PFS president Sarah Lord examines what the advice profession can learn from technology and consumer-facing brands
In the last issue of Personal Finance Professional, I spoke about the power of the relationships we hold with clients as being instrumental to the sustainability of our profession. I have been reflecting further on the importance of client-centricity to enhance existing relationships and forge new ones.
It all starts with truly understanding what clients want and balancing that with what we believe they need. As we all know, often there is a mismatch between the two and it is our role to bring clarity around the value of financial planning at this time.
However, we do still need to listen to what clients want. For a strong and sustainable future, we must continually seek feedback from clients, listen to that feedback and adapt. While I recognise that many businesses these days do seek feedback from clients, either through surveys or client boards, I believe there is still more that can be done to truly understand what clients want from their engagement with financial planning firms, how they want to be communicated with and what experiences will please them.
In general, as a profession, we have become good over the years at enthusiastically declaring that our businesses are highly client-centric – often citing availability of services, longstanding client loyalty or high client service levels as a demonstration of this client-centricity. While there is no doubt that many firms have great client focus, this is arguably not the same as having a client-centric culture. In my mind at least, it is a very narrow definition of client-centricity.
I am a firm believer that we need to continue to develop to ensure that our services and approach are attractive to the next generation of clients
The other perspective, which is demonstrated by technology and consumer-facing brands, is where the focus is on the degree to which clients are truly treated as stakeholders in the business, where their feedback and satisfaction is not just interesting but critical to every aspect of the business’s decision-making. There is a lot we can learn from consumer-facing brands in how they seek feedback, use their data to provide insights and then use this to evolve.
Furthermore, I am a firm believer that we need to continue to develop to ensure that our services and approach are attractive to the next generation of clients, whose needs and wants are typically different to the baby boomer clients that our profession has historically served in the main. The next generation of clients are, in general, looking for a technology-driven, human-enabled service, so the client experience using technology and humans needs to be well balanced to drive better engagement with personal finances and the desire to seek the all-important advice, leading to building the future of longstanding client relationships.
To strengthen and drive the sustainability of our profession, clients should be viewed as stakeholders. Taking the time to truly understand them, recognise their personas and keep them involved as new, strategic initiatives are integrated into the services offered, will drive stronger and more sustainable relationships.
Sarah Lord is president of the PFS