Robust Investment in a Digital Client Experience
We have tried long and hard to consider new topics and strategies to appease advisors into answering a call or scheduling time to hear about our newest product. However, it’s doubtful these efforts have yielded a significant return, especially in an environment with continual fee compression. Firms recognize that advisors are continually maturing in terms of expectations in experiences, but not budging in their attitude towards more calls and meetings. Their expectations are built primarily from their own experiences as a consumer or a business owner managing their book. Digital surrounds them, just as it does each of us, creating a new experience expectation that we must meet.
Firms will make a significant push in 2019 to create a digital client experience for advisors that makes it easier to conduct business and is on par with other industries. This investment will create new channels for advisors to engage with the product manufacturer; creating an avenue for push or inbound inquiries instead of relying solely on the traditional pull methodologies. Immediate examples of where investment will be placed include:
- Deploying digital scheduling assistants to allow an advisor to book time with the wholesaler and in the format they desire.
- Creating centralized and accessible portals with product illustrations, prospectuses and fact sheets – providing a transparent gateway to the content and information an advisor needs without putting a wholesaler in between.
- Digital profiles and sites for all wholesalers. This will rid the commonly used paper territory map and allow advisors to quickly search for the right firm contact in their area per the product. Also, allowing for the firm to extend the reach and brand their wholesalers to an always-on value that websites have brought to businesses.
Success in the digital client experience will also rely on investment strategies, processes, and tactics to unify marketing and distribution. Together, marketing and distribution will work in lockstep to extend the sales team and drive higher qualified inbound leads to balance the outbound activity. These investments will not only drive profitable returns but will also create world-class ease of doing business and client experience which will impact the wholesalers’ relationships, retention, and ticket growth.
Integrated Technology, a Requirement
Year over year, we’ve seen a proliferation of new technology creating new tasks, new portals and new processes with the hope of achieving better efficiency and new value. The usual culprits of this technology expansion reside within IT, Marketing, or Distribution looking for obvious ways that technology can better enable a predictive and pragmatic approach to product distribution. And while much value has been created through the expansion of technology, we have also experienced a few negative side effects that have reduced ROI. Common examples include too many portals with different uses, logins and data that have created a job within itself to manage.
In 2019 a concise technology strategy and foundation will be clear. Security, compliance, and centralized integration requirements will be memorialized. Firms will gain efficiency and maximize technology ROI by requiring all new technology investments to include direct integration to existing systems. Our prediction is firms will prioritize platforms that have robust integration opportunities with data lakes and CRM platforms. The integration will allow data to be aggregated to give a complete advisor profile and will give users a central hub from which to work.
Meaningful Data Activation
Data. Data. Data. We’ve got data packs, data consortiums, data companies, data partners, data lakes, and data scientists. It sometimes feels like a broken record because as an industry we’ve been talking about data for a long time but haven’t quite nailed down how data will fuel our distribution growth. It’s all fair given, comparable to other industries who have nailed down indicative signals and predictive models, we don’t have nearly the amount of data available. There is a finite audience of advisor partners and many product trends are tied to economic and regulatory events that are outside of our control. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t use the data we have to begin to create more personalized advisor interactions.
In 2019, we expect to see firms finally leverage their investment in data management platforms and data models to create insightful advisor engagements. Think websites that personalize content based on advisor preferences, marketing automation that reflects how an advisor prefers to communicate, and scorecards that tell wholesalers exactly who to call and when. Leading firms in 2019 will demonstrate expertise by leveraging data activation to move the needle.
With the onslaught of new technology, data, and insights we’ve seen changing requirements in the day-to -day job of a wholesaler. This is without even mentioning the ongoing expansion of firm products and platforms. The role of a wholesaler is beginning to change and the advisor is needing new support and specialization.
We’re seeing firms invest heavily in regular product, sales, and specialization trainings for their distribution teams. They’re investing heavily in reskilling wholesalers to create value beyond the traditional standard and to work more collaboratively within team models and other areas of the firm to ensure the best client experience.
In 2019 we’ll see more training and new wholesaling strategies implemented to leverage the tools, expertise, and insights created to emulate a new service value that will drive more return within client relationships. For example, identifying advisor and client needs based on data received in order to develop customer-driven solutions instead of pushing a product. The next generation of wholesalers is here, efficiently tech-enabled, and significantly more entrepreneurial.
ROI on Hybrid
We figured we’d end with the most controversial of our predictions, which is based on our certainty that predictions 1-4 are attainable and, if achieved, will make a hybrid model (of some sorts) profitable and productive. Many firms are actively piloting and investing in a hybrid model, but giving it the right time, tools, and strategy has made it a much longer journey than many firms would have expected.
However, if those same firms investing in a hybrid role or team are achieving our other predictions for 2019, we believe the pathway will be clear to a return on investment. To be clear, this prediction is not alluding to a replacement or widespread scale of hybrid wholesaling. These pilots will show that with the surrounding investments in data, technology and a re-skilled wholesaler; a hybrid role will seemingly be set up more appropriately to achieve a production that could validate further scale… but that’ll be for 2020 to discuss further.
We are excited about the future and progress that is taking place in the industry. As frustrating as change can be, it’s exhilarating, and when you have a chance to pull yourself up for air as you can recognize the impressive transformations that have happened over a relatively short period of time. There is a lot to look forward to and a lot of work left to do. We look forward to seeing how the year progresses and continue to help you push the industry forward.