Tech tools not always the answer for clients

Edelman focused on using tech only where it enhances the client experience

Apr 16, 2017 @ 12:01 am

By Liz Skinner

Many financial advisory firms are scrambling to make digital onboarding available to tech-hungry clients, but one of the largest firms in the nation is bringing the task back into the office.

After offering clients the opportunity to sign contracts online for a few years, Edelman Financial Services this year is asking clients to come in and have an adviser or associate walk them through the various onboarding documents and introduce them to the Edelman Online client portal using tablets they've bought.

The firm, which has about $18 billion in client assets, found the process of having someone electronically sign documents via email was too impersonal, so it's keeping the onboarding process paperless, but doing so in a way that it's not losing the client experience.

"There's a lot of cool technology out there, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will add value to the client," said Christine Cataldo, chief operations and technology officer at Edelman Financial Services.

Like Edelman, other advisory firms need to make sure the technology they use to communicate with clients and serve them is complimenting or enhancing the help their planners are providing. In other words, advisers should think twice before allowing cool automation to replace parts of the process that are relationship building.

"It's important to create a vision of a client experience first and then find the right tools that fit," Ms. Cataldo said.

(More: Where tech dollars at advisory firms are being spent)

(More: Where tech dollars at advisory firms are being spent)

One area where clients commonly tell advisers that their technology is lagging involves access to and visualization of their overall financial situation.

More clients want to be able to view all their assets collectively, and they want to be able to do so on the fly, which means making the information available, securely, through mobile devices.

That's a tall order for a tightly regulated financial services business, but increasingly advisory firms are making it happen.

About 69% of financial advisers said their website is optimized for mobile use today, compared to 44% two years ago, according to the 2017 InvestmentNews Adviser Technology Study.

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