First Impressions: A Modern Approach to Client Onboarding

A client’s first experience with your wealth management firm sets the tone for the relationship. Clients who feel welcomed and appreciated in those first few weeks will be more likely to stay. And today, technology makes it easy to create highly personalized client experiences. There’s no excuse for anything less than a modern and streamlined client onboarding process.

What Is Onboarding, and Why Is It Important?

Client onboarding is your firm’s process for starting work with a new client. It includes identifying prospects, completing a financial needs assessment, choosing the right products, and opening their first account. Each step in this process is an opportunity to strengthen trust and build a stronger relationship. 

Onboarding is important for two reasons. First, it’s expensive. Acquiring new leads is costly, and it takes time away from serving clients. So a smooth, efficient onboarding is key to the smooth growth of your firm. 

Second, onboarding shapes a new client’s impression of your firm. This means that it’s closely linked to client retention. And because long-term clients are more likely to buy expensive products, client retention is your firm’s best source of revenue. In fact, one study found that just a 5% increase in customer retention can increase your firm’s revenue by 75%.  

How to Improve Client Onboarding

In the past, onboarding required a stack of paperwork and a lot of data entry. But today, digital tools make it easy to gather data. A simple online form is all you need to get information directly from the client into your database. This enables advisors to focus on customer service and relationships instead of data entry. 

To design a streamlined onboarding process, consider three key areas

  • First, data and analytics. Onboarding is an opportunity to build a rich client profile that goes beyond the basic information about their financial goals. The more an advisor knows about a client, the better they can recognize the best opportunities for each client. By making the client experience simple and intuitive, advisors are able to gather more information at the beginning of the relationship. 
  • Second, discovery. By the conclusion of onboarding, an advisor should have a clear understanding of a client’s desires. They should be prepared to create client-centered solutions that accomplish strategic goals. Ideally, new clients should complete discovery within the first four months. 
  • And finally, automation. Automating the process of onboarding enables advisors to focus on relationship, and it prevents the need for continual follow-up. For example, you can schedule automated emails based on a client’s actions. If an advisor sends a client a form to fill out and they don’t respond, schedule an automatic reminder after a specified time. Automatic processes ensure that each client finishes all the necessary steps of onboarding.

Nothing can replace a first impression. And for new clients, onboarding is the first impression. Financial advisors who implement a modern client onboarding process will have higher client retention and ultimately more revenue.