One could argue that virtually everything one does, and does not do, influences thinking and decisions, so where are the boundaries?
By Cyril Tuohy
In the C-suites of the nation’s largest wealth managers, chief information officers and their information technology departments are planning the future of what they want their retail financial advisors to see on their tablets and desktops.
Data-related decisions made at the institutional level of wealth managers are important because they have an impact on how fast and how clearly advisors present information to their clients at the retail level – in their clients’ homes, in an advisor’s office or at the coffee shop. An effective use of data can lead to increased sales. Financial services companies are still honing their methods for sharing information – what, how and when they share with clients.
Are rates of return presented through tables, charts or graphs? Can an advisor show an annuity portfolio as part of a client’s overall household net worth? When clients ask advisors to run a model scenario with asset value changes, can the advisor enter the conditions under which the values change?
Do advisors have access to all this information clearly, in a matter of seconds, and in inclement weather when wireless connections are spotty?
In the next 12 to 18 months, progressive financial institutions are expected to add new sets of data, specialized software and dedicated staff, according to Celent analyst Bill Fearnley Jr. in a new report on customer analytics in wealth management.
Fearnley recommends wealth managers establish a data repository to provide “a 360-degree” picture of the customer accessible to the advisor, the call center customer service representative and the branch teller.
Wealth management companies launching “promising pilot projects” should ensure more than one business unit or group within the institution can take advantage of the pilot, he said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet. Wealth managers should add nonfinancial data – anything from call transcripts to field notes – to customer profiles, he said.
As every advisor knows, context and timeliness about what kind of data advisors have access to and when, is critical. Advisors want to offer a retirement solution to clients in or approaching retirement. Advisors need to mention college savings strategies for clients with college-bound children.
The explosion in the amount of data available to wealth management institutions through social media, or through transcribed call center recordings offer a goldmine of information, particularly to companies with analytics infrastructures capable of exploiting the resource.
Fearnley said it’s important to think about the data explosion in terms of volume, velocity and variety. More information is available than ever, and that information is coming at people faster and from a broader range of sources.
Categorizing and organizing all this data isn’t the job of retail financial advisors. But it’s helpful for them to know what their wealth management firms are dealing with, and what their employers are thinking about as enterprise-level technology capabilities eventually trickle down to the retail advisor level.
Fearnley’s report identifies three major types of customer analytics: descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics.
Descriptive analytics explore and describe the past and the present, while predictive analytics try and predict the future, or present scenarios based on certain variables. In many ways it’s the data analysis used in prescriptive ways that offer the most exciting glimpses into what the future holds for advisors looking to upsell and cross-sell – prescribe – products to their clients.
Fearnley said the way to think about prescriptive analytics is to think of the next best offer for a client. Prescriptive analytics help advisors find the best solution for the firm, the client and the financial advisor, he said.
Prescriptive analytics are not new, but they benefit from new types of data generated by many different information channels in the marketplace.
Clients who tweet comments or post reactions on Facebook about how they are active in social causes leave clues for wealth managers and their advisors about how those clients are more likely to be better prospects for social investment products, Fearnley said.
In addition to benefiting call centers and branch representatives, prescriptive models are used to meet the needs of customers accessing accounts through self-service channels online or through ubiquitous mobile apps.
The online channels are favored by the mass-affluent market segment and represent important future growth areas for wealth managers as young investors in their 20s, bred on the Internet, accumulate assets and expect their advisors and the institutions they represent to be online, as well.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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