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  • Keena Pettijohn

Ready or Not!

Updated: May 25, 2020

The Industry’s Digital Moment Has Arrived


To paraphrase Dickens, it is the worst of times and the best of times.


No one can deny the broker-dealer business and financial services industry is being besieged from all sides – pandemic-bred disruptions, brutal markets, low rates eroding margins, older reps cashing out, rising regulatory expenses – and yet there is more than a glimmer of hope for the firms that can figure out how to monetize digital data.


Time to Up the Digital Table Stakes

Recent world events have exposed all varieties of shortfalls that governments, business, and organizations have been able to camouflage in relatively good times.


Painful lessons have been absorbed the hard way during the Covid-19 lock-down as many firms are realizing that as much as they thought they were delivering on digital customer experiences and communications strategies they simply were not.


As traditional face-to face interaction vanished, electronic points of contact and the digital skills of the front line either fell short and did so at a time when customer expectations are at an all-time high. Customers take for granted and expect an experience that is mobile ready, efficient, and responsive in real time from their Financial Services providers. This highly engaging state of the art is a fintech trifecta that new digital-only companies have already mastered. Customers want a “Amazon” experience with their finances as well.


And for all of the ink spilled lauding the merits of so-called banks without bricks and the many innovations that were there to be adopted, in truth the financial services industry had to be dragged to the brink of the largest digital revolution of our lifetime.


The pandemic and “stay at home” directives have now set the state for a more seismic shift, a pedal-to-the-floor acceleration of trends like automated e-engagements and virtual consults, or basically the entire way we do business. As social distancing behavior lingers not for weeks or months but perhaps years, the shortcomings of firms that have not upped their digital capabilities become further exacerbated.


Firms can still drive their customer-centric approaches over the telephone, and by throwing dollars at producers but there is a more significant opportunity to deliver a superior customer experience – through data.


Woefully Unprepared

Despite repeated industry sentiment giving voice to the importance of upgrading digital capabilities, most firms have not put such initiatives at the forefront. Even as digital competitors such as Acorns ,Robinhood, Betterment, Marcus, FutureAdvisor, and Wealthfront began aggressively nibbling and gorging on the younger demographic that is awaiting the largest wealth transfer ever, awaiting 30 Trillion in Wealth by 2030.*Despite being relentlessly taunted that customer-facing technology and digital tools were essential for fostering client engagement, relationship management and improving operational efficiency -- still most firms languished behind with a false sense of security that there was still enough time to play catch up. Too many of us ignored the possibility that this day would come.


The industry’s traditional players must own up to their woeful lack of preparedness, take a long look in the mirror and then snap into action. As impossible as it may seem, the future is bright. This too shall pass, as the saying goes, as will many billions of dollars be transferred to younger generations and they amass wealth of their own. We have little time to get it right.


The Virtues of Virtual Traffic

So, you have accepted that the events produced by pandemic is not going away quickly -- and that you will not have foot traffic as before.


Do not look back. Instead, look ahead toward the next best thing or even better: digital footprints.


It is time to start leveraging your data to engage with customers in a meaningful way.


Armed with vast amounts of information, each institution can quickly leverage targeted marketing content to determine which products can be promoted to a specific customer.


One of the sayings we enjoy throwing around in the financial services innovation space is "look where they land … and expand.”

Begin with this simple review of your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You have a website with information. Now is the time to apply those SEO techniques to that site whether it is outdated or in a temporary holding pattern while something better gets built. You can easily deploy information from your Landing Pages. Investing in these capabilities is relatively inexpensive.


Take the position that content is cash and begin maximizing your messaging with automated relevant material throughout your website, social media, webinars, and podcasts. Enhance your Conversion from your SEO by targeting the right keywords, improving your site structure, and ensuring that your visitor has the best user experience.


Make certain your virtual traffic has an easier time to convert whether it be a “self-driven” financial plan or loan application and position this organic virtual experience as an additional opportunity to speak with a Specialist, Advisor, or Lender.


Embrace Digital Learning to equip your front line to effectively emphasize, connect, and communicate with Virtual Conferencing, Approved Customer Portals, and Paperless On-boarding and Account opening.


Engage your Tech Partners for 2020 “New Normal” digital strategy

We are know that dealing with hard cold data, no matter how brave and innovative the institution is, comes with a myriad of challenges but now is the right time to leverage technology and technology partners to provide the institution with the “Intelligence” to gather assets and engage their clients. Although “advanced analytics” seems to be the top priority for many financial institutions alike, many out there seem to struggle with how to leverage it and make it work for their business. Review current and CRM software to determine if it provides the “intelligence” to gather assets, engage clients and spark a conversation.


Banks can use data to drive cost efficiencies, improve customer service, support growth initiatives, determine competitive advantages, and deliver that differentiated customer experience they were built on.


In Short, one must harness the power of data to deliver the personalized client experience they expect and equip their employees with customer profiles to identify which products and services are relevant for both virtual and in person transactions. Undoubtedly, the banking, securities, and insurance world has a rich pool of customer information and demographics, that could be unleashed to generate revenue and combat the “Hallway silence”.


Begin to recognize and leverage your value hiding in account data by creating a relationship building process. Your customer centric culture must compliment a process that provides insights and intelligence of your data. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see ways that we could have better prepared for this digital upheaval.


Merely the information contained in institutions’ landing pages could have been shared for education and training; with a sharp increase in online account openings, we could have launched a digital awareness and training campaign for bankers and advisors to comfortably engage customers and prospects in a multitude of venues including video conferencing, automated digital marketing campaigns and relevant content.

The results of recent events are not going away:

We are all learning on the fly – better late than never.

*CB Insights” How to win the next generation of Investors”, June 2019,US Census.

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