White Glove: Leveraging high-tech support to deliver high-touch service

High net worth investors expect and deserve white-glove service. They are financially literate, entrepreneurial and exacting. They are highly protective of their privacy and of their reputations. They demand much of themselves and even more of those with whom they associate. This is also true of investment managers and service providers who work in partnership to serve these investors.

KPMG published an interesting paper about the future shape of the investment management industry. KPMG analyzed the investment management value chain and emphasized the importance of focusing on client relationships. They suggested that investment managers’ inherent capabilities could be better leveraged to provide clients with a broader range of solutions and to meet high net worth investors’ increasing demand for a holistic view of their personal financial goals and challenges.

As I see it, cumbersome information retrieval processes, trading and portfolio accounting systems that are disconnected from client contact and investment preference data, and operations personnel uninitiated into the world of high net worth investors are three barriers to delivering on KPMG’s suggested opportunities. The least-affected investment firms are those that have identified their unique sources of differentiation and their administrative pain points, and have eliminated the operational burdens that potentially interfere with the delivery of superior wealth management services as defined by their clients.

For example, a wealth manager with an investor who has established a multi-million dollar endowment is required to provide several levels of reporting. Reporting is required for the beneficial owner of the funds, for the endowment as a corporate entity, and for the client / benefactor. Presenting investment results to these parties is a critical, client-facing activity. But creating customized reports for the presentation in a way that reflects and promotes the wealth manager’s brand can be difficult and time consuming, and can distract from the manager’s ability to deliver his relationship-affecting competencies. Report creation is an administrative pain point, distracting from superior service delivery.

Relationships beyond the client are requiring increasing amounts of the wealth manager’s attention as well. KPMG says that “Building stronger partnerships with key intermediaries will be increasingly important as the investment manager will need greater visibility into the profile and behavior of the end-investor to effectively develop relevant solutions.” And, further on, “Process efficiency and organizational agility will also become more important to delivering the service promise and reinforcing the brand values [of the investment manager]. For many organizations, this will present major technology and people challenges, particularly given that current structures are typically built for constant and well-defined demands, something that could well be increasingly rare in the fast-paced world of the future.”

In my view, “constant and well-defined demands” are already rare for us as we work together to support the needs of high-net-worth investors. The wealth community faces complex personnel and investing challenges, and they approach us for assistance. When they do, we’ve got one shot to get it right. To me, that means having well-trained professionals equipped with sophisticated technology which we can apply to rote and repetitive tasks, as well as correctly judging complex, unique, or situation-dependent matters like trading-restriction definitions and complex householding schemas. Well-indoctrinated people working with powerful, intuitive technology are an absolute requirement for private wealth operations to run successfully, and it is the very thing that we offer our clients.