Digital is personal: How tech enhances relationships

Remember when the "robo-advisor" was supposed to take over the financial advice industry? It didn't happen, at least not in the way that pundits predicted. That's because high-net-worth individuals like being able to talk to a real person. They value their advisor's ability to explain investments, help them set goals, and talk through their unique circumstances. The personal matters.

But "robo" technology has been revolutionary. Many RIAs now use sophisticated portfolio management software to rebalance multiple portfolios, monitor accounts for trading triggers, and reconcile trades from the previous day in just a click or two. Robo technology is quickly becoming an essential tool for advisors.

Beyond portfolio management, digital tools enable advisors to communicate with clients more easily, share critical information to help maintain trust, free up time to work with clients, and identify and reach out to prospective clients.

Good digital technology doesn't replace relationships. It enhances them.

Two people collaborating and improving their relationship with technology.

Always in touch

A personal relationship means you're there when your clients need you. For many clients, face-to-face meetings or phone calls are preferred. But COVID-19 has shifted expectations, and more than ever, clients see value in video conferencing—especially if they don't live in the same city as their advisor.

Digital tools give you options. If a client calls when you're on a trip with your family, a voice over IP phone system (VoIP) enables you to take the call from your computer or have it forwarded to your cell. If a client wants to talk through options for their portfolio but isn't able to come into the office, a video conferencing system such as Zoom, WebEx, or Microsoft Teams allows you to share a screen and make changes right there in front of them. It's as if your client is sitting shoulder to shoulder with you even when you're thousands of miles away.

Older clients may still prefer in-person meetings over video. A 2020 survey by Broadridge Financial Solutions found that only about 36% of all clients surveyed met with their advisor by video. However, 59% of millennials attended video meetings with their advisor—an emerging client segment that will be increasingly important for firm growth.1 Change is coming. Now's the time to think about how you'll engage with your next generation of clients.

Chart showing that millennials are more likely to meet with their advisors via video.

Brand value through transparency

A well-designed client portal can also help you serve clients better. How? It gives clients a chance to see their accounts, access information such as disclosures and reports, and complete simple tasks. And because you can brand your portal with your RIA's logo, colors, and customized messages, the value of the portal reinforces the value of clients' relationship with your firm.

Clients want to be in tune with their financial picture, but they trust you to do what's right. A client portal is one more tool to help them stay connected to their finances and to see the value your firm delivers.

More time for clients

"All of our decisions about technology come down to one question," says Matt Reiner, Managing Partner at Capital Investment Advisors. "Are we giving our team more time to spend with our clients?"

Paper and manual processes are expensive—not only in staff salaries, but also in opportunity cost. What is your team not doing because they're shuffling paper?

Often, what gets lost is proactive client communication. Are clients making post-pandemic plans that will require a lot of cash? Are social issues changing how they look at their investments? Are new grandchildren changing how they view retirement? If your team is spending a lot of time creating reports, chasing signatures, or entering data, that's time spent not thinking ahead about what their clients need and initiating conversations that can make a difference in their lives.

Technology that automates tasks, moves data seamlessly between systems, and sends out required paperwork automatically can make you smarter and more in tune with your clients. That translates into stronger loyalty and relationships that endure beyond the ups and downs of markets.

Marketing for growth

A 2020 survey by eMoney Advisor found that 84% of Americans favor personalized content when working with a financial advisor, and 42% said they started their search for an advisor online.2

Digital advertising allows advisors to target specific client segments with content that shows the value of working with an independent advisor. But marketing online requires planning, organization, and accountability. It means using tools such as Google Analytics to learn what's working on your website and diving into data from your broadcast email, social media platforms, and more to find out what prospective clients are responding to and what's not gaining traction.

These technologies create a lot of data, but what all those numbers are really about is building relationships. The data is an opportunity to learn about the people who are interested in your firm and to find ways to draw them closer. That might mean creating videos that show a firm's personality or sending personalized messages that address their specific concerns. Or it might mean picking up the phone and continuing a conversation that began online.

The key is to make the technology work for the relationship. Use the tools to do what you do best—connect with people.

"Don't be afraid to adopt new technology," says Jamie Wilson, Chief Operating Officer of Capital Advisors. "Explore what's out there. Is there something that will make the client and employee experience better?"

1.    Broadridge Financial Solutions. "Investor Preferences Undergo Lasting Transformation from Covid-19 Pandemic, Reveals Broadridge Survey," 2020.
2.    eMoney Advisor. "Financial Advisors Need to Amp Up Their Digital Marketing Efforts – New Research Shows," 2020.


What you can do next

  • Discover how Schwab's technology offerings can help your practice deliver exceptional service with less effort.
  • Check out Schwab Alliance, the online and mobile platform designed exclusively for clients of independent advisors.
  • Consider a custodian that invests in your success. If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, contact us to learn more about the benefits of a Schwab custodial relationship.