How self-service online portals boost the client experience

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Online portals can greatly enhance clients’ experience with the financial planning process, advisors say.

The more self-service clients can be on “non-emotional” tasks such as

looking up account values, changing addresses or completing questionnaires, the more time advisors can spend with them discussing the emotions related to the data, says Mark Schoenbeck, a CFP and the executive vice president and national sales director at Kestra Financial in Austin, Texas

“A computer might be able to tell you that your account value is down, but it will not be able to discuss your feelings about the drop in value with you,” he says.

A strong client portal gives clients the freedom, knowledge and power to see their whole financial picture and recent activity, says Sonia Von Berg, director of operations at Osborne Partners Capital Management in San Francisco.

Clients get to choose what is needed when, so they dictate when to use technology versus humans, she says.

Steve Williams, a CFP and a senior vice president and the national head of financial planning at BMO Wealth Management (U.S.) in Chicago, provides clients with the eMoney portal, and the reports most often accessed are net worth statements, five-year cash flow reports and asset reports.

Clients can also have a complete picture of their financial life on their mobile devices, if they are engaged in data aggregation.

Moreover, eMoney’s vault is “a great organizer” for clients to electronically house their insurance policies, deeds, estate plan and other documents, making it easier for executors of their estate to access.

Many elderly clients, in particular, want to review their information often, and self-service client portals make that easier to do, says Kendra Thompson, managing director of Accenture’s wealth management practice in Toronto.

“They don’t want to always have to pick up the phone and have a conversation with the advisor. They want to be able to see it on their own, sometimes two or three times a day,” Thompson says.

Arthur Stein, president of Arthur Stein Financial in Bethesda, Maryland, provides online portals, though 43% of his clients have not accessed accounts in the past three months.

Still, “it’s important to clients that they can see their accounts online, even if they don’t do it,” he says.

Such online portal are necessary for Anjali Jariwala, a CFP and the founder of FIT Advisors in Chicago, because she operates her firm 100% virtually.

“If the technology and tools were not out there, I would be forced to create a more traditional firm which would limit the client base to my local area,” she says.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on how technology is changing your practice

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