For some investors it might seem a bit too little and far too late, but executives at some of the country's largest wealth management firms say they're now in the process of overhauling their client relationship management teams and tactics to better serve, appreciate and understand investors and their needs.

This concept of putting the customer first -- or client centricity as some industry pundits are wont to call it -- has become the name of the game in the wealth management industry where the highly coveted high net worth and ultra high net worth clients are hard to come by and even more difficult to keep.

This week, SEI, the Oaks, Pa.-based provider of investment processing, fund processing and investment management business outsourcing products, said 61% of wealth management executives polled are implementing or plan to implement some type of program or policy changes to improve the client experience in the next 12 months.

Now, what constitutes a client centricity program at one firm could be much different than for that of another. But generally, all wealth management chieftains agree that it's really as simple as meeting clients' goals by demonstrating empathy -- finding out and anticipating client needs -- and providing technical solutions to improve their overall investing experience.

Of the executives queried during SEI's annual Connections Conference, only 1% of wealth managers said they were satisfied with their current level of client centricity.

"After years of decreased consumer confidence, wealth management providers are taking important steps toward establishing true client-centric practices," Jim Morris, SEI's senior vice president of Global Wealth Services, said in the report. "By launching long-term strategies revolved around holistic, customized models, wealth managers can re-establish the loyalty so critical to their business model."

To bridge the gap between clients' expectations and the level of client service most firms are now providing, wealth management executives in the past year have ramped up or created multi-disciplined sales and relationship management teams (25%), implemented overall organizational changes (23%) or initiated firm-wide programs to integrate client relationship information and tools (19%).

Recognizing that there's still more that could and should be done, the next year firms will focus on giving more personalized advice to clients (54%), offering enhanced statements (61%), sprucing up their websites to better serve investors' needs (54%) and endeavor to deliver more clear and concise product and performance information (51%).

Also, 27% of wealth managers said their firms would be developing or utilizing mobile applications to improve their communication with clients.


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