By André Guillemin
Market volatility, consumer empowerment, evolving consumer preferences and mobile technology are affecting the way financial planners communicate with clients and deliver their services.
A whipsawing stock market, taxpayers fearful about the costs of an enormous government bailout and dysfunctional credit markets are creating portfolio management challenges not seen in decades. At the same time, nervous investors, anxious retirees and baby boomers concerned about their retirement funds are creating business development opportunities not seen in decades.
For every financial planner, market turbulence means that clients will need more hand-holding. Mobile technologies mean there is an increasing demand for proactive and timely customer service. Combined, these two forces are pushing financial planners to increase their availability and provide client service 24/7.
Transactional services are highly commoditized and basic planning techniques-like strategic asset allocation-are built into many off-the-shelf financial products. With the onslaught of online discount brokers and financial planning software, many consumers don't see the need for a financial planner. Right or wrong, the end result is that it is harder than ever for planners to prove their value to prospective clients.
Planners must show they are more sophisticated, more capable and more understanding of consumers' needs than consumers would be on their own. They must use all the tools at their disposal to connect with clients and spend as much face time as possible with clients to reinforce the personal nature of their relationship.
Evolving Consumer Preferences
Some experts advocate that sellers provide experiences. Experiences create feelings. That's what makes them valuable.
For example, at Starbucks, consumers buy an experience, not just a cup of coffee. The ordering process, the way the coffee is made, the music-come together to create an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. At a spa, consumers buy an experience, not just a hair cut. Soft light, aromatherapy, comfy slippers, and welcoming employees combine for a relaxing afternoon.
Clients also want an experience from their financial planners, not just a financial plan. Consumers value the feeling of security and control that a planner can give them. In the experience economy, clients seek not just a financial planner, but also a psychologist, life coach and trusted confidant. Personal face-to-face communications, a deep understanding of your clients and responsiveness lead to sales and retention in an experience economy, and financial planners are tasked with constantly reinforcing those feelings of trust and security.
Consumers are mobile-at work and in their off hours-and they expect their planners are, too. When clients call after office hours or on weekends, they don't necessarily expect to get you on your office line, but they do expect you to answer your cell phone. That's why mobile financial software connects financial planners to the same client and account information that's on their PCs. The benefit of such software is that planners can handle client concerns and inquiries as quickly and reliably from their mobile devices as they can from their offices.
Planners today are already gaining productivity from BlackBerry, Windows mobile, and iPhone devices. They make calls, read e-mail and check quotes. But these devices are underused, and a vast reservoir of functionality remains untapped.
Comprehensive mobile software unleashes the power of mobile devices. When mobile, planners can perform a number of tasks. They can review client details, look up real-time portfolio information, send literature and respond to compliance alerts without being bogged down by time-consuming inefficiencies and handoffs to administrative assistants; and without stopping at wireless access points to use their laptops. Mobile financial applications are quickly shifting from competitive advantage to competitive necessity.
As a result of these four trends playing themselves out in the marketplace, financial planners are challenged to turn adversity into opportunity. A well-designed mobile strategy is an essential part of doing so.
André Guillemin is the senior manager of market development at Pyxis Mobile Inc. He is a specialist in mobile technology, specifically in applications for the financial services industry. Prior to Pyxis Mobile, Guillemin worked as a financial adviser at Smith Barney. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Tools to Use
Read the Pyxis Mobile white paper series on technologies for wealth management at www.pyxismobile.com/applications or call (781) 997-0300.