Changing Communication Preferences: Reflection of A New Landscape

November 2, 2011

I was reading some recent research by SEI Global Wealth Services (obtain a copy of the report by going here) that looked at how investors wish to be communicated with by their wealth managers.   As I started to read, three thoughts came immediately to mind:

1)      Does our product, PORTIA, facilitate the kind of communication that investors are clamoring for?  (Yes!)

2)      Does our own communication strategy, how we “talk” to clients, consider individual preferences?  (Yes!)

3)      Have advances in technology changed the dynamics of the discipline of product management?  (Yes!)

As the economy continues to be a battleground, skittish investors are seeking increased transparency from and involvement with wealth managers, as seen in demands for access to relevant information where, when, and how they want it.  The study cites that 82% of private clients want access to statements online but that only 4% of wealth managers say online communication is critical; there’s a wide gap in need of closing, and PORTIA offers many tools that can help.  Client reporting has long been a focus of ours, from core reporting functionality to the latest innovation in online client reporting, eReports Client Portal.  PORTIA helps clients meet their end users’ rigorous demands, and we work with clients to ensure this is the case. 

Wealth managers need to find scalable solutions that offer mass customization to make a good faith effort toward meeting a critical need referenced in the study—50% of respondents want their wealth managers to invest in systems that deliver a more robust online experience.  In terms of how our business and communication strategies are evolving, the new PORTIA Service Centre is a personalized online support experience.  The Service Centre provides clients with answers to product questions, gives them access to case status, and allows them to download the latest software updates and documentation.  We value and will always rely on personal interaction, but as a global organization supporting clients with global operations, we know how important it is to create a framework for clients to access what they need, when they need it, how they want it.  The PORTIA Service Centre is a big step in that direction and will serve as a foundation for future support initiatives and communication programs.  We’re excited about the numerous possibilities for engaging clients in newer, better ways.

But what else did this research point to in terms of developing and managing products?  It used to be that cutting-edge technology and functional specialization first incubated in the business space before eventually making an appearance (often a quiet one) on the personal scene.   Product Managers would set direction, and buyers would follow.  But now investors are telling wealth managers to take communication cues from established consumer companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google.  That advice points toward a fundamental, almost seismic shift in managing products—namely in dealing with a user base in which nearly everyone has opinions on issues that previously weren’t part of the client-vendor conversation.   User-interface design involved experts developing products that showcased best practices; now users are defining best practices and leaving it up to companies to employ them.  The 24/7 availability of personal technology and the rapid release of groundbreaking features are creating a whole new level of user expectation in terms of functionality, access, and speed to market.  All of these things combine to create a much more layered and iterative discipline, a (seemingly contradictory) complexity trying to coexist with demands for more, better, faster.

This study highlights (for me, anyway) the fact that the reality we’re facing is much more than how investors want to hear from their wealth managers.  It’s about a continually evolving landscape, economic pressures, technological advances, more involved and sophisticated buyers, and countless other variables that contribute to a shift in how business gets conducted.  It makes every market more competitive than ever—impacting investors, wealth managers, and the providers of products that support them.

Are your communication preferences changing?  Have technological advances that first manifest themselves in your personal space started influencing your professional interactions?  Do you find a growing level of involvement or interest in business issues as a result of the technical knowledge you’ve gained as a consumer?

– Nicole Comeau, Product Manager

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