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There are few industries that have been as resistant to digitisation as financial advice and wealth management.
But just as automation and online servicing have reinvented stock broking and other services in the greater wealth management sector, traditional advisors are also turning increasingly to digital tools to boost their service offerings.
The 140-year-old wealth management firm, Perpetual, is no exception. General manager of marketing and communications, Kylie Smith, says her company has recently emerged from a three-year transformation program with a more specific focus on growth, and digital is designated as one of its top six strategic priorities.
“We have done a large piece of work to map out a digital roadmap across the business, which is laying some strong foundations and then to accelerating over the next three years,” Smith says. “We don’t see digital as replacing that face-to-face relationship, but complementing or supplementing it.”
Digital is now playing a key role in Perpetual’s strategy to grow its reputation beyond its core products in Australian equities into global investments and multi-asset investments. These are delivered through its Perpetual Investments B2B business to clients via independent financial advisors.
“The main change has been understanding their needs with regard to digital, and what they consider hygiene and what they rate as high value from Perpetual,” Smith says. “Our strategy is based on very clear client segments. But as we have become more digital, we now also utilise client personas widely in our marketing, and are actively engaging clients in design of our solutions and communications.
“The role of marketing is in leading a customer experience mentality and approach in a digital-led business.”
The other focus area for digital is Perpetual’s private advice business for high net worth individuals, Perpetual Private.
“These are very high-touch personal relationships, but we definitely recognise the role of digital,” Smith says. “If you are going to have a high-touch personal relationship there, in most of our categories it will involve face-to-face. But around that, for the client to engage with us when and how they want, digital will play a real role.”
Building customer insights
Throughout her career, Smith has drawn heavily on insights from distribution teams and contact centres, as these are the people with direct, daily contact with clients.
“Particularly in a digital business we also learn so much more, and so much faster, about client behaviour through digital channels,” Smith says. “We released a new website last year on Sitecore. It’s been a major step forward for allowing people to learn more about and engage with Perpetual, but most importantly the technology is helping us learn more about our clients and prospects.”
The company also continues to rely on traditional qualitative research to understand client needs, including unmet needs, and how to deliver the best experience to fully understand the client’s context and situation. This is now blended with digital insight.
“Through digital channels we now also have access to good data about clients’ preferences – what journeys they are taking, what actions are happening, what content is well received, and so on,” Smith says. “We can change our campaigns accordingly, and overall it’s a more flexible and client-centred model. More and more it is allowing us to personalise our marketing.”
Eventually, this will lead to growth in Perpetual’s data analytics capability.
“With so much more data available, it’s key to be focused and have clear objectives for how data sets and analytics are being used,” Smith says. “I expect we’ll grow in this area over coming years.”
A key driver for digital servicing is a desire to meet the rising customer service expectations of clients. This can be a challenge for a company in a sector where face-to-face contact is highly valued.
“In our category their expectations are being set by their interactions with companies outside of our sector, so by their retail experience, or their banking experience,” Smith says. “We are a very high involvement category, and much less transactional, but when the client does want to engage with us or transact with us or seek information, we have to be providing an experience which is at least as good as what they are experiencing with those other really frequent-touch organisations.
“The bar is continually being set higher so you have to be aware of what people are doing way outside of your category and then how it might translate their expectations when they come to deal with you.”
Perpetual is also investing heavily in content, which Smith has chosen to prioritise in-house.
“We are a content-rich business, and I wanted a team here to make the most of our commentary, insights and thought leadership,” she says. “That means you need content people who understand the business and the clients – not just the story.
“The writing or production of some commentary can be outsourced, but I believe the best results are to have content teams working closely with the business and the rest of marketing.”
A key factor behind the strategy has been bringing together the marketing and technology groups within Perpetual, with the strategy having joint ownership under Smith and the company’s head of technology.
“In terms of organisational structures and working relationships, it goes without saying that the relationship between technology and marketing is now critical to success,” Smith says. “In some places they are miles apart, but you have to work very closely, particularly as digital evolves.”
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