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Wealth Managers
Why Wealth Managers Should Never Waste a Complaint

Ask any wealth management firm what are some of their important focus areas for business improvement and it’s almost certain that among their top three will be “customer service” or “user experience.” Firms are trying to move the needle on these key differentiators. The challenge is how to gain objective, accurate and timely data that enables a customer-centric agenda.

Firms need to be able to turn communications data – most of it unstructured and siloed – into meaningful and actionable insights.

Providing personalized financial advice is, quite obviously, a wealth manager’s core activity. However, advisors also spend a lot of their time on client acquisition and onboarding, as well as trying to retain clients. As digital disruption upends business models, time spent on client engagement grows in importance. Advisors and their bosses need actionable insights about client satisfaction, but today there is a gap between the management information that firms need and what they have.

Don’t let a complaint go to waste

It’s unlikely that any reputable wealth manager would ignore a serious complaint, but a wise firm will try to examine its causes. These are not always obvious. A client may well have uttered their dissatisfaction several times, but incremental protestations are easily overlooked. The simple fact is that clients complain in many ways, with varying levels of severity, and through multiple channels. This data is routinely captured – in emails, chat messages, online service portals, and recorded phone calls – and it is a great source of information for firms wishing to understand what most concerns their clients.

Firms need to be able to turn communications data – most of it unstructured and siloed – into meaningful and actionable insights. Today, there is software that can analyze unstructured text and audio data, and automate the process of complaint management. This includes categorizing and prioritizing, assigning the customer complaints to the right person, enriching CRM systems, and new management information about customer groups.

Apart from addressing a customer’s dissatisfaction in that particular moment, being able to analyze complaints helps firms to resolve systemic problems and improve products and services offered to customers. While the technology exists and has been adopted by a few early innovators, most wealth management firms are a nascent stage.

Right tools, right time

Information is at the core of good investing and advice, and wealth managers are fully aware of this. In the last decade especially, there has been an explosion in the volume and velocity of data available to financial services firms. Retail banks have tended to be at the vanguard of using communications analytics to drive next best actions, but have seen this being applied more frequently and broadly across financial services, with tools that help agents resolve issues much faster with pre-formatted responses for frequent queries. The world of wealth management has held back, but given the discerning nature of demanding clients, plus the greater complexity of interactions between them and their advisors, this reticence is understandable.

First movers in this space will gain an upper hand as they use precision information to root out problems and tune their product and services.

As the competitive landscape evolves, better analytics capabilities will be crucial. There is an urgent need for wealth managers to enhance their data strategies. To do this most effectively, firms need to leverage new tools enhanced by AI that can work with traditional customer data sets to identify the hits and misses with regard to every customer. Machines able to learn and adapt to how customers communicate, joining the dots between different interactions, will be able to surface and collate that complex array of data points that describe people, process or product issues long before an advisor is in a position to make the connections. AI-driven tools not only enable managers to quickly action next steps, but also provide the reasoning behind certain customer behaviors so that product and service strategies can be refined. Herein lies a wealth management firm’s future competitive edge.

Consider what can be learned: Complaints can range from dissatisfaction with fees, timeliness of response, or account errors, through to product gaps, quality concerns, and ethical issues. Identifying and categorizing such varied pain points requires a sophisticated and reliable analytics capability, but there are manifold benefits for firms ready to innovate. First movers in this space will gain an upper hand as they use precision information to root out problems and tune their product and services.

The regulatory push

Identifying complaints is becoming a regulatory as well as a business imperative. At the heart of regulations such as the second Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) in Europe is investor protection. Any misjudged actions taken by a financial advisor that are not in a client’s interests or needs can be penalized. Repeated or extensive transgressions risk large fines and even caps on a wealth management firm’s growth.

In this environment, wealth managers must be able to retrace their steps, put down new roadmaps, and deliver value to their clients tangibly. As new rules push wealth managers to cater to the needs of each client holistically, measuring and eliminating customer dissatisfaction is a crucial tenet. Wealth management firms can address many aspects of these directives by simply analyzing customer communications.

This regulatory driver complements those for enhanced customer service and user experience. Unlocking the meaning, intention and emotion expressed in communications can help build insights on behaviors, reduce customer churn, turn risks into opportunities, and reduce regulatory risk. With accessible software in the market that not only sifts through large volumes of unorganized, fragmented communication data efficiently but provides analytics that can valuably inform a firm’s future strategies, wealth managers can adapt to industry disruption and plot a path that builds on their strengths in relationship handling and client service.

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Written By
Isabella Fonseca and Meghna Mukerjee, Aite Group

Isabella Fonseca and Meghna Mukerjee are both senior members of Aite Group’s Wealth Management team.

Isabella has over 20 years of experience as an international consultant, advising banks, brokerages, asset management firms, insurance companies, and technology firms on business, product, and technology strategy. She has been widely quoted in major publications, including the Financial Times, American Banker, Wall Street and Technology, Azienda Banca, Bank and Technology News, Waters Technology, Bloomberg, and Dow Jones.

Meghna researches and writes about regulatory and digital shifts impacting wealth managers, private banks, independent asset managers, and family offices across Europe and the Asia-Pacific. She also writes about private banking business models and market opportunities. Most recently, Ms. Mukerjee was the global editor of Private Banker International magazine, and has published work in New Statesman, The Daily Telegraph, and The Sunday Times.