“To me, the future is personalization.”
— Marissa Mayer, former CEO, Yahoo!
There are many uses of the word “personalization” being thrown around and many of them conflict with each other and don’t really make sense in the context of how RIAs and enterprise wealth management firms operate.
There was a time when just seeing your first name in an email subject line seemed like a revolutionary advancement. Today personalization has moved way beyond email templates and is more about offering customers tailored experiences that keep them engaged. It requires a more robust and strategic approach that is essential to remaining competitive in a crowded and increasingly savvy marketplace.
As part of our work to help our enterprise wealth management clients get the most benefit from their data assets, Ezra Group has partnered with Xtiva Financial Systems to produce a series of webinars. Our goal is to bring leading industry experts in data strategy, data architecture and systems implementation to share their experiences and best practices.
The third webinar in the series was called The Last Mile: Data-Powered Client Experience in Wealth Management and included panelist Heather Holmes, Founder and CEO of Genivity.
She delivered some valuable tips on how to gather client input, increase personalization and engage in more meaningful client conversations.
In case you missed webinar #3, you can click here to unlock your access to the full recording.
Driving Personalized Conversations
“A financial plan is only as good as the data in the assumptions.”
— Heather Holmes
Personalization has become a hot topic lately as wealth management firms struggle to stay ahead of multiple trends simultaneously:
- expansion of financial services by fintechs, primarily through mobile apps
- changing consumer expectations of what services a financial advisor should provide
- the merging of health and wealth in the minds of clients, especially as life expectancy continues to increase, post-COVID
Holmes explained that one of the reasons why she founded her firm, Genivity, was to provide data to drive personalized decisions around longevity and to help consumers understand how to think about how long and how aggressively they should they be investing.
U.S. life expectancy dropped by 1.5 years in 2020, the largest single-year decline recorded since 1943, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average American life expectancy at birth was 77.3 years in 2020, down from 78.8 in 2019. Life expectancy at age 65 in 2020 was 18.8 years versus 19.6 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic accounted for most of the decline, while drug overdoses, homicides and chronic diseases also contributed. Hispanic men saw the steepest drop from any U.S. population, to 75.3 years.
Age is a common method to segment clients and assign risk profiles, but what’s missing from financial plans are probabilities of negative life events such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimers, etc. These probabilities are being delivered via Health/Wealth combo startups like Intergen Data that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to build a data feed that identifies at risk individuals so advisors can recommend increased savings, increased insurance coverage or other mitigation plans.
Holmes envisioned Genivity as a family-engagement platform for financial advisors that could provide them with advice on health risks and care costs to help retain clients and their next generation heirs. Combining this data with the output of financial planning software should provide insights to advisors that can drive deeper engagement with clients.
It would be a huge leap in personalization of financial planning if part of the assumptions included health data and accurate probabilities of negative life events. When presented with the proper context, this data would be a valuable asset for advisors to reach out to the next generations of their client households and have more personalized conversations, Holmes said.
Treat Every Client as an Individual
“If I hear that from another advisor that they plan for all of their clients to live to age 90, I’m going to rip my hair out!”
— Heather Holmes
The latest demographic data shows that the average mother in the US has 2.2 children. So, should financial advisors tell their younger clients that they need to add 0.2 children to their financial plan? Should they start saving for 20% of a college education? 20% of a wedding?
Of course not.
People aren’t averages. Even though it has been common in the industry to use averages when making financial decisions for clients, it is one of the biggest mistakes that an advisor can make, Holmes warned. The average US life expectancy may or may not align with an individual advisor’s client base. And even when it does, it can be skewed by a few outliers that live way beyond the average or pass away very young.
When talking about averages, it’s easy for a client to bury their head in the sand and say “it’s not me,” Holmes warned. But when they reflect back on things in a personalized way to them and they’ve been involved in that process to create that personalization, all of a sudden there’s more skin in the game, about why they need to take action and what steps they need to do next, she said.
How can you treat clients as individuals unless you have the right data to drive your decision-making process?
It’s such a wild swing lifestyle health risk all these different factors and she got to treat people like an individual and we
Software like Intergen Data or Genivity can highlight the data that shows exactly how different each client is based on their specific health risks, Holmes explained. Advisors are leaving money on the table that could be invested more appropriately or from mission opportunities to sell additional insurance coverage and so on.
In a financial plan, the most important number to get right is life expectancy, Holmes stated. Once you have that, you can back into most of the other decisions.
Longevity planning is the future of financial planning, Holmes insisted, because as people are living longer, they want to spend more time thinking about how they’re going to be engaging in the active phase of life. But just assigning someone alive expectantly of 90 without specific and individualized data to back it up is a huge miss, Holmes noted.
Tips for Talking to Families About Money
Advisors can get overwhelmed with data and have difficulty deciding how to begin discussing outcomes with their client base. Organizing the data to identify which client segments are coming closer to age-related needs will enable advisors to target them a little bit better.
— Heather Holmes
Families are funny about how they’ll talk about money.
Advisors struggle with how to communicate across multiple family generations, Holmes stated. Health data and insights can help to think a little bit differently about how to engage with them, she said.
A recent survey on Aging in America showed that:
“Worries about aging loom large for Americans over 30 for the country and for themselves,” said Dr. Zia Agha, chief medical officer at the West Health Institute. “About 70% think the country is ‘a little or not at all prepared’ to address the needs of the fast-growing senior population.”
The fact that so many people are worried about the future of healthcare in America is an opportunity for advisors to show that their level of care extends beyond just wealth and encompasses a more holistic strategy that engages the next generation who are concerned about the health and well being of their parents, Holmes said.
The same survey also reported that financial security is the number one long-term worry for people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Reaching out to these clients as well as their next generation family members is important for advisors to build strong relationships that can persist after their original clients pass away, Holmes stated.
This is another example of how predictive health data can drive personalization to help deliver honest recommendations to a client about what to do or what not to do, Holmes explained. She pointed out that clients wants to know, “what does it mean to me?” and “show me data from people like me.” These are questions that advisors must be able to answer in order to motivate clients to take corrective actions, she said.
When wealth management firms work with Genivity, Holmes noted, they’re able to look beyond end client conversations and identify training and coaching opportunities for advisors by analyzing data at the branch or regional levels. They can then surface insights and connect them to specific actions taken or events that occurred in clients’ lives. These new trends can also be used to support business cases for larger data projects at the firm, she said.
We often recommend tools such as Genivity or Intergen Data to our enterprise wealth clients who are looking for new ways to analyze their existing data or bring in new data sets like healthcare or other demographic data. This data can also be used to personalize such mundane communications as client meeting agendas, Holmes pointed out. But there needs to be more than just a checkbox to include new data on a form, she noted, but also advisor education to help them understand how to present the new data.
Holmes observed that even some of the most seasoned advisors sometimes struggle to change up their usual conversation patterns with clients. But when they are trained on how to use the new data and how it can change the client conversations, it makes them much more comfortable with the new script, she said.