"Putting their financial information at their fingertips encourages greater confidence and support for the financial plan, giving clients a clearer understanding of the value provided by the advice process."
The year 2012 was one of technical transition. It saw the production of the last typewriter built in the UK as the machine gave way to the dominance of computers and also the launch of Britain's first 4G mobile network which brought high-speed data services to major cities across England, Scotland and Wales. It marked the nation’s final analogue television broadcast and the completion of the switchover to digital television, and it was the year intelliflo’s personal finance portal went live to customers.
The portal was launched as a simple way for clients to access in-depth information about their investments and make basic transactions. Nearly ten years on, that goal remains at the heart of the solution, but technology has advanced and there are now many more advantages – to both client and advisers – from using a client portal. Here are my top five.
1. Sharing information securely
One of the key advantages of a client portal has always been the ability to share information with clients in a secure format. Documents can be shared, signed and submitted within the portal without the expense or time required to print, post and return paperwork, speeding up administration processes and reducing your servicing costs. Portals also enhance the client experience, providing access to their data in real-time, so they can see how their finances are performing whenever they choose, rather than calling you for an update or waiting for a face-to-face meeting. You can also use the portal to issue targeted information to individuals or groups around important events, market volatility or regulatory updates, demonstrating your expertise and providing reassurance to clients at times of uncertainty. This has been increasingly important over the last 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions, reflected in the 85% increase in users of intelliflo’s personal finance portal between January 2020 and January 2021.
2. Delivering an omnichannel experience
Client portals can also meet growing customer expectations of an interactive digital experience alongside traditional face-to-face and telephone advice, which can be customised to provide a consistent look and feel with the rest of your brand. Integrations with co-browsing functionality lets you meet clients virtually and communicate via text, chat, audio or video in a secure online environment. According to Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of online services, with more than seven in 10 online adults in the UK now making video calls at least weekly, doubling compared to pre-lockdown figures. The trend is even more noticeable among older internet users; with the number of internet users over 65 who make a least one video call almost tripling between February 2020 and May 2020. This greater acceptance of digital tools and communication is driving expectations of an omnichannel experience from service providers across all industries.
3. Supporting regulatory compliance
Using a client portal can play an important role in meeting compliance and regulatory demands, including the data security requirements of GDPR and MiFID II. The automatic audit trail helps easily evidence regulatory compliance, while secure document sharing and storage reduce the risk of data breaches when submitting personal and sensitive information. In Q1 2021, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) received 255 reports of data breaches from the finance, insurance and credit sector received 255, with 80 relating to data being emailed, faxed or posted the wrong person, whereas just four were due to a client being shown someone else’s data via a client portal.
4. Providing a holistic view of the client’s finances
With Open Banking functionality, clients have the option to link their bank accounts, credit cards and mortgages to the portal, creating a complete view of their personal finances in one place. This can help save time at the start of the relationship by pulling bank account information through to the fact-find to auto-populate the income and expenditure data and support preparation for client meetings and updates with easy access to accurate cash flow and product information. Aggregating data on the client’s short-term cash flow and non-advised products alongside the advised portfolio gives a wider perspective on their overall financial position. In the first three weeks of launching Open Banking functionality within the intelliflo personal finance portal last year, advisers identified £20 million of ‘held away’ assets.
5. Demonstrating the value you add
Putting their financial information at their fingertips encourages greater confidence and support for the financial plan, giving clients a clearer understanding of the value provided by the advice process. A Vanguard study of US investors last year found that 41% of the perceived value of traditional financial advice comes from emotional factors such as trust, personal connection with the adviser and proactive outreach, while 59% was down to functional attributes like the financial plan, ongoing monitoring, visibility of portfolio changes and maximising investment returns plan. Exposing the work you are undertaking for your client, providing access to in-depth information about their investments and delivering targeted expert information helps evidence the functional aspects of your service, while at the same time reinforcing the emotional factors within the relationship and demonstrating the value of your advice.
Client portals can be incredibly beneficial to advice firms offering a secure method of sharing information which saves time and money while supporting regulatory requirements. They also provide clients with access to their financial information at any time, from any device, and help advisers deliver an engaging experience alongside face-to-face, telephone and video contact.