It’s not about you. It’s about them.

In 1973, management guru, Peter Drucker wrote that the purpose of a business is “to create a customer”. Said another way, no matter what business you are in, you work for a customer. Now, fifty years later, we talk about the importance of the client experience in the wealth and investment business. Yet, as an industry, we often focus more on the needs of the business and meeting business goals, than on what’s important to our clients and prospects (against which Mr. Eastwood also advised.)

Today’s clients are accustomed to choice and have no qualms about leaving a service provider in search of better options or a better experience. Considering the highly competitive nature of the financial services industry, it would make sense for banks and credit unions to be putting client experience at the top of their priority list.

Yet consider this scenario: You work in the wealth management group at a regional bank. A new prospect is identified by a commercial banker with your firm. The prospect has a $2M discretionary portfolio at another firm, $1.5M self-directed investments with an online brokerage, and $1M irrevocable life insurance trust, and their family business is a significant commercial banking relationship with your firm. The trust advisor believes the relationship should be an investment management and trust relationship because of the ILIT and the discretionary account on the fiduciary platform at the prospect’s current firm. The financial advisor is certain this is a brokerage prospect because he will do a much better job with the relationship than the trust advisor. The planning and insurance specialist believes both her colleagues are wrong because only a planner can be unbiased. The commercial banking manager has made it unquestionably clear that she doesn’t care who is on point, just don’t screw-up the existing business relationship. At this point, debate consumes the three wealth management professionals, their respective managers, and an H.R. specialist called in to help evaluate alternative approaches to allocating incentive compensation.

Sound familiar? What’s wrong with this picture? The bank lost sight of what should matter most: the client. If you’ve been in this business for any length of time, it’s likely you’ve experienced some variation of this scenario. Unfortunately, the root cause is lack of clarity about who we serve and how we serve them.

In contrast, when a firm’s go-to-market operating model starts with the client (think Drucker), and a clearly defined client experience roadmap, the dynamic changes. Like having a script and choreography for a Broadway play, wealth management professionals deliver a much stronger performance when their moves are planned in advance, regardless of which role they play. The emphasis is on the client, what they get from the firm (keeping in mind investment performance and fees are not the only answers), and how each character in the cast collaborates to deliver a seamless experience.

Let’s take a closer look at common elements in a client-centric go-to-market model.

Where to Begin?

An essential first step in the journey to a client-centric, unified delivery go-to-market model is defining the client experience. Not the brokerage, trust, insurance, private banking experience; THE client experience – a single, seamless engagement approach designed around understanding needs, expectations, current reality and anticipated future state of a client’s financial life. The client experience roadmap then informs subsequent design and implementation steps.

What’s Next?

There continues to be significant opportunity for the collective wealth management businesses in financial institutions to enhance the client experience. However, the wealth unification journey is – no doubt – a significant undertaking. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone.

This article was co-written with Peter Bielan, Bielan Group.