.
Mike Capelle is chief strategy officer at United Capital. One of United Capital’s founders, Capelle is responsible for the company’s operating platform and technology and for driving enterprise innovation.
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