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Turn Onboarding Into a Data-Collecting Adventure Through Automation

Eliminate errors, bring more joy to clients from the start, and attract more financial advisors to your practice.

Black couple looking at each other over a laptop: automated onboarding
Automated onboarding for wealth firms significantly improves the experience for both clients. [Momo Productions/Getty Images]

First impressions matter. A poor onboarding process can set the wrong tone – for wealth managers trying to grow their assets under management (AUM) — and for clients who entrust their assets to someone new.

Leaders in digital transformation at wealth management firms are seizing on this fact, with nearly half saying their biggest tech investment is in onboarding. On their list of to-dos: shred the paperwork and end the repetitive data entry. How are they making this happen? Automated onboarding and straight-through processing. And that’s not all. They need an industry-specific customer relationship management platform (CRM) to gather the data in one place to make it all work.

The payoff? Happier advisors, more satisfied customers, and improved margins.

Automated onboarding isn’t just about eliminating paper

Onboarding is rarely a process that clients or advisors relish. The forms can be tedious, asking the same questions repeatedly.

Even before the digital revolution, wealth managers could see they were losing business with too many “not in good order” (NIGO) applications, which included disjointed information or incorrectly completed sections. Just as bad, they were losing advisors to other firms with better onboarding technology.

Automated onboarding helps to reduce the pain points for both advisors and their clients. It’s much more than turning mounds of paper into piles of bits and bytes. It’s about eliminating tedious repetition and duplicative manual tasks. And that adds up to improvements in how advisors welcome clients and how they can continue serving them.

The five benefits of automated onboarding with a CRM

1. Increase your speed to value

Trilogy Financial saw an ROI of 147% on its investment in onboarding automation.

Trilogy realized it needed better control of data entry and storage. It automated the client intake process, giving the company the ability to create a rich trove of client data like household members, financial accounts, and goals. The investment paid back quickly, and Nucleus Research estimates Trilogy is reaping an annual ROI of 147%.

2. Attract the employees you want

Positive feedback on the onboarding process could be a powerful lure.

In the past, recruiting has consistently challenged wealth firms: switching firms is a big deal – and it can be a headache. The regulatory demands are stringent. Yet, never has the urgency to recruit been more pressing. An estimated 103,000 financial advisors are likely to retire in the next decade. And 26% don’t have succession plans. 

Positive feedback on the onboarding process could be a powerful lure.

Before they upgraded their systems, RBC says it lost 25% of recruits to firms with better technology. Financial advisors at RBC Wealth Management once needed to access 26 systems to onboard clients. Opening a new account could take between three and seven days. This was a suboptimal experience for advisors and made a poor first impression on clients.

Great systems promote nearly universal adoption. Before RBC upgraded, system adoption was low. Automated advisor onboarding boosts satisfaction and lowers compliance risk.

3. Deliver better client service

For Edelman, automation with a CRM also reduced time spent onboarding employees by 20%, nearly $15,000 saved. Their productivity jumped 14%.

Edelman Financial Engines, the largest US independent advisor, turned its focus on improving onboarding for its 1.33 million clients and 340 financial planners. Electronic forms and e-signatures make it a snap. Clients fill out documents online before their first meeting with the advisor. The planner can review the information and be ready to engage and offer personalized plans during a client introduction. This can lead to greater satisfaction all around.

For Edelman, automation with a CRM also reduced time spent onboarding employees by 20%, nearly $15,000 saved. Their productivity jumped 14%.

4. Improve your regulatory compliance with more reliable data

Better data integrity can lead to better interactions with clients.

Wealth managers must carefully vet their clients to avoid inadvertently embracing clients who have gathered their assets through questionable means. Gathering the proper data for the due diligence behind the “know your customer” (KYC) rule is a top priority for digitization. One 2021 survey reveals that 61% of managers were digitizing KYC, and 71% expected to digitize in the next two years.

This isn’t just a matter of speeding up the review. If you enter data manually, there’s a higher risk of error. This isn’t acceptable for KYC or anti-money laundering rules. Better data integrity can lead to better interactions with clients. Trilogy, for example, says advisors were better informed and able to tailor advice with greater finesse.

5. Boost margins

Wealth management is fighting to protect margins as competition heats up. Automated onboarding saves time and money. It also lowers compliance costs, Capgemini notes in its world health report.

Another bonus: automation makes onboarding faster for advisors and clients — and these savings directly impact your bottom line. The data you collect is cleaner, and when integrated into a CRM, it helps advisors build more profitable practices faster. They benefit from a great first impression, suffer fewer NIGOs, and can personalize recommendations more readily.

Automated onboarding: The first step to a good first impression

First impressions matter, especially if you are looking to forge lasting relationships. The right onboarding technology can make your clients and employees feel you value their time. When you can automate the onboarding process, you skip over the drudgery of manual forms so you can begin talking about what matters most to your clients and employees – a secure future.

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