Let’s say you’re buying a new smartphone. You initially go to a big box retailer and find 20 different options with various features, and there’s nobody there to help explain them to you or help you make a decision. So you leave and go to a store that specializes in phones, like an Apple or Verizon store, where someone immediately greets you, listens to your needs, helps you find the right option, and even gets you trained and setup. Where would you be most likely to purchase your new smartphone?
About three-quarters of advisors treat onboarding as a back-office function that should be cost-contained, which is a lot like the big box retailer’s approach to selling smartphones. The remaining quarter of advisors view onboarding as a way to stand out from the competition, which is a strategy that Apple has used to become wildly successful. Where does your firm lie on this spectrum?
In this article, we will take a closer look at how onboarding works and some strategies you can use to stand out from the competition.
How Onboarding Works
Most firms have an onboarding process that could probably be described as “dysfunctional” – a loose set of processes that may differ from client-to-client, which can prove costly in terms of lost sales, inefficiencies, and exposure to regulatory risk.
A typical onboarding process involves three steps:
- Discovery Meeting – The discovery phase helps you understand the client’s needs in order to develop a plan that fits those needs and typically includes things like risk assessment surveys and data aggregation. Without this step, there might be a mismatch between a client’s risk tolerance and their actual portfolio risk, or a client may not have enough assets to meet a minimum threshold.
- Account Opening – The account opening phase involves collecting a client’s signature on key documents and storing those documents for compliance purposes. Aite Group found that 70 percent of advisors still required a wet signature as a part of this process, while a quarter of advisors didn’t use document management technologies. Without these in place, the account opening process can be tedious and fall out of compliance.
- Setup Phase – The setup phase involves meeting with your team to formulate a plan for the client, conveying the plan to the client, and training the client on how to access information using any online tools. You may also need to follow-up with the client to fill in any blanks that were missed during the discovery phase. A failure to communicate effectively during these stages can lead to confusion on the part of the client.
Improving the Process
Aite Group found that only 40 percent of advisors have plans to become more competitive in onboarding, which creates an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from the competition. These improvements come from a combination of process and technology optimizations, which work hand-in-hand to create a seamless experience for the client, less time and cost for advisors, and lower risk of running into compliance issues in the future.
There are three steps to improving your onboarding process:
- Plan – Coordinate with your team, either in-office or outsourced, to let them know what’s working and what’s not in your current process. Advisors should provide positive feedback to the team based on their experiences and the entire team should come up with a way to address any concerns and improve their processes.
- Document – Document the entire onboarding process that you’ve planned in the first step and ensure that someone is accountable for each step. This way, you can ensure that the onboarding experience is streamlined and the same for every client, while leaving no room for ambiguity in roles or outcomes. You can also better identify ways to improve if the starting point is a consistent process.
- Feedback – Gather feedback from both advisors and clients following each client onboarding and calculate relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) on a regular basis. Sales KPIs might include the percentage of prospects that open an account, or the number of products sold during the first six months. Operational KPIs might include the number of applications that were not in good order or the cycle time from account opening to account funding by the client.
Technology can help streamline these processes. For example, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions like Salesforce can be used to automate the entire onboarding process workflow and ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. Salesforce workflows can automatically assign tasks to the right personnel, while adding key meetings to calendars and sending notices to the clients. We have a survey tool our advisors can easily use for this purpose, or Google Forms, Wufoo, or Survey Monkey can also help collect client feedback.
Sawtooth’s Onboarding Tools
We have designed our Unified Managed Account (UMA) platform for advisors to adhere to these best practices, while maximizing the use of technology to streamline processes.
Our prospecting and lead generation tools enable you to gather information about potential clients and develop models to fit what those clients need. With this information in hand, our proposal generation technology presents a personalized plan for each client to help bring them into your firm. These workflows ensure that you’re not missing any steps, while they’re customizable enough to incorporate any feedback that you’ve received from clients.
After winning a client, our platform provides a comprehensive onboarding solution. Our support team is staffed with operational experts that are fluent in the wealth management industry. We will walk you through each step of account opening and help you set up accounts in the most efficient manner possible for each unique custodian workflow. The Sawtooth platform simplifies all that paperwork by making it fully digital. Everything from writing a proposal to getting client signatures on account opening documents is digitized, so you don’t have to set up a meeting or send a letter via snail mail every time you need a signature. Our goal is to take these tasks off your plate to let you focus on building relationships that truly matter.
We also go beyond account onboarding and extend into everyday operations. Our flexible and accurate billing processes can help save you time and money versus taking a do-it-yourself approach. We can customize these billing processes to meet your exact requirements and make your transition to Sawtooth as seamless as possible. Again, the goal is to free up your time to focus on building relationships rather than worrying about operations.
The Bottom Line
Onboarding new clients should be viewed as a way to differentiate your firm rather than being an afterthought. By using the processes and tools covered in this article, you can set yourself apart from the three-quarters of other firms that may be dropping the ball when it comes to delivering a consistent and high-quality onboarding process.
If you’re interested in learning more about Sawtooth, contact us today for a free consultation and demo to learn how we can help you.