Client experience in wealth management: the battleground for growth?

Jos Martens, Senior Business Development Manager

The perception of client experience’s importance has changed dramatically over the past five years with a shift in focus from the back-end and compliance to the front end in a quest to retain existing clients and attract new ones.

The struggle is real: research by Ernst&Young says that up to a third of clients will change their wealth manager over the next three years. Stats by Compeer – provider of benchmarking information for the wealth management industry –  are even more daunting. The research shows that up to 60% will consider leaving in the next 12 months if significant improvements to client experience are not made.

We think that this is the main battleground to retain and attract clients. Giving clients the feature-rich experience they want and deserve will influence whether they stay or go. Clients want a rich client portal that affords them all the features and functionalities they enjoy in their day-to-day lives in other areas, like Netflix or Amazon. Personalisation is key. They want a portal that recognises them, knows what they like and do not like, where their interests lie, and pushes them research and notifications accordingly.


Most wealth managers are aiming to improve their hybrid operating model. This process has been accelerated significantly due to Covid-19. The realisation that face-to-face and remote are not mutually exclusive and that you can have an option-channel provision that will suit everyone on some level is now real and critically important.

Objectway’s recent research with senior executives from financial firms showed that clients, as well, expressed a strong desire to improve their current experience. They stressed the need for a more dynamic portal and personalised interactions with their wealth managers. Digital innovation could enable the wow factor for customers in a number of ways: by making hyper personalised reports or educational information available on the customer portal, automating many back-end processes to allow more time for the investment manager to actually add value to their clients.

The key to unlocking this is segmenting not on wealth, but on what clients want to do over which channel or model. Obviously, those with more wealth tend to have more complex affairs, but they still need to check an address, upload a file, or similar. You do not always need to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

This helps to improve the client experience to attract new customers and retain existing ones. But it also drives efficiency and scale. If the wealth manager has a dynamic system, they are able to deal with a greater number of clients and thus do more with less, adding scale through efficiency.

And this is a principle that can be applied elsewhere, too, notably onboarding. The average time to onboard a client is eight weeks, which takes several stages. At best, it is an inefficient process, and at worst, it turns people away in much the same way as taking a week to turn around a relatively simple query about a portfolio. In addition, the intensity of the workflow, with it being manual, means that the scope for onboarding several people simultaneously is limited – this limits scope for scale.

Indeed, scale is the second part of the equation – it is no use being able to attract and retain clients if the cost to serve remains sky-high. There is a vast opportunity for operations to be improved and for the resulting scale that would be afforded, to add significantly to the bottom line.

Although legacy architecture, not designed with APIs in mind, still abounds, the technology to move on from manual excel sheets and data duplications does exist. So too, does the ability to procure and treat data at the back-end so that it is fit for purpose at the front, delivering customer experience and the ability to scale.
Firms need to be sure that they have true front-to-back integration if they are to win the battle for client experience and scalability.

So, what can be achieved in practice through a client-centric approach? Data from real projects we accomplished for some of our clients show that firms have seen a doubling of digital engagement as measured by use of client portal within 18 months of implementing a dynamic portal, which has also led to an increase of 25% of AUM (far outweighing market increase). Effective digitalisation has also resulted in an improvement of front office effectiveness as measured by more than 20% more clients per front office professional, largely due to automating processes.

We see an industry that will be undertaking some fairly significant technology investment as a means to get client experience capability, and scale. In doing this, wealth managers will buy themselves the ability to win on experience, provide scale, and the correlation between IT spend, and profitability will invert.