One of the reasons we love working with Independent RIAs is because they are independent.
You have a fierce desire to do things your way, which means servicing each client independently, the best way you see fit.
This can drive your operations team crazy, since it feels like there is a different approach for every client – different billing parameters, different meeting cycles, and different reporting requirements.
However, in the world of providing amazing client service, (think five-star hotels, five-star restaurants), the biggest differentiator is personalized service.
This brings one of the biggest challenges to RIAs - how do you provide a customized experience that can be produced for a large volume of clients?
It’s akin to your favorite coffee shop knowing exactly what you're going to order as opposed to having to answer, “What would you like?” each time. When the barista knows you, doesn’t it make a world of difference in how you feel walking into your local coffee shop?
Mass-producing a personalized experience is a wonderful, wonderful problem to solve, because it’s exciting, dynamic and challenging. All it requires is technology, along with the desire to dial it in.
Where to start? Surprisingly, producing a personalized experience always begins with the same question: “What would you like your client experience to be like?” with the expectation that the answer will be completely different for different types of clients.
Are you willing to try a fun experiment with me? Let’s try and answer the same question for two different types of clients:
What would you like “Bob Hasselhoff’s” reporting experience to be like?
Well what do we know about Bob? Bob is a bottom-line kind of guy who is always seeking to poke at what particular asset in his portfolio went down. Therefore, you always like to provide reporting that gives Bob the big picture along with important talking points for you to cover on each quarterly call with him, in addition to embellishing his desire for deep, thoughtful analysis without having Bob obsess.
What would you like “Tony and Jay Buglini’s” reporting experience to be like?
They run a closely held business and have a blended family that includes 529 plans and trust accounts for the kids. For Tony and Jay, you like to provide reporting on business assets differently than their individual accounts. Plus, since they have specific goals related to college savings, you like to provide college fund reporting separate from retirement account reporting.
Given each client is unique, there is likely a different “ideal” reporting experience based not only assets but goals, interest level and personalities.
Think back to our favorite coffee shop analogy and how you like your coffee prepared for you. For example, I feel like skim milk is too watery, and whole milk is too rich, so I like 1% milk for my cappuccino. I also like my coffee extra hot, so it doesn’t completely cool off by the time I’m half way through the cup. I also don’t enjoy requesting my order this way every time I order a cup of coffee because it makes me feel picky. Yet, having my ideal cup of coffee makes me happy.
Now that there’s a phone app for ordering coffee, technology can define my ideal cup for the barista, so the barista always prepares it to my preference.
What does all this mean for client reporting?
Bottom line, to create an ideal client experience on reporting, it’s not realistic to rely exclusively on your team to carry out that vision. Not only will they pull their hair out trying to keep track of all these exceptions to the rules, but the time required to create such an experience, in addition to introducing greater chance of errors, makes it labor and cost prohibitive for many firms to go down the personalized path.
But that doesn't have to be the case. Computers are great at following rules. They just have to know what the rules are.
Imagine having a report definition for each client (or even each client’s portfolio or account if you want to go to that level) associated within their CRM record that also talks to your portfolio management software. This system, called Assemblage, produces a custom tailored report for each client (or client’s portfolio/account as desired), based on the rule set you define.
Not only does Assemblage produce such custom report or reports, it delivers them along with supporting material (be it financial plan output, market commentary. etc.), in the order you would like, and preferred delivery method (secure email, portal or print).
Along with delivery, Assemblage provides the same electronic version immediately accessible to the advisor should the client call with any questions or should the advisor wish to reach out to the client proactively.
Bottom line, in the world of Independent RIAs, reporting does not have to be commoditized, it can be customized. In the end, providing reports that permit you to have more effective conversations with your clients is one of the key outcomes of custom reporting to each client.
Now, if we could just discuss that report over a frothy cappuccino, (that’s extra hot), I’d be in heaven.