The dramatic impact of Covid-19 has forced advisers to re-think how they maintain effective communications with clients, with many turning to screens and digital channels to assure anxious investors about their portfolios and the security of family legacies during these unprecedented times. Lorna Glynn (pictured), Managing Director of Paragon Customer Communications, explores how wealth managers can seamlessly adapt digital adoption strategies to prepare for a ‘new normal’ after the pandemic.
Faced with the uncertainty of an outbreak like Covid-19, market volatility and, in many instances, meaningful changes in asset valuation on a daily basis, investor concerns have naturally evolved during the ongoing pandemic.
In such an unstable climate, naturally, client anxieties around the performance of their portfolios have increased significantly. Advisers are being faced with greater numbers of clients contacting them with concerns about their portfolios, with some advisers stating that call volumes were more than 30 per cent higher than they would expect at this time of year.
The transition to home working, and isolated living amid lockdown restrictions, has presented its own set of unique challenges for firms and clients alike. Not only have client preferences shifted rapidly for reasons of safety and the preservation of personal welfare, but trepidations have arisen surrounding the security and safeguarding of portfolios and assets during remote working practices.
With many investors – across both generational and demographical divides – seeking regular dialogue and assurances from wealth managers during the crisis, but unable to obtain guidance through the traditional offline space permissible pre-Covid, digital communication has become an urgent imperative. Indeed, such is its necessity, that 76 per cent of firms globally have reported an increase in clients demanding digital engagement. Similarly, 86 per cent of firms now consider servicing clients as a highly important digital capability to acquire.
For advisors the competitive edge that digital platforms and new technologies can provide in this regard, both during and post-pandemic, is significant. The journey to true innovation and an enhanced client experience, however, has not been a straightforward one for many firms. Indeed, many are still lagging behind in their efforts to push their companies forward in new directions.
Barriers to change
When we think of the key barriers to progressive change, factors such as budget, separate marketing and transactional communications, as well as limited platform capabilities and legacy composition tools often come to mind. With the onset of the pandemic, it has become clear that a lack of enabled mobile technology, and limited automated communication delivery are also playing a significant role in impeding the adoption of digital communications.
Faced with a requirement to deliver true innovation under challenging circumstances, technology will likely be the true enabler, especially as advisers seek to provide the “human touch” throughout communications when face-to-face meetings are prohibited. Platforms enabled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) – a technology expected to power 95% of all customer interactions by 2025 – for example, will have a critical role to play as advisers shift from a well-trodden in-person communication approach, to strategies that rely increasingly on more automated and remote practices.
AI’s ability to empower wealth managers to maintain consistent contact with their clients by automating daily tasks make it a discernible choice, particularly for firms seeking to facilitate the transition to operations in the ‘new normal’.
Equally, as concerns around cybersecurity are further propelled during the ongoing pandemic, the emergence of innovative systems such as biometric verification and e-signature technology for client documentation will likely have a critical role to play as client interactions enter the online space.
Unfortunately, the onset of the crisis has highlighted that many organisations are simply not far enough along their digital journey to effortlessly embrace such advanced technologies and make the necessary shift to digital-first. Indeed, for many organisations, convoluted IT frameworks and legacy systems often fail to provide the adequate delivery infrastructure to support data-rich customer communications management (CCM) delivery models, as well as the cloud-based services like AI they often incorporate.
An ecosystem for the future
For investment management firms entrenched in more traditional service models, often the greatest challenge is not incorporating the digital technology itself, but rather managing the ecosystem of internal systems that sit behind it. Only by transitioning away from legacy systems that are no longer necessary under digitally-led service models can advisers hope to deliver in a market landscape that has been altered drastically post-Covid.
The foundational element of any effective strategy, particularly one which centres on digital experience, should be building a cohesive eco-system, underpinned by agile leading-edge technologies, to provide the adequate delivery infrastructure to support future-proofed communications. Such an ecosystem can facilitate the unification of previously fragmented customer communications technologies.
Only once this is achieved, can firms begin to invest in the appropriate technology, data and analytical platforms to form an accurate depiction of each individual client – including their behaviours and channel preferences – and produce tailored communications across all digital channels more quickly and cost-effectively.
The positive news for today’s firms is the capabilities of an experienced customer communications partner can quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively, accommodate the seamless shift from a traditional business strategy to one that hones in on digital opportunities as client dynamics shift – ensuring advisers will be better positioned for when the market environment stabilises.