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The New Age of Client Communications

You don’t have to be in a public place for long these days to realize how pervasive technology has become as a communications medium. Whether it’s in line at the grocery store, pre-boarding at the airport, or eating out at a restaurant, it seems that anyone with even a fleeting moment of “down time” is focusing intently on some electronic device. It almost feels like direct experience has become the distraction from being online.

For wealth managers, this means that clients are likely to be increasingly facile and comfortable with electronically mediated communication, and, that clients’ expectations of their electronic co-communicators are undoubtedly rising. To meet these expectations wealth managers are best advised to stay ahead of the technology curve particularly when it comes to the client portal, the new tip of the customer contact spear.

In our view the most effective client portals should have the following features:

Ease of use: Simplicity, clarity, and efficiency should determine the structure, navigation and graphical expression of the portal.
Flexibility: From both a content and design perspective the portal must fit the needs and use patterns of the client. This means that the client should be able to easily customize their “dashboard” to view what they want, how they want.
Connectivity: Today’s wealth platforms allow for real time data transmission to portals that includes performance reporting, aggregated assets held away, personalized communications and commentary from wealth managers, and document storage. Portals can also include timely alerts to clients that can be coordinated with email notifications.
Interactivity: The presentation of information should allow for involvement by the client. Drill downs for more information, changes in planning assumptions and results, reconfiguring the presentations or reporting formats all could be made available. Information should also be downloadable in customizable formats.
Comprehensiveness: Portals should include all the information a client needs to understand their wealth management program. This includes detailed portfolio information, but also document storage, IPS, planning programs and so forth.
Freshness: Value-added thought leadership information that is updated regularly should be pushed out and available to clients through the portal. This provides enticement to visit the portal on an ongoing basis.

In effect, the modern client portal should be seen as more than a simple performance reporting tool. Rather, a portal should be envisioned as an efficient and increasingly effective mode of client service that can help to sustain and broaden relationships. If designed well, portals are automated advisor/client conversations that, if properly employed, reflect the value and substance of the real thing.