What is it? Why does it matter?
“Let me tell you about the rich. They are different from you and me.”
That line, inspired by an exchange between F.Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway, has been the subject of much confusion and mis-representation over the years. The truth – according to Wikipedia! – is that Hemmingway replied “yes, they have more money.”
Clients of wealth management brands and private banks have more money.
Wealth is what earns customers the right to become highly valued clients. Wealth creates a bespoke set of needs around asset management, privacy and client servicing.
Wealth does not, however, switch off basic human behavior and, in many ways, HNW investors are more similar to you and I than you might think.
It’s tempting for private banks to spin stories about the rich that are grounded in assumptions and myth. Whilst keen, on the one hand, to caricature their clients as different, those same bankers persuade themselves that they can somehow develop propositions and customer experiences that appeal to the ultra-rich… without ever taking the time to ask those UHNW individuals what they really think or want.
Last year, we were engaged, by a top tier international wealth management company – let’s call them Client X –, to conduct a comprehensive client experience audit.
We relished the opportunity because we’ve spent a long time thinking and researching how financial services brands can improve client experience.
We think wealth management brands could learn a lot from a theory known as the Experience Cycle.
According to its creators Hugh Dubberly and Shelley Evenson producers – or brands – are often too quick to focus on creating a ‘sales cycle’ which consists of funnelling potential customers into a transaction. Dubberly and Evenson’s alternative – the ‘experience cycle’ – concentrates instead on mapping the customers’ view of the relationship in a series of phases.
By framing the client journey in the experience cycle, Dubberly and Evenson suggest that designers can better understand what expectations people bring to the experience. The advantage is the potential to develop a deeper and longer term relationship with the client.
In the context of private banking, this means less focus on ‘on-boarding’ and ‘product push’ and more time nurturing and explaining the proposition so that the client actively wants to extend and retain their relationship with the firm.
Client X had already made some progress towards building an experience cycle. They’d developed a program to shape relationships with clients and intermediaries but they needed to know if they’d got it right. They wanted us to conduct a comprehensive client experience audit and measure just how effective their client experience program really was.
The fact that Client X wanted to know probably gives us a clue to the future prospects for that brand. As the cliché goes, true wisdom is knowing what you don’t know… and having the courage to face up to the answers.
The naysayers amongst you might be lining up objections along the lines of “but HNW clients aren’t going to talk to a research firm” or “what customers say is one thing, what they do… that’s a different matter!”
Actually, though, our experience is that UHNW individuals are very willing to offer feedback. Of course, carrying out market research amongst HNW investors is a specialised beast but, done correctly, it offers incredibly valuable insight.
We developed a bespoke project plan for Client X that included the development of guides and questionnaires, digital surveying, phone interviews and analysis.
Our interviews and surveys took clients through the important client experience themes. For example, clients were asked how they felt about the brand, why they choose to stay with the firm and what their likelihood of referring the business is.
Far from knocking on a closed door, the research resulted in 625 staff, client and intermediary responses and the data collected was given to client X in visual and raw data formats.
Turning HNW insight into actionable outcomes that shape the customer experience
The results provided client X with both areas of encouragement and some food for thought.
They learnt that clients found them to be reliable and professional but not particularly flexible or insightful. Client X also found out that over 50% of clients had never been asked for a referral from their relationship manager.
That’s a huge opportunity to grow AUM squandered… and it’s a truth that can only be learnt straight from the client’s mouth.
So that’s one piece of actionable insight, but we wanted to ensure that more were identified and acted on. Wealth management research insights are potentially powerful tools – but they can only go to work if their picked up by those with the power to direct and apply those tools.
We supported client X in putting together some action points based on client feedback. These included:
- The development of new Key Performance Indicators which reflect client satisfaction
- Identification of regional differences in the quality of the company’s customer experience program
- Consolidation of internal customer management system
- Enhancing communication between regional branches
- Targeting of new client segments and opportunities for increased wallet share
In doing so, we revisited some of the theory about customer experience. You see, insight requires both knowledge and understanding.
Our role is to use the correct processes to collect reliable knowledge about how clients, intermediaries or relationships managers act and feel and then to overlay our understanding of the theory of customer behaviour whilst introducing relevant transferrable lessons from other brands both within and beyond the financial sector.
Done well, that combination provides insight that can create a powerful experience cycle that attracts and retains AUM by refining brand engagement right from the attraction stage to the point at which satisfied clients become brand advocates.
We believe private banks need to revisit the theme of client experience. It may surprise some of them how bold clients are willing to be about what they like and dislike.