When meeting with advisers in their offices, I often hear, “The average age of our client base is 67 years old. We know the statistics — 90% of children fire their parent’s adviser. We are scared to death that we will lose the next generation. We need to offer a robo solution because these kids have grown up in the digital age.”

But before advisers dive headfirst into the robo pool, the good news is that for many firms, if they have kept up in their back office, the technology they already own may be what they need to re-frame the conversation.

The algorithms that robos use to allocate assets are fairly simplistic and have actually been around for years in the form of turnkey asset management programs. The real innovation of robos is the combination of elegant user interfaces and automation that simplifies investing.

However, the robo client experience is actually nowhere close to what advisers can bring online with robust customer relationship management and portfolio management tools.

The trick for advisers, then, is to be able to leverage the comprehensive data they already have in their systems and deliver that in a digital way to the next generation of investors.

PERSONAL TOUCH

As an example, consider the following scenario.

Let’s assume that the firm’s best client’s son is turning 22 and is set to inherit substantial assets from a family trust when he turns 25. Here are two emails that can be sent to this young man, one from an automated service and one from a seasoned adviser that has his best interest at heart.

Both emails are generated with the help of technology.

Robot email:

Dear Michael,

All of us at BetterFront want to wish you a happy birthday! Because we are on top of your account, we wanted to notify you that we are moving you from the “18-21” client profile segment to the “22-25” segment. As such, we ask that you complete the short questionnaire linked at the end of this email so we can better serve your needs.

As your automated adviser, we are concerned about your financial well-being.

We wanted to remind you that people in their 20s should have at least six months’ salary saved by now, in case of an emergency. You have indicated your monthly salary is $0, so you should have $0 invested in short-term cash instruments.

If you need help allocating those funds, please click here, and our algorithm will provide you with a basket of low-cost exchange-traded funds that you can purchase with a click of a button. Isn’t that cool?

Sincerely,

BetterFront

Human email:

Dear Michael,

Happy 22nd birthday! This will surely be an exciting year for you as you finish up at Notre Dame.

Your father told me last week that this semester has been tough, balancing your job at the student center with that rigorous desktop publishing class, but you must be excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Majoring in graphic design, I wanted to let you know that we have three clients in that field. I’d love to set up exploratory interviews for you to spend some time with them and learn more about the industry.

Let me know your exam schedule, and we can set these up when you are available.
As the son of our client, I wanted to set aside time for you to come into our offices with your employment documents, once you’ve landed that first post-graduation job, and we can help you select your 401(k) options and set a budget. We want to talk to you about the power of compounding and get you in the habit of “paying yourself first” right from your first paycheck.

Again, congrats on such an exciting year. We’ll be in touch soon!

Take care,

Bob Smith

Cell phone: 310-555-1234

Which of these emails do you think the 22-year-old client would prefer to receive? Which of these emails will prompt him to view this adviser as a trusted ally and an important resource going forward?

Which of these emails lays the foundation for a long-term relationship?

USE YOUR TECHNOLOGY

All the data in the human email came from client notes within the CRM. After sending this email, the adviser can leverage the workflow tools in the CRM to launch follow-up tasks to an administrative assistant, schedule the calls with the other graphic design clients and arrange for the young man to come into the office to set up his 401(k).

Once the 401(k) account is set up, the adviser can use data aggregation software in the portfolio accounting software to track the outside investments in the account and report on the performance to the client through the integrated client portal that comes with the portfolio accounting system.

Once the client turns 25 and he inherits the assets from the trust account the adviser helped his dad set up years prior, the assets can be managed within a model portfolio through the adviser’s reporting and trading software — taking into account the assets that are already in the outside 401(k) — which will rebalance the portfolio automatically on a regular basis.

The adviser can continue to provide a high-touch, personalized experience to the client by keeping up-to-date notes within his CRM system and using the scheduling tool within the CRM.

So yes, technology is the key to managing assets for this 22-year-old client, but the technology doesn’t need to be placed in the hands of the client. The adviser needs to use technology to serve the client and to efficiently provide a personalized, hands-on experience.

It turns out that advisers don’t shouldn’t robo advisers with cutting-edge technology but leverage them and provide good old-fashioned client service.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on smart strategies for RIAs. It was originally published on June 15.

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Matt Sonnen

Matt Sonnen

Matt Sonnen is CEO and founder of PFI Advisers.