Summary: “Location! Location! Location!” is a common refrain when it comes to retail businesses. And for wealth management firms serving individuals and families the location you need to focus on is the smartphone in your client’s hand.
Retail financial consumers increasingly expect their providers to offer a mobile experience. The long-term value of your business will be greatly affected by your ability to deliver on your clients’ preferred platform.
A couple of years ago I shared the following slide at an event I host for the financial services and FinTech community at SXSW.
The point I was making to the audience with this slide is that mobile is going to change the investment industry at the same magnitude as the interstate highway system changed retail. Sam Walton started with a store in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962 and used the efficiency of the interstate highway system to dominate retail. Sadly thousands of small, independent stores across the country went out of business because they failed to adapt.
The Smartphone Is The Greatest Distribution Mechanism Of All Time
Think about how you interacted with the world before you owned a smartphone. It’s hard to imagine now isn’t it? Virtually everything you need is in the palm of your hand at all times. If you are like most Americans, your smartphone is the device you use most for email, search, social media, content consumption, and increasingly...commerce.
Let that sink in for a moment. The majority of consumers have had a smartphone for less than 10 years but 81% now use mobile banking apps regularly.
Is it reasonable to assume that these consumers will grow to expect a mobile friendly experience with you and your firm? What are the risks of not offering a mobile friendly experience?
The smartphone’s efficiency as a distribution mechanism for financial services is the reason for this rapid adoption and a new set of consumer expectations. What used to require a consumer to be sitting at their desktop or a lengthy phone call or a trip to a branch can now be accomplished from anywhere there is cell signal or wifi.
Convenience Is The Killer App
When given a choice, your prospects and clients will almost always choose the most convenient option. Sure, service level and pricing are also levers but if you look at the trend over the last 25 years it is clear that financial consumers value convenience above all.
Consider your own preferences your business. You prefer direct fee billing of client accounts to invoicing them and waiting for a check in the mail. You prefer online trading and account rebalancing to having to do it manually over the phone.
And what could be more convenient for a client than pulling out their phone to get information on their finances and interact with their advisor when needed?
Wealth Managers Should View Mobile As An Opportunity Not As A Threat
When many advisors and wealth management firms think about mobile they tend to feel a bit of anxiety because they equate mobile with robo-advisors. And while mobile is a key component of the value proposition for robos they should not be viewed having exclusive access to that real estate. They don’t own that corner. It’s open for all.
Think about all the changes we have seen over the last 25 years since the dawn of the internet. Talk to the old school compliance officers at your firm and ask them what it was like when email first came out. (Hint: It was insanity!) Do a little research on how the web affected the brokerage industry during the dot com era. And let your mind drift back to 2010’ish when advisors all across America were starting to discover LinkedIn.
As each new technology gained widespread adoption by financial consumers, advisors and their firms found ways to adopt the tech and thrive. Now, in 2018 and beyond, clients want to interact with you on their smartphone just as they wanted to use email, the web, and social.
How To Make Your Practice Mobile Ready
Below is a short list of the fundamentals for ensuring your practice is mobile ready.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The key thing to remember, beyond all of the noise on this subject, is to make sure you get feedback from your clients about the mobile experiences you are offering. The whole point of all of this is to create a mobile experience that enhances the relationship you have with your client. It’s not simply about checking the mobile box.
- Email - Invest some time making sure your email messages are mobile friendly. Most of your prospects and clients are reading your emails on a small screen. Make sure the font is large and your email is concise and easy to navigate. Use bold section headers and bulleted lists to make sure your reader can skim your email and dive in when needed.
- Text Messaging - Everyone texts! There have been numerous studies that show people prefer texting over phone calls. Many advisors are hesitant to use text messaging with clients, to the bewilderment of said clients, due to compliance constraints. Fear not! There are several compliance friendly solutions available from well known social media compliance names like Hearsay and Smarsh as well as relatively new providers like CellTrust.
- Social Media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn continue to be among the most popular apps on your prospects’ and clients’ phones. Be ready and willing to engage with them via their preferred networks. Vendors like Smarsh, Hearsay, and Hootsuite have been enabling advisors to use social media while remaining compliant for years.
Client Account Access, Engagement, and Reporting
This is the big leap, and perhaps the most important one for your near-term future. Clients want to be able view their accounts and interact with you and your firm on their phones. And they expect that experience to be clean and modern like those they have with their bank, credit card provider, or payment solution.
Luckily, eMoney Advisor has a great mobile experience on their Client Portal and other providers like Blueleaf are also focused on providing engaging mobile-optimized solutions for your clients. If you have yet to select a mobile portal for your clients be sure to add that to your to do list as soon as possible.
In an ideal world your mobile experience would allow you to meet a prospect and send him a text with a link that allows him to open and fund a new account within minutes. You would be able to walk clients through their review and planning process via an interactive app and allow them to submit requests with ease. That future is coming soon but don’t be content to wait for it to arrive fully baked. Take steps now to make sure you are meeting your clients and prospects needs without hesitation.