Enhancing the Client Experience

People don’t stay with a financial services firm because of the brand; they stay because they have forged a relationship with an adviser they trust.

“People do business with people,” said Robert McCann, Vice Chairman and President, Global Private Client Group at Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., and, despite the massive change going on in the financial services industry, that trait will not change, he predicted, speaking at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Sales and Marketing Conference, in New York, New York last week.

Therefore, if an adviser merely sells a product, McCann said, he can lose the client as soon as someone else comes along with a better product or who is a better salesman. However, if you as the adviser become an essential partner in your client’s life, if you “have a seat at your client’s kitchen table,” then, you begin a relationship that can last a lifetime.

Improving the Adviser Environment


At Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., said Ronald Kruszewski, CEO and President of the firm, the center of the business model is the financial advisers; in other words, “the broker is the client.”

Therefore, when looking to enhance the experience, Kruszewski said, also speaking at the conference, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., looks to improve the financial advisers’ environment, which will then lead to enhanced and improved service to clients. The business is the same as it was 10 years ago, Kruszewski said, it is “stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.” However, the client experience has to evolve and management of the financial services firms needs to get behind that.

McCann agreed: financial advisers need to think about the evolving needs of their clients and management needs to give them the best tools they need to succeed, he explained. For example. McCann said that Merrill Lynch is investing in technology and working on innovations to enhance the client experience. One area in particular getting attention is that of opening an account. McCann said that it currently takes about 35 minutes to open an account, and it can take longer with a new client for which the adviser doesn’t have any information and has to input it all instead of having some fields automatically populated, as for an existing client. Therefore, Merrill Lynch is working on speeding up the process, so advisers spend less time with their heads down transferring data and more time looking at client, McCann said; all to enhance the client experience.

“If the end client doesn’t win, there is no reason for the rest of us to exist,” McCann said.

Client Change


Globalization has hit the financial services industry hard, McCann commented, and this has changed who the clients are and who the clients are likely to be. It also affects how clients interact with their advisers.

Wealth is being generated in new areas, McCann said, “in places we never anticipated.” The industry is also seeing wealth creation that appears to have no boundaries. Citing products such as Myspace, YouTube, and Facebook (all founded by people in their twenties) as extreme examples, McCann said the wealthy are getting younger and are more global.

The fast pace of change and new demographic offer a set of opportunities, McCann said, and it is important to “make sure that we stay ahead of the curve [because] we can become dated very quickly.”