Whitepaper | Customer Experience

Thriving Amid Change: The Role of Exceptional Experiences in the Financial Sector

Jada Sudbeck
Two Women Laughing ARTICLE HERO IMAGE 2024
Two Women Laughing ARTICLE HERO IMAGE 2024

Financial sector professionals must be comfortable analyzing numbers, educating clients, and recommending portfolio strategies. Yet they can’t just be transactional agents. Today, people want more from their financial partners than someone who can explain the markets. After all, they can do that themselves online through various platforms, apps, and channels. They want advisors who can engage with them as real people with real needs and genuine concerns.

This means that client-facing financial experts can’t just rely on their ability to think critically or give excellent suggestions. To win the loyalty of the individuals and families they serve, they must put effort into building relationships more than ever before. No longer can they simply send out an annual holiday card and know they’re staying top-of-mind. (Although investing in end-of-year greetings is always a solid practice.) On the contrary, they must employ unique, pointed strategies to engage with clients on deeper levels.

Is this challenging for time-crunched and budget-constrained financial advisors? Absolutely. Identifying and leveraging organic opportunities for maintaining client relationships requires commitment and innovation. Years ago, financial professionals were often given the money to take clients out to dinner or on a golf outing. No longer. Some financial advisors are given limited funds for client engagement, making steak and caviar meals a thing of the past.

Another challenge that gets in the way of financial advisors having strong connections and collaborations with their clients is that consumer loyalties have changed — and people aren’t sure that having a financial advisor is a benefit. This is especially true with certain demographics.

According to the National Association of Plan Advisors, the difference in the way the generational cohorts view financial planning is quite stark. While Baby Boomer and Millennial consumers feel comfortable paying financial advisors, Generation X and Generation Z consumers don’t. As a result, just under one-third of all consumers have begun working with financial advisors. This means that 70% of consumers are either taking a do-it-yourself approach to handling their finances or simply not doing anything. And while there’s an enormous percentage of consumers whose business is up for grabs, those consumers will have to be persuaded to put their faith in financial professionals.

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70% of consumers are either taking a do-it-yourself approach to handling their finances or simply not doing anything.

Convincing such consumer groups may be harder, particularly with the rise in AI and so-called robo-advisors. Robo-advisors promise investors a simplified way to create and adjust their portfolios in real time based on a myriad of factors, including personal risk tolerance. All consumers need to do is enter a few pieces of information into an AI-powered system and receive financial advice. It’s simple and fast — nevertheless, it lacks a human touch. And only living, breathing financial advisors can bring humanity to the table.

How, then, can financial advisors begin to grow their relationship capital with clients despite the challenges of tight budgets, AI software, and generation-specific skepticism? One place to start is to explore ways to bring personalization into the equation.

Delivering Value Through Customization

It’s no secret that consumers want their interactions with companies to be more personalized. As McKinsey and Company noted, 71% of people told the consulting firm they craved personalization from the brands they patronized. While financial advisors aren’t brands or companies, they essentially operate as mini organizations. Most financial advisors are trying to grow, expand, and scale their reputations in the field. Being able to give clients personalized experiences can help.

This isn’t to negate the importance of financial advisors knowing their core business. The American College of Financial Services discovered that consumers wanted skilled financial advisors. Interestingly, though, consumers also wanted their advisors to listen to them. Adopting a philosophy of leading with personalization can achieve that goal and give consumers what they expect.

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71% of people said they craved personalization from the brands they patronized.

SOURCE: McKinsey and Company
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55% of Americans who had a financial advisor wanted the advisor to get invested in their personal well-being, not just their financial health.

SOURCE: Edward Jones Survey

A survey conducted by Edward Jones with Morning Consult found that 55% of Americans who had a financial advisor wanted the advisor to get invested in their personal well-being, not just their financial health. In comparison, only 16% wanted a more bare-bones relationship. The only way to make that happen is to get to know clients from the beginning stages.

The 3 Types of Financial Advisor Clients

A place to start is to characterize clients by dividing them by type. There are generally three types of financial advisor clients. Each type has distinct motivators. Understanding those motivators can serve as a springboard for developing and enabling personalized communications.

1. The CEO

The CEO is someone who could very well be running a company. This person tends to be energetic, focused, and a natural-born leader. The CEO asks business-related questions and wants to succeed at all costs. However, The CEO’s competitiveness can be a double-edged sword.

During bullish markets, The CEO will seem very uplifted and positive. During bearish moments, The CEO can transform into someone who is combative. The reason is easy to understand: The CEO sees dipping portfolio numbers as a personal failing. Instead of accepting failure, The CEO may lash out at a financial advisor and try to “fix” things by making rash recommendations that aren’t based on proven financial responses.

Financial advisors will find that taking proactive, preventive measures can go a long way toward working harmoniously with The CEO. The last thing The CEO wants is to be surprised. Therefore, constant, systematic communication based on facts will gain The CEO’s confidence. Once confidence and trust have been assured, the financial advisor can steer discussions toward hyper-personalized solutions based on past conversations with The CEO.

