Financial technology – especially client portals ¬ can have a profound impact on financial planners and their clients, according to a recent study. However, the research emphasizes that access to technology alone is not enough. Instead, it is how financial planners use client portals that drives transformative outcomes for their clients and businesses.
“The development of technology solutions has grown exponentially in recent years to serve the needs of financial planners and their clients. Technology has played a critical role in connecting me, as a financial planner, more meaningfully to my clients while connecting them to critical information,” said 2023 FPA President James Lee.
“This research with our partners at eMoney Advisor doesn’t just highlight that connection, it quantifies it and provides the rationale for every planner to consider the role of technology in their practices,” he said, referring to the research study conducted by eMoney Advisor and the Financial Planning Association.
Benefits the techology
The study, which surveyed 849 financial planners from diverse backgrounds and business models, demonstrates that the value of a client portal extends far beyond mere operational efficiency. While many financial planners use technology for streamlining processes, those who leverage client portals effectively realize a range of benefits that significantly impact their clients’ financial well-being and drives better outcomes that are related to client trust, anxiety, motivation, referrals, and loyalty.
“At eMoney, we’ve known that technology transforms the planning experience for quite some time. However, this study identifies the particular ways in which a client portal strengthens trust, motivation, loyalty and other key components of the planner-client relationship,” said Emily Koochel, manager, financial wellness, eMoney Advisor. “It’s clear that consistent use of a client portal is an action all financial planners can take to drive better outcomes for their clients and their businesses.”
Use of portals by “power users”
The survey looked at “Portal Power Users” – defined as those planners who are using a client portal, believe technology is important, and have more than 40% of their clients actively using the portal. Among their key findings:
Reduced Financial Anxiety: The research found that 74% of Portal Power Users indicated that their clients are experiencing less financial anxiety. Having easy access to their financial information and ongoing communication with their financial planners through the portal makes clients feel more in control and at ease.
Client Trust: A remarkable 80% of financial planners identified as Power Users reported a substantial increase in client trust. Clients who engage with these portals feel more confident in their financial decisions and in the guidance their planners provide.
Increased Client Motivation: Among Power Users, 68% noticed a significant boost in client motivation. The portal’s interactive features and real-time capabilities help clients stay engaged with their financial goals and progress, leading to greater motivation to achieve them.
Client Referrals: An impressive 67% of Powe Users reported increased client referrals. Satisfied clients who benefit from the enhanced communication and transparency provided by client portals are more likely to recommend their planners.
Client Loyalty: 63% of Power Users observed an increase in client loyalty. The ongoing engagement facilitated by the portal fosters stronger relationships between planners and clients, resulting in higher client-retention rates.
Higher Client Satisfaction: More than half (55%) of financial planners surveyed reported that their clients’ satisfaction levels had increased significantly since they implemented client portals in their practices.
The client portal is an extension of the financial advisor and presents an organized, secure all-in-one view of the client’s financial life, Koochel pointed out. It serves as an engaging and collaborative tool for clients to use when working alongside their advisors and when reviewing financial plans on their own.
To help promote adoption of these portals, Koochel said that advisors should introduce them at the beginning of any relationship and encourage consistent use of its features, such as:
- Account aggregation, which lets clients connect and consolidate their account information for a comprehensive up-to-date look at their finances.
- Goal tracking, a configurable feature that advisors and clients can use to set and track progress toward multiple financial goals.
- Document storage, which presents secure storage and a single point of access to clients’ important financial, legal, and planning documents.
- Registration and onboarding, which can be automated through the portal to collect important introductory information and gives clients an opportunity to begin exploring their financial lives and familiarize themselves with the interface.
- Real-time views of clients’ financial pictures available in the portal can drive the client to adopt regular check-ins and foster collaboration with their advisors.While each of these features is important, Koochel explained, they are not fully realized without consistent use by both advisors and their clients. “Financial advisors should take time to showcase the capabilities of the client portal during meetings and assign tasks for their clients in the portal to get them in the habit of signing in and becoming an active participant in their financial plans,” she said. “We know it’s worth the effort, as our research indicates better outcomes for both advisors and their clients when the portal is in use.”
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial services industry. She formerly served as editor-in-chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at [email protected].
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