AdvisorTech: Turning Prospects Into Clients  | ETF Trends

In a world that’s more technologically-equipped than ever before, where are the holes in the advisor tech stack? That was the subject of the “AdvisorTech Expo” panel hosted by Ritholtz Wealth Management’s Michael Batnick at Exchange ETFs in Miami Tuesday, with a range of advisor tech firm founders sharing their thoughts on capturing prospects and their data to turn them into clients.

Zach Conway, CEO & Founder, Seeds

Seeds looks to offer a more personalized profile for prospects and clients, according to Zach Conway, CEO & Founder, who kicked off the discussion. Advisors should want to deliver a personalized experience to clients that’s specific to them, and that keeps them coming back, he explained, offering companies like Netflix, Spotify, and Youtube as examples of firms that consistently provide personalized services.

“For many of us, it’s more like an assembly,” Conway said of how advisors take on prospective clients.

The investing assembly line right now, he explained, takes prospects’ personal needs and stuffs them into a cookie-cutter portfolio with third-party investment products in an “off-brand PDF proposal.”

“Very often, it’s like I’m speaking French to the client, but I speak German, and then I have to move on to the next in the assembly line,” he added, pointing out that the average RIA firm had net negative revenue growth over the past five years.

In developing Seeds, Conway looks to build a multi-dimensional profile to better understand advisors’ clients, but with customization that can be scaled to save time and use engagement to retain more clients.

For example, an advisor may meet with the Crockett Family, who are listed in a dashboard; advisors can access an assessment to complete with the client in the first meeting they have. The advisor can ask the family about how much risk they’re comfortable with, how much risk they need to take to meet their objectives, their financial goals, and more.

“I want to know if he’s more of an emotional or analytical thinker,” Conway said of James Crockett, a member of the family in this case. Seeds prompts the advisor to ask how the client sees things like conventional wisdom about investing: whether they’re traditional or someone who would call on a Saturday to sell their stocks and buy NFTs.

Finally, the Seeds assessment tries to assess client values, not on a thematic basis but instead ranking preferences like climate protection or waste mitigation.

Taken together, that produces a personality mindset for the advisor to share with the client. In this case, James is a “scorekeeper,” measured on approach, perspective, and mentality. Seeds then populate graphs comparing what James Crockett currently owns compared to what might be the portfolio that fits his “scorekeeper” investing personality. Sales cycles can be cut from months, Conway said, to minutes, thanks to Seeds.

Matt Glazer, head of product at Elements.

Matt Glazer, from Elements, proposed to the panel audience that growth is the number one challenge for investors. Growth is all around us, but it’s too difficult to capture, he said, with advisors asking too much of potential clients or investors. A potential client may ask for advice on whether they should refinance, for example, but most advisors need a ton of information before they can adequately answer that, which gets between client and advisor.

“(The average person) is more likely to talk to you about their sex life than money, but as soon as we meet them, we’re asking for returns,” Glazer said.

In a case study, one potential client asks if they should refinance from a 30-year to a 15-year mortgage. An advisor may set up a potential meeting but ask for 52 documents before it can happen and require their spouse to join. That’s hard, Glazer said, adding that booking a consultation also adds unnecessary work.

Elements is an app that can provide clients with their financial vital signs as though they’re at the doctor, entering just a few pieces of information that then gets them a data dashboard that can give both adviser and client a view into what options the client may have. Those data points are the “elements” like savings rate, tax rate, estate status, and more, which provide information that’s current and not distanced over a multi-decade span.

“(Elements) can unblock them emotionally, helping them understand the value of a good enough answer compared to a world of uncertainty,” Glazer said.

Julie Littlechild, founder & CEO at Absolute Engagement

Absolute Engagement and its founder & CEO, Julie Littlechild, are focused on finding out what clients feel without requiring onerous surveys. Deeper engagement is the focus for advisors, Littlechild said, and for those advisors wanting to go from satisfaction to more profound engagement, they need to go beyond just meeting expectations to create an experience that is directly responsive to the needs, challenges, and even feelings of their prospects and clients.

“I think we need to acknowledge that feelings, concerns, and challenges are very unique to individuals,” she said. “Feelings are also very fluid. How I feel today may be different than when I go meet my advisor next week.”

The Absolute Engagement Engine, Littlechild said, reveals feelings, needs, and preferences and aggregates them into trends and metrics, allowing advisors to respond in a more personalized way. That empowers advisors across the client journey, she explained.

“We know the problem we have today is that prospects are visiting advisors’ sites and leaving,” she said. “What we’re able to do is integrate the Engine right onto the website.”

In one example, website visitor Jane is offered a “digital handshake” with two to three questions which generate a lead report to the advisor and equips them to reach out and know exactly what concerns a prospect has. In picking a meeting time, the prospect is sent to the page for the advisor they’ll meet, introducing the advisor to them and asking for a few more pieces of information. The completed report is then usable by both prospect and advisor via the prospect’s profile.

“Too often, the review meeting agendas are stale and may not reflect what the client really needs to talk about,” Littlechild said about a different type of client meeting. The advisor can respond to a client looking for a review meeting with a poll that’s baked into the meeting booking process, she explained, that can cover important information that can get missed in the meeting agenda as normally structured.

Finally, the data gathered from those integrated data-gathering opportunities like polls can measure overall satisfaction, clients at risk, whether they might offer a testimonial, or which clients who are feeling low in confidence and need support.

“We can automate authenticity not to replace the advisor but to make it easier,”  Littlechild said.

Chris Field, chief growth officer at Holistiplan, also spoke to the crowd of advisors about their software, which generates a detailed tax report from client tax returns. That report helps advisor quickly see the key generated observations that can guide advisors in developing a financial plan for clients. Also speaking was Josh Smith, co-founder & CEO of VRGL, a company that looks to accelerate decision-making for wealth management clients with institutional-grade analytics.

For more coverage of the Exchange conference, please visit VettaFi | ETF Trends.