The Importance of Client Portals for Enhanced Service and Business Growth – Volume 1

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Owen James and Dorsum brought together COOs, CEOs, and leading management consultancy firms from the UK wealth management market to discuss how wealth managers and private banks can successfully implement a digital client portal. The objective was to go through the main benefits, discuss the challenges, and see a ‘real life’ example through Dorsum’s client portal project with Sarasin & Partners; how a portal can help grow business, and what the most important factors are with implementation. This series highlights the most important learnings and experiences that the participants brought into the discussion.

Here are some of our key findings:

  • The three main purposes of these portals are the display of portfolio analytics (92%), document sharing (62%), and digital communication (54%).
  • The main challenges of client portal creation are the complexity of data scattered across numerous systems (54%), and the quality of data (54%).
  • In terms of the future of portals, 92% want to focus on improving client engagement, 38% want to drive self-service, and 31% aim to reach a younger/wider audience.

Context: 

Wealth managers are already using client portals to manage content and enhance client service. In the first section of the discussion, participants were asked about their experiences with client portals, whether they use one or not, and the main functions they cover with their portal. Client portals have become an essential part of the value proposition of wealth management companies. By giving clients the means to access their own portfolio data and analytics, share documents, and communicate with their advisers, wealth managers bring a new layer to the relationship. During the event, COOs and CEOs from the UK wealth management and private banking sector were asked about their opinion on the current status of the industry in regard to client portals.

General insights:

  • All respondents have a functioning client portal, with 77% on both desktop and mobile apps, and 23% using a desktop app only.
  • The three main purposes of these portals are the display of portfolio analytics (92%), document sharing (62%), and digital communication (54%).
  • The main challenges of client portal creation are the complexity of data scattered across numerous systems (54%) and the quality of data (54%). Almost none have any issues with clients not using the portal
    (below 10%), meaning that the demand for portals is present.

Data management:

  • The most difficult data to link to a client portal are suitability information, portfolio performance metrics, and portfolio and look-through data. Suitability information is mentioned by 54%, performance portfolio metrics by 46%, and portfolio and lookthrough data by 30%. Market news and insights and lists of transactions are the least common challenge, accounting only for 8% of all client portal users.
  • 46% of the databases connect/would like to connect to more than four systems, 30% to two to four systems, and 23% to one system only.
  • 77% of respondents find portfolio performance data a significant type of information to display on their portal, and 69% highlighted portfolio look-through information. They also value having news and insights pages, and notifications about events, each of which accounts for under 47% of the responses.

Future plans for client portals:

  • In terms of the future of their portals, 92% focus on improving client engagement, 38% want to drive self-service, and 31% aim to reach a younger/wider audience. Freeing up adviser time, delivering business efficiency, and enhancing compliance are the least popular drivers, each accounting for around 10% of the responses.
  • 61% of surveyed participants are in the process of improving their client portal. 23% are still planning to improve theirs.

Indeed, all respondents have a client portal and are using it for basic functions. Reporting is a focus, particularly within firms facing issues linking suitability and performance data to the portal. This will become more pressing as clients need to have their KYC and suitability reporting recorded, as well as their ESG preferences and broader environmental aspects factored in too. Most are in the midst of making improvements.

Nevertheless, respondents would like to be able to incorporate more complex reporting into their portal, notably look-through reporting, and more sophisticated analytics. Another sought-after feature is a way to publish research, news, insights, and other relevant content to their clients.

But wealth managers are held back by having to bring in data and information from disparate systems making the process complex and fragmented. The way in which this data and information can be brought in, housed, and then presented is a key issue to tackle.

In summary, portals are in use and are being refined to be able to better manage and present the vast swathes of data they deal with. This would point to an operational efficiency play – by removing the need for manual data management processes, the firm can free up resources to focus on higher-value tasks.

 

Client service and experience: 

Our research showed that a client portal is an investment in client experience and retention. This is a much more open way of thinking – wealth managers want to encourage clients to engage digitally. This is the post-pandemic norm, particularly with the younger generation. The challenge is to be able to give a good client experience to all clients.

The research highlighted that digital engagement comes up as a very high priority. Some 80% of millennials want a more personalised client experience and are ready to share data to facilitate that. This feeds into the client portal because suitability information and KYC, plus other contextual information, can help fine-tune the investment proposition and determine the content that the client can access on the client portal.

And this is how you deepen customer relationships, by truly knowing what your customer will like and find relevant. It provides an empathetic base to the relationship and makes it more likely that the client will engage with you to ask questions or discuss content.

However, it is important to acknowledge that digital engagement via a client portal should not be offered as the sole form of relationship management, but as an addition to conventional channels.

Lockdown prompted e-mails instead of paper reports, and this has naturally migrated to the use of a portal – but it is still important to meet the needs of all, including clients who prefer face-to-face meetings. Thankfully, engagement with client portals is overwhelmingly positive, with almost none of our respondents having any issues with clients not using the portal. Meaning that the demand for portals is present.

Essentially, a well-thought-out and userfriendly portal with the right content is a key digital engagement tool for wealth managers. Clients like them and come back to them again and again after their initial use. The question then is how to get the content of the portal as good as it can be – this is the data management challenge!

Stay tuned for the next episodes!

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