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Avoiding functional ‘mediocrity': How to improve user experience

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A firm’s technology can work great for clients — as long as they know how to use it.

But that’s the problem: Firms aren’t developing or integrating technology that is intuitive, according to Craig Martin, senior director at J.D. Power, who spoke on a panel at the SourceMedia In|Vest Conference.

Wealth management technology often requires an assist from an advisor or call center that will coach clients through learning to use it.

“They’re creating a lot of mediocrity. It’s not terrible [user experience], it’s functional if you know how to use it,” Martin said, adding that navigation and design are often particularly weak spots.

Tech that requires coaching and guidance won’t do any favors for firms trying to scale, Martin said. “You can't build that out and deliver it to a mass audience or a large number of consumers because it's not effective.”

Firms trying to do a better job of developing a UX that is intuitive the first time around could take a lesson from robo advisors, according to Lucille Mayer, COO of Apex Clearing, who also spoke on the panel.

“The one difference that I will say is those sites are clean. I mean very simple,” she said, adding that such sites don’t use complex financial terminology or acronyms.

It’s also important that firms stop shopping for technology for its own sake, but as a client solution, Martin said. “Otherwise you’re going to be chasing technology. Someone’s always going to be ahead of you, and you’re going to fail.”

Jim Starcev, a principal at Nexa Insights, said that advisors aren’t doing enough to personalize communication with clients.

“When we go back to the advisors and talk to them and go through it, they almost all say the same thing: I update my clients, I send out a quarterly newsletter. So what else would I be doing?” Starcev said.

Clients need to be told how it personally affects them, he said, and they should be reached in a way they want to interact. “Nobody reads emails anymore,” he said.

Firms also can’t underestimate what the user experience means for the advisor.

“What about the advisor?” said Mayer. “What are their needs? What are the things that they need to bring together to get their job done and how much time are they spending doing the administrative work instead of cultivating relationships with their clients?”

Mayer recommended firms do a “clickstream analysis,” in which they evaluate all the platforms and browsers advisors utilize in order to perform their roles. How could that be simplified?

The benefits of an advisor improving their UX will flow to the end client, according to Starcev.

“How staff interacts with clients is just as critical. When we get low scores on that, the whole system just falls apart,” Starcev said.

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