2. The Idealist

For The Idealist, investing is an emotional journey. It’s common for The Idealist to want to give future money to causes. And though The Idealist may seem to be rooted in reality, that reality may hinge on unrealistic expectations.

For example, The Idealist may be focused on giving a certain amount to a charity. In The Idealist’s mind, that number should never change. However, markets do change, as do circumstances that can get in the way of reaching an exact amount. Rather than adapting to those changes, The Idealist can become overwhelmed quickly and let emotions rule.

To satisfy The Idealist client, a financial advisor must present a few scenarios and not allow The Idealist to presume there is only one way to achieve financial goals. Knowing The Idealist’s overarching goals can help the advisor develop workable alternatives in case the stock market fluctuates, or other roadblocks occur. The best way to help The Idealist is through anticipation and preparation. But the only way to prepare to meet and exceed The Idealist’s needs is to have a close relationship that drives trust.

3. The Saver

Though being someone who saves money is generally good, The Saver is one common type of client who can be difficult to work with. While The Saver wants to squirrel away money for everyone else — kids, grandkids, a spouse — The Saver may be reluctant to take many fiscal risks.

Case in point: It is not unusual for The Saver to start pulling money immediately when a stock falls. This can lead to major headaches later when the stock recovers, and The Saver’s portfolio is thrown off balance.

The Saver requires a financial advisor who is a patient educator. Learning more about The Saver upfront can make tough conversations easier later. The Saver might be risk-averse, but The Saver is not averse to learning about how the financial markets work. The key is for the financial advisor to validate The Saver’s concerns while simultaneously presenting options that are based in logic rather than fear.

Forming Close, Personalized Relationships With All Client Types

Discovering a client’s type can be as quick as asking the right questions during initial meetings. Digging a little below the surface helps pinpoint where the client fits. Sending surveys can assist in this process, too. Yet nothing compares to having real-life conversations in person, on the phone, or via video chats.

Once financial advisors have figured out the types of clients they have through a systematic process, they can begin to take the steps necessary to foster closer relationships and harness the power of personalization.

1. Look for ways to integrate into the everyday lives of clients.

As previously noted, financial advisors commonly send quarterly or annual letters and the occasional templated holiday card. While these are important touchpoints, they do not provide a heightened level of customization. Therefore, they should be augmented by other strategies that enable the financial advisor to be seen as an actual “member of the family.”

For instance, celebrating financial and lifestyle milestones with a quick email, text, note, or even a small gift makes sense. Perhaps a client has just reached a portfolio return objective after many years. Or a couple has purchased a house, had a child, or had a notable marriage anniversary. These are all great excuses to connect and add to the good cheer.

2. Show empathy without overstepping boundaries.

Hard times will happen. It’s a fact of life. Financial advisors should lean into these hard times in sympathetic ways. Difficult situations like medical problems and family tragedies deserve attention. A financial advisor’s expertise may be exactly what’s needed when the worst moments occur.

How can financial advisors discover when their clients need a gentle, kind word? If the client doesn’t get in touch, there are other ways to stay in the loop. A good method is through social listening. Financial advisors who follow their clients on social media will be in the know faster. If advisors have too many clients to reasonably follow their social profiles, they may find it advantageous to use social listening tools and software to ensure they’re current. Using quarterly, mid-year, or yearly financial reviews to listen and learn is another strategy to find out what’s really happening with clients and be a more critical player in their immediate planning.

3. Make every connection a chance for a double connection.

After all interactions with clients, financial advisors can double down on their connections by reaching out again. This could come in many forms. They might send a physical or digital follow-up card. They might create a personalized email or text. They might have branded calendars, fridge magnets, mugs, or blankets sent in the mail.

Does this doubling up have value? Forrester research says yes. When asked, 47% of consumers said they most wanted personalized experiences after a purchase. Though a point of communication isn’t a sale, per se, it has the same feeling and effect. Consequently, it makes sense to remind clients that they matter even after they’ve signed up for another year.

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47% of consumers said they most wanted personalized experiences after a purchase.

SOURCE: Forrester Research

4. Host events within the budget.

Financial advisors don’t need to have deep pockets for them to be able to shower their clients with event invitations. Although an event such as a special dinner can be exciting, it isn’t always feasible. This is certainly true with the small percentage (roughly 13%) of financial advisors who have at least 75% remote clients, per SmartAsset figures.

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Roughly 13% of financial advisors have at least 75% remote clients.

SOURCE: Smart Asset Figures

What is an alternative kind of event that can be personalized? Live webinars devoted to trending financial topics can be hits. Not only do they allow financial advising clients to grow their knowledge, but they also add more value to the intrinsic advisor-client relationship. Additionally, they allow the financial advisor to show off expertise by hosting a webinar or live panel discussion with special guests.

A Special Note on Gen Z Clients

In light of the growing importance of individualization, financial advisors will want to concentrate their relationship-building on existing and prospective Gen Z clients. Why? Gen Z consumers are quite different from other consumers.

