By Peter Bambrough, Senior Consultant, Citisoft
It may surprise some asset managers, but the term ‘superior client experience’ is not achieved by giving the client what the asset manager may want, or even what the client may say that they want; it’s actually necessary to give the client what they need. This was the conclusion of the delegates at the recent SimCorpCoric Client Communications and Reporting Conference, that I had the pleasure of chairing.
Determining what clients need is harder for asset managers than deciding what they would like to give clients, but the effort is justified if the asset manager can deliver a superior client experience, thereby maximising client retention and increasing the chances of securing new business.
In the case of client reporting, the old expression: ‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes’ could be adapted to: ‘you can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”. ‘. For asset managers, this is a good place to start. Rather than building reports or screen-based communications from the asset manager’s perspective, put yourself in the client’s shoes. Consider, for example: “What do I need to know that may cause me to change something about my portfolio?” or “Would I pay for this?” That second question – applied honestly – was deemed to be critical by the Conference delegates when assessing the quality of client service.
Knowing what our clients need is just part of the story, though; we need more in order to turn that vision into a reality. Superior client experience can only be delivered if there is a strong client-focused culture across the whole organisation (not just in the client-facing areas) and an acceptance that this will cost more than mediocrity. A suitable platform is also required, including: data, systems, workflow, operating practices and governance of reporting and client experience.
Governance is one component that very few asset managers seem to possess yet should be regarded as essential. Governance embraces:
- Reviewing requests for new reports or changes to existing reports and requiring approval for production.
- Running a review after every reporting cycle to determine any causes of missed deadlines/re-runs and identifying measures to prevent recurrence (many of which will be upstream of client reporting).
- Regularly reaching out to clients to determine their satisfaction (less than 15% of attendees thought their organisation reached out to clients on at least an annual basis).
- Communicating client satisfaction within the asset manager. ‘Success breeds success’ and positive feedback should be publicised as something to celebrate.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that client reporting projects should only be delivered once the required data management element has been completed. Adopting this process means that the client receives all the benefit at once and the asset manager can follow a logical sequence, but with data management typically occupying 70% to 80% of a client reporting project, this means that the client will probably see no benefit for a very long time.
If we walk in our clients’ shoes, however, then there is a benefit in delivering better client reports at an earlier stage. Initially the data may still be inconsistent and admittedly the production process may be painful or time consuming for the asset manager, but the client will benefit from earlier and clearer reports and improved presentation, which will be followed by improvements to the data as that project completes.
Based on a show of hands, none of the Conference delegates felt that they currently receive excellent client service for their own private portfolios. We already walk in our clients’ shoes; it’s time we started using that experience to shape the client experience we deliver.