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Should you ask your clients if they want a client portal

A faster horse …

Most of us are not experts at technology and rolling out a new system even for internal use is challenging enough. When that system is going to be used by your clients then it’s doubly important to get it right and deliver them a system they’ll want to use.

Do you ask your clients if they want a portal and what it should do?

Access their investments? Access their bank accounts? See their reports online? Communicate securely with you? etc.

The answer to all these questions is unlikely to herald any great insight into what your clients want. They can already do these things but don’t generally bother.

If you’ve introduced a portal to let them check their investments then except for the odd client, after a couple of months, they’ll have forgotten their login details. If you send a report through a secure gateway, they’ll struggle to open it and ask you to email it to them.

So why bother? 

Because, if you get it right, you can make incredible efficiency savings and manage more clients, more easily and more profitably whilst delivering them a better service that will complement your financial advice.

Nigel Bromwich, Bromwich Financial Planning “We’ve had a 35% reduction in office expenditure thanks to moving from paper and email to secure digital communication.

Put yourself in their shoes …

The best product companies on the planet don’t ask “What do you want?” or “Would you use this X product that you haven’t even tried yet?”.

Do you think Coca Cola did loads of product research before developing Coke?[1] They now do loads of research and yet have to play catch-up to innovative companies like Fever-Tree who just wanted a really decent tonic in their G&T[2].

If you think about the problem from your client’s perspective, what would you want to help you manage all your finances?

Now, your first answer should be a great financial adviser but we’ll assume you’ve already got that covered. But here’s the rub as a financial adviser you only look after one half of what I consider my finances. You look after the investments, savings and pensions and maybe health insurance and life assurances. I’ve still got loads of ‘financial’ stuff, to look after – my house, other properties, cars, boats, pets, kids cars, etc.

So, if I’m your client what would the ideal financial app do for me? Well it might do something like the following –

  • Track my investments, savings and pensions.
  • Track my property and related insurances.
  • Track my income and spending.
  • Stores all my paperwork so I can find it easily, especially in an emergency.
  • Provide a convenient and secure way of communicating with you.
  • Give me a gentle nudge when I need to do things.

Douglas Croft, Andrews Gwynne “moneyinfo allows our clients to keep track of what we are doing with their finances, they’ve found that really rather valuable.”

It’s a load of hassle so why bother.

Get it right and you can super-charge your advice business because a well implemented client portal will –

Deliver a cleansed and automatically updated client database.

Carly Shute, Clifton Asset Management “One of the unexpected key benefits for the business has to be that our staff, especially the advisers, are able to log in and get information at their fingertips rather than waiting days for valuations to arrive. With multiple assets in pension schemes the ability to access this data from various parties at the click of a button saves a lot of time.”

Replace paper and postage.

Samantha Teale, Andrews Gwynne “We have moved all client correspondence away from post and email except in the cases where a provider won’t accept electronic signature.”

Take personal data from insecure email (great for GDPR).

Toby Ellington, Equilibrium Asset Management “Traditionally, we communicated with clients through post and email. That wasn’t secure, so we decided to introduce the moneyinfo portal as the standard way of communicating with clients. We prefer sending the correspondence through the portal including quarterly reviews, suitability reports, newsletters and factfinds. Clients get a notification to let them know when its arrived, so they are not hanging around waiting for something to arrive in the post.”

Offer a secure and efficient process for onboarding, client reviews etc.

Samantha Teale, Andrews Gwynne “It’s a much better client experience than previously and helps clients see the benefits of our app right from the word go. We recently onboarded a new client from Australia, including completing his SIPP application within 24 hours which was absolutely fantastic and would have taken weeks before moneyinfo.”

Automate your report delivery.

Alan Beaney, RC Brown Investment Management “One of the key benefits for us is secure electronic delivery of all our reports, which are placed in a folder and distributed automatically to clients. Clients get a notification on their mobile (or email) that they have a new report.”

Provide accurate information for cash-flow planning.

Transaction data can be pulled directly from the client’s bank accounts, credit cards and store cards to provide accurate income and expenditure data.

Build a relationship with your next generation of clients.

You may have the odd client who resists the move to digital, they won’t be under 75! You do the maths …

What your clients want really does matter …

If you think about a client portal, the ‘client’ bit really is quite important. Not much success will be gained in rolling out a portal that your clients don’t use. So be aware, not all portals are the same …

Robert Clark, R C Brown Investment Management “We did have a client portal previous to working with moneyinfo and as one of our clients described it – It’s like moving from black and white TV to Ultra HD with how the moneyinfo portal looks compared to the old version.”

And if you’re thinking of introducing a client portal, you’re still using the wrong word. Your clients want an app, they don’t want to have to log-in through a computer. That’s so last decade!

Mark Hird, Equilibrium Asset Management “A mobile presence is extremely important, less and less clients are using PCs to access their account online, allowing clients to access valuations and documents in the palm of their hand is very beneficial to the business.”

Aim small, miss BIG!

Some firms only roll the app out to their top clients. Cost is normally the issue but you only get the big benefits, if all your clients are using your app to communicate. You may have the odd one who doesn’t have a smartphone but they’re a dying breed, so get the benefits by standardising your processing through the portal. It’s the way you do business, from on-boarding clients and client reviews to estate planning.

Do the ‘real’ thing …

Focus on delivering your clients an app that they want to use and do your client research by piloting your app on a small group of clients, just like Dr Pemberton, to check you’ve got it right, and aim big … as the benefits of going digital far outweigh the pain.

I’ll leave the last word to Alan Beaney of R C Brown Investment Management “We are offering clients something special which differentiates us and at the same time we have cut down massively on our paperwork. In our own case, what we have saved on postage and printing has already covered our annual licence fee, regardless of all the other benefits such as separate tailored views for portfolio performance etc.”

[1] Dr John S Pemberton invented Coca‑Cola on 8th May 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia. He tried it out on customers at his local chemist, Jacobs' Pharmacy, where it proved so popular it immediately went on sale at five cents a glass.

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/coca-cola-schweppes-relaunch-fever-tree-fentimens-2017-10?r=US&IR=T

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