Opening a new account at a wealth management firm can be exhausting. After a client establishes their financial goals with an advisor during their first meeting, collecting the correct paperwork to be filled in by the client and sending the forms can take several business days. Once the client fills in the application, the information must be sent off to be validated by compliance, and signed off by a branch manager. Any errors in the application become a back-and-forth interaction between multiple parties, making onboarding extremely frustrating for everyone involved, and expensive for the firm.
The fact is that investment firms are wasting their time and resources onboarding clients, and clients themselves are ending up frustrated with the process, often abandoning new account applications before they make their first trade.
Onboarding KYC requirements aren’t going anywhere, but what if wealth management firms could process new applications from start to finish in 4 hours (or less) and not use a single piece of paper? Back-office staff could be freed up, advisors could focus on revenue-generating activities, and clients would have a far better experience. This is the competitive advantage onboarding automation offers.
The Problem with The Client Onboarding Process
There are two major processes that cause a headache for advisors and their clients. The first is the initial onboarding of a new client. The volume of paperwork can vary and can require an array of information based on the types of investments being made. Compiling and processing applications is a long and cumbersome process, often riddled with roadblocks along the way. Once the initial paperwork is completed, advisors and clients are unfortunately not done with the onboarding process.
Clients frequently need to fill out and submit additional information to adhere to new financial rules and regulations, and to help compliance and auditors understand risk. This requires advisors or assistants to add new documents to the existing client agreement and have the client sign off on them. This task can cause a world of work and prevents wealth management firms from building more profitable businesses as they scale.
What does a lengthy onboarding process mean for a firm? It means you risk client churn. Studies show that high effort imposed on a client is highly correlated with disloyalty, regardless of the final outcome of the interaction. According to research by CEB Tower Group, 87% of clients attribute their likelihood to switch advisors based on the level of effort they must contribute to maintain their relationship with their advisor. On the other hand, firms benefit highly from providing a great onboarding experience. The same research shows that 63% of client referrals occur as a result of experiencing an excellent onboarding process. Firms need to keep in mind that while the back-office is working hard, clients “do not care about the plumbing”, and this is precisely one of the challenges firms face when maintaining legacy systems (CEB Tower Group, Wealth Advisor Survey, 2015). From a client’s perspective, they’re looking for a platform that can deliver a seamless experience in all aspects of the advisor-client relationship. An automated onboarding system allows firms to quickly adapt to any regulatory shifts in compliance. That way, back-office will be free of external pressures preventing clients from having a smooth onboarding experience.
The Onboarding Automation Solution
Instead of spending precious hours communicating with clients just to ensure paperwork is complete, automated onboarding systems are scalable and time-saving, so financial professionals can spend their time servicing more clients, proposing trades, or prospecting new clients to generate revenue. Onboarding is the first impression that a firm creates for its clients, and it is a critical factor that directly impacts the number of clients that your firm attracts.
By automating the onboarding process, clients can be onboarded in four hours instead of half a month. For example, the Agreement Express platform enables Wealth Management firms to automate their decisioning and risk assessment process, saving thousands of man-hours in the back-office. Onboarding automation improves the client and advisor experience throughout their entire relationship. Updating client files can be done by uploading the new form and sending a new email to all existing clients, and advisors can access a fully auditable book of data records – making adapting to regulatory changes much less challenging.
By automating client onboarding, advisors can focus on growing their business instead of chasing paperwork. In today’s market, streamlining the client onboarding process has become a competitive necessity. As wealth management technology remains stagnant, customer expectations are continuing to increase due to other industries that are improving their client experience. Client onboarding is the first impression any firm creates and it is what sets the tone for your client’s expectations. A great onboarding solution removes any negative pre-conceived notions from a frustrating onboarding experience, reduces form abandonment rates, and ultimately frees up hours for your advisors to provide an ideal client-advisor relationship.