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Client portals are becoming a prized item on the Australian financial adviser’s service menu, with oversight and security among their advantages. In my recent presentation at the ALPD “How Technology is Driving Global Growth in Advice” the current and future integration of client portals in practices became a key discussion point in follow up questions and the online chat.

Many advisers were seeking insights on best practices for client portal use to integrate into their own advice experience. For the savvy financial adviser, client portals can offer efficiency, boosted client retention, and potential practice growth. The key is using them the right way, and that’s what we get into here.

In today’s reshaped financial advice market, clients are increasingly demanding more visibility and transparency around how their wealth is being managed. It’s a trend that’s unlikely to change, especially as we approach the greatest intergenerational wealth transfer in history.

For advisers, as well as clients, these shifting expectations can have material benefits if managed the right way, translating to better client engagement, improved practice efficiency, client retention and in turn, profitability.

In this article, we discuss how embracing and effectively using client portals can advantage practices and clients alike – but only with the right strategies.

The context: Changing consumer wants and needs

A key component of Michelle Levy’s extensive Quality of Advice Review was the evolving expectations and requirements of consumers in a digital world.

To make financial advice available to more Australians, Ms Levy said she saw a much greater role for digital tools, whether they are paired with human financial advice or used independently.

“I am convinced that digital advice tools can make good quality advice widely available,” she wrote in her final report to the Federal Government.

Furthermore, she saw a broader role for client portals in financial advice of the future.

“Many providers are building apps and online client portals which provide prompts and nudges – these are forms of digital advice,” she wrote. “In many cases they give personal advice now and they will increasingly do so if the definition of personal advice is broadened as I have recommended.”

Amid Ms Levy’s review and the subsequent Delivering Better Financial Outcomes package, another trend was taking hold across Australia: An exponential rise in data security concerns.

Data safety has been a hot topic since hacks at major companies, such Optus, Medibank and more recently, Ticketmaster. Millions of Australians have had their personal details leaked by trusted companies and as a result, are demanding assurances from companies that their information and money is safe.

The demand for secure online transactions is particularly pronounced among Baby Boomers, who have been disproportionately affected by digital fraud. Data from Scamwatch shows Australians aged 65 and over lost more than $121 million to scams last year – more than any other age group.

Here, client portals star once again. They offer clients an extra layer of oversight, which can provide peace of mind that their investments and plans are tracking well. Our evaluation of personal finance insights show clients in their 50s and 60s are the most active users of client portals, with almost double the usage of their counterparts in their 20s and 30s.

Benefits of client portals for advisers

While client portals are primarily designed as a tool for clients, as the name suggests, they also bring significant advantages to advisers and practices who adopt them.

For advisers who have embraced client portals, efficiency and time gains are often among the first, noticeable advantages. With useful information presented on clients’ dashboards, advisers often find themselves fielding fewer questions about portfolio performance, which allows them to focus on strategy and goals.

Over the medium to longer term, this can lead to better client retention and engagement – as clients become more actively involved in the strategies advisers are implementing. Retention and client base growth can also lead to better profitability at a practice level.

Tackling barriers to client portal usage

Despite the numerous benefits of client portals, some clients still express hesitation. In some cases, this may be because of their relative novelty in financial advice; in others, it may be because they have a more preliminary understanding of a client portal’s utility. Below, we’ve outlined some of the more common barriers we’ve encountered and how to address them.

• Clients have limited understanding of how client portals can help them.

For long-term clients, portals may come across as unnecessary. After all, the adviser has always functioned as the go-to for information about how their investments are performing and their wealth is being managed.

However, a brief discussion with clients can prove to them how this additional knowledge is empowering. It can also encourage them to use client sessions to ask questions about the information in the portal, why investment decisions have been made and how they can achieve their bigger picture goals.

• Clients have lower confidence or financial literacy, so they don’t believe a client portal is for them.

The beauty of a client portal is that it can serve all manner of client, from the highly confident to those who want more basic or fundamental information. It can also be a launching board to learn more about finances for those with slightly less confidence. These clients may need a bit more hand holding, but in our experience, they can still gain a lot of value from engaging with a portal.

Strategies to add value and drive client portal engagement

1. Host an explainer session

For clients who are new to the portal experience and those who wish to learn more about the features, consider hosting a webinar or an in-person seminar where you run through the functionality of a client portal.

These sessions can also serve as a reminder that you’re there to help and to bring new clients through your doors.

2. Use customised features for your client base

No-one knows your client base better than you. As such, there will be certain features that appeal to your customers more than others. Consider focusing in on these when you’re talking to clients about their portal.

3. Publish regular updates on social media

If you have a regular newsletter or social media presence, think about using it to promote the multitude of features a client portal offers. Each week, you could focus on how to use a different aspect, with a short case study or video. By doing so, you may get clients to engage with new and different aspects of the portal.

4. Frequently post to the portal

The more information you give clients on their portal, the more engaged their likely to feel. For them, it’s an indication you’re putting in the effort to connect with them. In turn, this could result in them feeling valued, loyal and endorsing you among their networks.

5. Don’t forget one-on-ones

A client portal is designed to be complementary to your human insights, rather than a replacement. Different clients will adopt them in different ways, which means it’s important to continue to have a personalised approach to introducing and sharing the features of the client portal. Make yourself available for questions and remind your clients you’re still a phone call, email or message away.


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