In this first of a three-part blog series on the recent Hubbis Digital Dialogue webinar ‘The Vital Importance of Empowering the Relationship Manager’, we explore why relationship managers will remain central in an increasingly digital world
Wealth management firms have been on a hiring spree in Asia as they seek to bolster their relationship manager headcount amid an increased demand for wealth products. At the same time, wealth managers are investing heavily in digital transformation—not to replace the need for relationship managers, but to help managers provide a better service to their clients.
The pandemic has underscored the need for having an omni-channel approach, with traditional face-to-face client interactions restricted by global lockdowns. That accelerated the shift to digital, with many once tech-hesitant clients recognising the convenience of having digital channels open 24/7. Credit Suisse Private Banking, for instance, previously introduced a feature called CS Chat, which enables relationship managers to interact with their clients on their social platform of choice, something that picked up even more during the pandemic, says Urs Lichtenberger, a Managing Director at Credit Suisse Private Banking in Singapore, speaking on the webinar.
Digital engagement has remained high even as pandemic restrictions have eased, with clients continuing to use online channels for execution-related matters or other banking needs, such as checking their positions and portfolios, Lichtenberger says.
The increase in regulation over the past decade or so has meant many advisors are spending a greater proportion of their time on compliance-related tasks, such as KYC checks.
“Relationship managers are really bogged down,” says Gabriel Chan, Head of Asia at Wealth Dynamix. “They spend less than 50% of their time engaging with the clients, and the rest of the time focusing on things like compliance and administrative matters.”
Digital tools can help automate many of these tasks, freeing up relationship managers to spend time interacting more with their clients and better understanding their needs.
In addition, technology also enables relationship managers to get a 360-degree view of the client. That helps wealth managers provide a hyper-personalised service that is tailored for each individual client rather than relying on generic ways to segment customers, such as by age.
As the wealth industry grows, relationship managers are struggling to keep up with demands for their time, resulting in lopsided client care. “Relationship managers always end up focusing on a smaller set of really valuable customers with a long tail that end up being underserved,” says Avishek Nandy, a Partner at Bain & Co. Using digital tools not only streamlines workflows, it also helps managers to scale up and devote more time to even more clients.
Legacy systems remain a hindrance to some firms, making it difficult to access data and generate insights. “Ensuring that the relationship managers have the right information at the point when they’re interacting with their customers is critical,” says Neil Thomas, Regional Head for Asia Pacific at data provider Six. By adopting new technology, firms can process raw data, analyse it and turn it into actionable intelligence that can drive better outcomes for clients.
When adopting an omni-channel approach and providing multiple digital touch-points for clients, it is important to be consistent, says Nandy. If certain products are being recommended digitally but the relationship manager is recommending something entirely different, the client is going to be very confused, he says.
Robots aren’t replacing human advisors. Despite the convenience of digital access, clients still want to interact with their relationship managers. But digitisation is also empowering human advisors. By reducing the time wasted on mundane tasks, relationship managers can spend more time focusing on the things that matter—delivering value for clients.
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