Gen Z adults have unique approaches to finance and investing. Financial Advisor has explained that a good portion of Gen Z consumers don’t follow budgets, don’t have savings, and generally don’t follow the financial planning playbook of previous generations. Here’s the twist, though: They’re set to inherit trillions in passed-down generational wealth, according to Cerulli projections. This means they’re going to have the money to invest. And unless financial advisors break through the online noise and clutter, they won’t be able to work with Gen Z clients.

Right now, Gen Z is learning about finance through unconventional means. More than half of Gen Z financial advice comes from TikTok or Instagram, according to research conducted by Qualtrics on behalf of Credit Karma. For financial advisors to capture Gen Z consumer attention, they need to adjust their outreach tactics. Though this doesn’t necessarily require financial advisors to become TikTok influencers, they may need to partner with influencers to help them reach the next generation of clients.

The bottom line is that Gen Z is going to age. As they do, they’ll go through all the normal stages of life like those before them. But they aren’t satisfied to follow the same financial planning routes or game plans that worked for their parents, grandparents, or older siblings. They’re open to taking previously untested paths. Financial advisors who can walk down those paths alongside them and offer personalized, helpful tips will be seen as the assets they are.

Takeaway Thoughts on the Evolving Financial Client Relationship

Financial professionals are finding themselves at a crossroads. Traditional methods of delivering support and service just aren’t enough to meet the demands of today’s consumers. Modern clients want their financial advisors to offer individualized attention they can’t get from an app or AI bot.

Although meeting these new expectations can require innovation and effort, financial advisors who rise to the challenge will find themselves in an attractive position to continue scaling their client portfolios. And they can begin growing their relationship capital through four key strategies:

  1. Know the overall type of each client based on the three basic financial consumer personalities.

  2. Consider ways to deliver personalized interactions and engagement using standard and evolving methods.

  3. Try different tactics to stay top-of-mind beyond occasional phone calls or templated emails.

  4. Double up on interactions to maximize and amplify each touchpoint.

Hallmark Business Connections has developed a custom-tailored line of products crafted specifically for financial advisors who want to support the individualized needs of their clients. Here are the key features of our three primary solutions:

1. Direct Mail Marketing from Hallmark:
  • Leveraging Hallmark's Brand: Utilizes Hallmark’s brand equity, creativity, and emotional intelligence expertise for meaningful direct mail touchpoints to deepen customer loyalty and engagement

  • High Engagement: Hallmark cards are known to break through clutter, being opened, read, and acted upon more effectively than other mediums

  • ROI: Promises returns as high as 38-to-1, improving customer satisfaction, retention, and brand loyalty

  • Real Handwriting Technology: Proprietary technology to digitize unique handwriting for mass mailings, along with a library of custom handwriting fonts

  • Custom Creative Services: Direct collaboration with Hallmark’s team for brand-specific message conveyance

  • Pre-Sorted Mailing Discounts: Expertise in mailing, including schedule management and Marketing Mail efficiencies

  • Translation Services: Over 50 language options for message delivery

  • End-To-End Partnership: Comprehensive support throughout the creative process, printing, personalization, and mail logistics

2. Care Customer Service Solution from Hallmark:
  • One-to-One Greeting Card Sending: Facilitates personal connections between customers and frontline employees

  • Efficient Card Sending: Quick, two-step card-sending process

  • Authentic Handwriting Fonts: Library of proprietary handwriting fonts for card and envelope personalization

  • Full Service: Includes printing, enveloping, and mailing with a one-business-day turnaround

  • Robust Reporting: Detailed tracking of card-sending activities and impact

  • Data Integration: Seamless integration with CRM tools and employee data management

  • Spanish Language Options: Availability of Spanish-language cards for personalization

  • Curated Product Catalog: Selection from over 120 greeting cards and custom card development

  • Training and Support: Guidance and support for users and administrators

  • User Management: Role and permission customization with unlimited user access

3. Connect from Hallmark:
  • Personalized Products and Support: Offers personalized products and strategic collaboration, including bulk buying discounts and marketing support

  • Extensive Product Catalog: Over 500 greeting cards and thousands of messages, with custom product development options

  • Cultural Relevance: Focus on diversity and cultural traditions to resonate with diverse audiences

  • Real Handwriting Technology: Digitization of unique handwriting for authenticity in communications

  • Collective Buying Power: Discounts for centralized greeting card usage across locations

  • Branded Site Customization: Customization options for the Connect hub with the company’s logo and brand colors

  • Data Integrations: Facilitates updating employee data and integrates with CRM tools

  • User Management: Allows defining user roles and permissions for effective relationship-building

  • Robust Reporting: Tracking of cards sent, by whom, and the top products used

  • Training and Support: Comprehensive user and admin training, along with customer service and account team support

Our cards, products, giftables, flowers, and more enable financial professionals to reinforce their client relationships in effective, desirable ways. Plus, all our platform options allow financial experts to individualize every message they send. (For those who need nudges and prompts, our software has plenty of options as well.)

With Hallmark Business Connections as a partner, financial advisors can steward their time and resources without sacrificing a single opportunity for quality client interactions.