Financial advisors can leverage the use of mobile wealth management apps as a means to increase client engagement and improve customer satisfaction, according to a new study by data analytics and consumer insights firm J.D. Power. Clients are more satisfied the more they use digital tools like mobile apps and websites, research showed.
“Apps should be promoted as a means to increase engagement and connections with clients. Smartphones are a big part of almost everyone’s daily life,” Craig Martin, executive managing director and global head of wealth and lending intelligence at J.D. Power, said.
At the same time, human interaction remains valuable and should be used in conjunction with digital tools as “firms that get the digital formula right are positioning themselves for long-term success.”
An increasing number of professionals across a range of industries have expressed concern about digital tools like AI “stealing” their jobs. However, Martin suggested that this study shows how advisors can look at digital innovation as an opportunity rather than as competition.
Satisfaction in ‘lockstep’ with app use
J.D. Power’s study found that, overall, clients were fairly satisfied when they accessed a wealth management firm’s digital platforms.
On a 1,000-point scale, the average satisfaction score for mobile apps was 776 while the average score for websites was 738.
Additionally, younger clients were more likely to be satisfied with digital tools. Gen Y and Gen Z clients strongly preferred to communicate through digital means, with 56% preferring it for advice, 59% preferring it for planning and 74% preferring it for service.
On the other hand, Gen X and baby boomer clients strongly preferred direct human interaction for both advice and planning.
However, as a whole, overall satisfaction “increased significantly” the more often clients interacted with digital platforms.
The overall satisfaction score for participants who use their firm’s app daily was 798. In comparison, the satisfaction score for those who only use the app once a year was 745; and the score for those who never use the app was 701.
Advisors see digital tools’ success
Several financial advisors told InsuranceNewsNet that they have had success when using apps to connect with their client base. As such, some said the results of J.D. Power’s study are “not surprising.”
“We have found that many clients enjoy being able to quickly log in and view their assets and performance…without having to pick up the phone or log onto a computer,” Michael Ashley Schulman, founder and CIO of financial services firm Running Point Capital, said.
The flexibility, accessibility and ease offered by apps can also help financial professionals and firms tap into new markets and connect with new clients, Erika Kullberg, an attorney and personal finance expert, pointed out.
“With the proliferation of investing apps, it’s so much easier for people to start investing, especially if they’re new to investing,” she said.
Linda Chavez, founder and CEO of independent brokerage Seniors Life Insurance Finder, said she has found digital platforms useful both as an advisor and as a client.
“As an advisor, digital platforms allow me to better serve my clients by providing real-time updates on their finances and making it easier for us to collaborate on financial decisions,” she said. “As a client, these platforms have made managing my finances less time-consuming and allowed me to have more control over my money.”
Interestingly, J.D. Power conducted a study on advisor satisfaction with asset management websites earlier this month. That study confirmed that the digital experience has just as much of an impact on advisor satisfaction as it does for clients.
Human element irreplaceable
While acknowledging the immense benefit digital platforms can bring, financial professionals emphasized the value of human interaction not just for older clients but on the whole.
Kullberg, for instance, noted that while a mobile app can serve as a great starting point, “the human element cannot be replicated in an app.”
Martin likewise emphasized the importance of bridging human interaction with digital tools.
“The key is to define the role the technology plays in the relationship and demonstrate how the advisor can be more valued and trusted by empowering customers with the technology and using it to enhance their value,” he said.
“Financial advisors or professionals who are providing clear value to their clients have little to fear about tech taking their jobs. People still value a personal relationship that AI or technology can’t replace.”
The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Wealth Management Digital Experience Study was part of a series that aims to assess the digital experiences of both clients and advisors.
It surveyed 6,217 full-service and self-directed investors between June and August 2023, assessing firms based on factors like visual appeal, navigation, speed and information/content.
Rayne Morgan is a Content Marketing Manager with PolicyAdvisor.com and a freelance journalist and copywriter.
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