© 2019 SourceMedia. All rights reserved.

Mobile app upgrades try to catch up to client demand

The face of wealth management is changing, as a number of new firms look to keep up with consumer demand for convenient and functional client portals. In fact, eight in 10 advisors use the technology for communication and three in 10 believe it has the ability to disrupt the industry, according to the 2019 Financial Planning tech survey.

For many in the industry, disruption can’t come soon enough.

“It is a bit of a do-or-die imperative right now,” says Eugene Elias, COO of Atria Wealth Solutions, speaking about the adoption of the tech for online and mobile apps. “If firms are not investing significant capital into infrastructure, software, data, visual design, automation, they will not be able to succeed in the near term.”

Wealth management ranks lowest in overall mobile app satisfaction by consumers, according to a J.D. Power report. What’s more, 44% of millennials say they are likely to switch investments firms when advisor communication fails to meet their expectations on mobile applications.

Atria Wealth is the latest wealth manager to upgrade its client portal, called Clear 1, which sends automated infographics to clients that answer anticipated questions both online and on mobile apps. The private-equity backed wealth management holding company owns three broker-dealers with a combined $50 billion in client assets.

Twitter app on smartphone icon Bloomberg News photo.jpg
The Twitter Inc. mobile application icon is displayed on the screen of an Apple Inc. iPhone 6s in this arranged photograph taken in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Twitter Inc. is changing its timeline to display popular tweets first, instead of the latest posts, a long-anticipated step thats likely to anger its most passionate users. Twitter is scheduled to report quarterly earnings results following the close of U.S. financial markets on February 10. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

“[Clients] expect to have the same on-demand experience with their financial provider as they do with Amazon, Google or any other online experience,” Elias says in an email.

Other wealth management firms have taken notice. Carson Wealth upgraded its client portal, Carson CX, short for customer experience, to expand the range of functions available to clients and advisors online. The new portal lets advisors video conference with clients, schedule meetings and generate client reports, according to the firm.

“Clients interact with money every day in so many ways, and to be a client’s trusted advisor and financial quarterback, we need to expand our services and provide a more holistic offering to clients,” says Ron Carson, CEO of Carson Wealth, in an email.

Carson CX can also determine a client’s risk tolerance and adjust how the portal presents financial information to the end user, according to a statement. "It's going to change the game and give our advisors an unparalleled advantage most firms don't currently have in creating a memorable experience, online and off,” says Aaron Schaben, vice president of Carson Group, in a statement.

The new portals demonstrate just how important communication has become in a digitized world. The Atria platform provides a number of avenues to get in touch with clients, through any device with internet access, says Elias. “Clients want to communicate with their advisors immediately and across multiple devices,” he says. “Clients want choice and they want their choices to align with their communication preferences without limitation.”

According to Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer survey, 94% of all U.S. consumers aged 18 to 75 used smartphones and 74% used laptops in 2018. Of the 2,000 respondents, almost six in 10 consumers say they used their personal smartphone during normal working hours.

Atria is integrating its current secure advisor and client texting capabilities into Clear 1, which allows clients to text to their advisor directly from portal as well as from their cell phones.

“The experience has to be fast, seamless, transparent, but, at the same time, clients want to be able to connect with their financial advisor when and how they want,” says Elias.

The experience also has to be personalized. The most up-to-date technology welcomes users by name when signing on and displays photos of the advisor and client on the homescreen. These developments aren’t purely cosmetic, Elias says. Personalization can substantially affect client-advisor relationships and the way services are provided.

J.D. Power’s annual survey of self-directed investors displayed generational differences and the impact of equity volatility.
April 4

Indeed, clients are more satisfied with their investment firm if their advisors effectively use digital channels to communicate , according to the report by J.D. Power. For example, when advisors deliver communication that shows progress toward financial goals, the likelihood of millennials switching to another firm drops to just 17%.

While the wealth management industry has some catching up to do when it comes to client satisfaction with mobile apps, client expectations are always on the rise. “It is an extension of their advisor and another means to deliver the value of advice in a way that clients have come to expect,” says Elias.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.