The whirlwind tour took in four states and we met with more than 20 leading executives covering fintech, accounting, wealth management, management consultancies, investment banks and technology companies.
The overarching theme that emerged from the trip was the importance of a personalised client experience methodology and that a firm’s digital experience needs to be as good as, if not better, than the physical experience.
Although the US market is different in scale and in the way it’s regulated, wealth management and advisory firms are focused on designing a client experience that is frictionless, digitally engaged and gives clients ultimate choice.
While the trip highlighted a broad spectrum of industry trends from the uptake of robo-advisers and innovative value-add partnerships, to common industry problems around succession planning, the four key lessons we can learn from the US are:
We cannot wait to engage Millennials: Within the US there is a strong focus on intergenerational wealth transfer. While Millennials might not be your most important client as far as funds under management today, you can’t afford to leave them out of the equation, and firms need to start engaging them through affordable, often digital experiences. 'Trusted adviser' is a term that doesn't necessarily exist for Millennials; however, robo-advice and digital interfaces have been effective in the US in starting the client journey.
We need better digital interfaces: While the US might be behind Australia in goals-based financial planning and advice; they’re more advanced in how they use technology as part of the overall client experience journey. Interactive digital interfaces are being used for more continuous engagement, so clients can see how they’re tracking towards financial goals on a day-to-day basis.
Single source of truth: There’s a big push in the US among various providers to become the single source of financial truth for clients. Companies are developing interesting systems to aggregate and stream data from multiple sources into a more complete dashboard, giving advisers and clients a complete financial picture from one unified source.
A client journey must be personalised: Much of the software and CRM tools witnessed in the US are focused on designing the best possible client experience and digital interfaces that empower and engage. Next generation firms are those with the courage to reposition their proposition to value-adding advice and service relinquishing control and giving clients the option to interact when they want, where they want and how they want.
The US market is by no means perfect, but what’s impressive is their willingness to innovate and rethink the client experience, even if it means competing with their own business model.
As firms seek to innovate and position themselves as next generation advisory models, one commonality still rings true; the coveted position of trusted adviser and the fact that people will always demand and pay for quality advice.