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By Gavin Mee, Senior Area Vice President for UK Enterprise at Salesforce

If you think about the way we, as consumers, interact with brands it’s clear that times have changed. Over the last few years, our consumer expectations have grown significantly. Why is that? Well, with the advent of mobile and cloud technologies it’s all about the ‘now.’ We have become accustomed to accessing services or information at the click of a mouse or swipe of a screen. Technology has redefined the way we engage with brands at almost every level. And these increased expectations are definitely being felt by the wealth management sector. In fact, if wealth managers and advisers want to stay ahead of the competition in the Age of the Customer, focusing on innovation to offer the best customer experience is key.

Great expectations  

Today, investors expect an effortless customer experience; seamless interactions at any time, through any channel, whether that’s phone, email, mobile, live chat, or face to face. Clients also expect advisers to know them and understand their needs and preferences, and are looking for real partnership, not a transactional one. In fact, 70% of UK investors want the relationship with their next financial adviser to be more collaborative.

But, in many cases, expectation is falling short of reality. Investors generally meet infrequently with their advisers – sometimes only annually. And, too often, communication still relies on antiquated channels. Relying solely on the telephone in this hyper-connected age isn’t going to cut it. This combination makes it hard to build an insightful and trusted 1-to-1 client relationship and puts advisers on the back foot, as they fail to meet customer expectations.

So you can imagine the sticky situation that wealth managers, reliant on outdated systems, are finding themselves in. And there’s a rising wave of digital disruptors ready to challenge the status quo; agile, born in the cloud startups, primed to meet the needs of investors today. Firms are facing evolving pressures from several angles.

The situation becomes all the more complex because of the nature of counsel wealth managers provide. With over half of UK investors stating that they don’t really understand the method or process by which their adviser makes recommendations for their investments, it’s increasingly clear that greater transparency is needed. And in fact, it’s now required by new legislations such as MiFID II. But with advisers still operating in silos and often lacking the modern tools to collaborate seamlessly with clients, there are hurdles to overcome – from a client and regulatory perspective.

A reimagined experience

When we take all this into consideration, we can draw one resounding conclusion: it’s time for traditional financial services firms to wake up and become customer-centric. Priorities must shift to the front office, with an emphasis on supercharging the client experience. Financial advisers must be empowered with a single-view of their customers, in order to deliver a reimagined experience and stay ahead of rising competition.

Wealth management teams need to be able to access and collaborate around their most valuable customer data, wherever they are and whatever device they’re using. But to do this, they need the tools that not only make them more productive, but also help them listen carefully to each client’s goals, interests and preferences.

A new era in financial services

Being able to consistently offer 1-to-1 personalised client engagement simply isn’t possible without a modern cloud-based IT backbone. Legacy systems, no longer fit for purpose, keep customer information in silos and hinder collaboration. In addition, instead of focusing on driving the innovation that will help keep clients satisfied, IT teams instead are burdened by having to ‘keep the lights on’.

Underpinning the tools which help firms to deliver an improved customer experience is the platform. With a strong platform in place, firms will be able to build these tools and applications on top – often tailored for the specific needs of their client-base. Firms and advisers open to adopting more modern ways of business will reap the benefits of deepening their existing client relationships and more effectively cultivate new ones, by being better positioned to understand, and eventually predict, their clients’ needs.

What are the most helpful tools?

As every client expects a VIP experience, each and every time they engage with your organisation, having a single customer view is absolutely essential. Firms need to be able to capture customer data across all channels, digital and physical.

As importantly, all client-facing staff need to be able to access critical client insights across devices. In our mobile age, this is especially important. Effective advisers aren’t tied to their desks, and need to be able to pull up glance-and-go insights on their mobile devices.

Why now?

Of course, being an agile, flexible firm in 2016 doesn’t rest solely on the technology itself – cultural adaptation is vital in bringing firms into the 21st century. But in order for advisers to take advantage of the current market opportunity, and fend off disruptive threats, businesses need to invest in innovation.

We’ve seen a sea change in customer expectation and it will continue to evolve. Only by focusing on the future, and how best to serve evolving investor expectations, will wealth management firms retain and build an even stronger client base.

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