Amazon promises a world where algorithms know what products we want before we do. Dog food, a new couch, toothpaste — they'll arrive at our homes with no effort on our part. This model has the power to change how we think about the experience of shopping, and also shape what we expect in other sectors.
Financial advisers and clients don't live in a completely algorithm-driven world — yet. But clients are seeking an unprecedented level of personalized attention and service from their advisers.
By pursuing a client-centric model — delivering solid financial advice in a trusted human relationship through a highly personalized experience — advisers can deliver unparalleled value.
Cultivating great human relationships around goals-based advice will be critical to attract and retain clients, J.D. Power found in a 2018 study. That's backed by a finding that 88% of Americans want technology to complement, not replace, human financial advisers, according to the Million Dollar Round Table.
The opportunity is huge. Nearly 45 million U.S. households are expected to transfer a total of $68.4 trillion in wealth to their heirs and charity over the next 25 years, according to research firm Cerulli Associates. There is a lot at stake for advisers and firms, but the approach has to match the times.
Building the client-centric practice
There are many ways advisers can make their practices more client-centric.
First, they should know more about their clients than the clients know about themselves. Clients are humans with complex lives and unique needs; advisers need to understand their resources, goals, risk tolerance, family dynamics and potential obstacles.
Clients will often articulate a narrow problem they want solved. A savvy adviser focuses on what is most important to them while using relevant experience to find workable solutions. The goal is to bring smart consistency: pairing hyper-personalized tools with established processes, all while providing the transparency clients seek.
Second, advisers must make sure that technology does not eclipse the human touch. Some clients like texting and email; others prefer a coffee date. Whatever the preference, they want to choose their communication channels and have access to, and fully understand, their financial situation at all times.
Third, advisers must take advantage of the deep insights offered by data science and analytics. Sophisticated technology can turn meaningful data into real-time insights. Predictive health and longevity data, and economic and social trends can all impact a client's financial planning and life goals. Making that data relevant and understandable is a key part of client-centricity.
A client-centric approach makes it possible for advisers to deliver tailored, long-term advice that leads back, uniquely, to each client. Advisers build deep relationships by being knowledgeable advocates who understand their clients and how to help them stay invested and on track.
Even in a world where technology is ubiquitous and seemingly all-powerful, that's the kind of approach that sparks loyalty and referrals and elevates an adviser above his or her peers.
Ken Cella is head of client strategies at Edward Jones.