by Andy Yun , Jim Kearney

Today's Environment

As financial services organizations explore ways to become more agile and grow their businesses, building digital capabilities has become a high priority for most firms. But digital solutions can't just happen "around the edges" of traditional brick-and-mortar models. In order to attract and retain the financial assets of existing and potential clients, firms need to adopt a transformational mindset and build a digital framework for sustained operational and reputational advantages.

The pressures to do so are deep and wide. Client expectations are changing. Increasingly, business as usual no longer works to attract and retain clients who now have growing digital relationships in nearly every aspect of their lives.

The competition is changing, too. Digital disruption is a foregone conclusion, as evidenced by the rise of fintech start-ups and other progressive firms already ahead of the more established brands. Going forward, firms that stick with the traditional model of avoiding risk and growing solely through market appreciation won't be able to compete.

Even being local has lost its cachet as clients go online to find “the best” advisor, planner and banker—regardless of geography. 

Client communications take new, and often multiple, forms. People are coming to expect targeted and customized communication which they now receive from other business relationships—on their mobile devices. This makes it critical to deliver faster industry insights through scalable marketing and digital capabilities. More complex distribution channels require more creative thinking in terms of client engagement. With increasing expectations created by digital and disruptive alternative models, it's essential to strengthen your firm's emphasis on client satisfaction.

For most firms, building an omnichannel-centered operating model is a major change. It's much more than simply having a great mobile banking presence; that's the low bar. People are looking for relationships and experiences with firms that meet them where they are—which is where you want to be.

Point B's Perspective

Unraveling the digital opportunities in front of you requires discipline and expertise. Will your clients access their account information via paper or solely through the cloud? What does real-time information mean: Is it immediate? Or is a 20-minute delay acceptable? How closely will you need to monitor your clients' spending behaviors? Will that strategy require client reminders or positive feedback (i.e., “you put more money into your 401k last month; way to go!”)? These are some of the questions that Point B’s digital experts are helping financial services firms answer now.

Meeting clients on their terms has never been more important—and those terms are in flux. In order to build loyalty and and increase the odds of retaining clients in a dynamic market, you'll want to incorporate digital ways to connect with and empower your clients through more robust channels that are easy to use.

In addition to the client benefits of building a digital footprint, your firm can lower its operational costs and improve efficiencies by implementing digitally-based strategies.

Preparing your organization to thrive in the digital world can seem daunting. A few best practices can provide a strong anchor as your firm navigates the currents:

  • Develop your own digital strategy. No two digital strategies are alike—nor should they be. It’s important to craft a strategy that makes sense for your organization and aligns to your corporate vision. Research shows that 90 percent of mature digital organizations align their digital strategy to the overall corporate strategy.¹ A successful digital program will deliver products that meet your clients’ expectations today, while prescribing a way to harness innovation to differentiate your customer experience in the future. Creating a model that can continually deliver a superior customer experience is crucial to a firm’s longevity. As the standard client experience becomes digital, firms must be able to flex with changing expectations. That includes being able to replace the traditional model of quarterly, face-to-face client meetings with video chats or other digital channels.
  • Build a new operating framework. Digital-wise firms align their internal groups, such as marketing and communications, toward their overall digital growth objectives. It pays to focus on ways to collaboratively identify new technologies and opportunities while balancing the need to deliver faster. Incorporating an agile development model is critical in the digital world.² The structure of your “digital factory” is a key determinant in the quality of your digital product. Delivering a digital transformation effort takes time and expertise. It should not necessarily be considered in the same light as other software development programs, especially when it comes to emerging technologies (e.g., fintech).³ Without a proper playbook and program governance for success, you could struggle to achieve your desired outcomes and miss out on the value that emerging channels can bring to your business. 

The Bottom Line

Digital technology is changing the way we all do business. But it doesn't change why we do business. Keeping your clients' wants and needs in mind and using digital technology to adjust as they change will give your firm a powerful filter for building your digital strategy and the operational framework to drive it.