Last Updated on July 29, 2021 by Carlo Navarro
Wealth management, along with just about every other industry, is in flux as pandemic-related pressure to go digital accelerates new client expectations and behaviors. In short, what has worked in the past does not necessarily work now. While client expectations always follow an upward trajectory, expectations around mobile are especially steep.
What’s more, digital platform wealth management companies and robo-advisors are flooding the market, driving up consumer expectations around technology-enabled remote and digital advice more drastically. McKinsey points out that the digital advice segment grew by more than 90 percent in 2017. Mobile is a key part of that.
Yet many advisors and wealth management firms have been dragging their feet when it comes to offering mobile apps. In many ways, advisors are stuck between a rock and a hard place: they know mobile is important but their vendor doesn’t offer mobile, or — more common — the mobile experience is awful.
We know clients aren’t impressed. The J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Wealth Management Mobile App Satisfaction Study℠ reported that customer satisfaction around wealth mobile apps falls far behind those of other consumer financial companies. Advisors and firms know that happy clients are more likely to stay with their advisor and even expand the business they do with those advisors. So what gives?
Mobile Apps: Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t
When it comes to mobile apps, there are two things to understand: 1) not having a mobile app is not OK in 2021, and 2) having a bad mobile app is not OK in 2021. We live in a mobile world and consumer expectations are high. Even grandma likes to be able to see how her money is doing from the convenience of her smartphone in-between “liking” photos of her grandkids on Facebook.
If you’re tempted to think that it’s just Gen Z’ers that are having a field day with mobile, think again: Four out of five (81%) of Americans now own smartphones, and 95% of U.S. adults that earn over $75,000 annually own smartphones. Those smartphone owners, on average, use 30 apps each month.
Unfortunately, most wealth mobile apps are inconsistent on both fronts. In fact, the J.D. Power study noted that one-third of customers said their firm misses the mark when it comes to security. Just half of customers reported that their app provided personalized advice and insights.
Firms get caught up in front-loading features and functionality without considering whether or not their clients actually want those features and functionality. Without a data-driven approach, the mobile experience falls flat on clients who feel slighted that their individual needs weren’t considered.
Simplicity and ease-of-use are also key. Unfortunately, there is a stark disconnect between how firms design mobile features and how their clients experience them. The J.D. Power study showed that just over one-third (36%) of users said that features they considered the most important were not easy to use. Big misses in your mobile app can lead to big misses in the bottom line.
Check out a blog post we wrote:
How a Beautifully-Designed Mobile App Attracts and Retains Clients
Bad Design, Bad ROI
Features and functions are clearly important but there’s one more critical ingredient that can make or break client experience: design. Mobile app design has consequences. Mobile apps that don’t appeal to their users can actually incentivize those users to take undesirable actions.
Snafus like ambiguous notifications or visual clutter are not just messy, but they can compel them to abandon the app (and your advice) altogether. Confusing your clients and making them jump through hoops that don’t matter to them is frustrating and saps their enthusiasm for your app. In other words, bad mobile app design has an emotional impact on your clients. Clients log in expecting your app to help make their lives easier. If it ends up making things more difficult, they will bail and possibly seek out a competitor that provides a better experience.
The business impacts of bad mobile design are not insignificant. Aside from losing loyal customers to a bad experience, bad mobile design can lead to:
Reputation Damage and Decreased Loyalty
Wealth management firms know better than most the importance of reputation, credibility, and client loyalty. So take heed when we highlight just how much damage a poorly-designed app can do to those things. A dissatisfying user experience isn’t just frustrating to the user but it calls into question the reputation of the entity that created the app — your firm. In the era of social proof, this damage can spread like wildfire with bad app reviews and word of mouth, having devastating effects on your client base and revenue.
Increased Support Costs
Advisors love helping clients make good decisions with their money, but acting as technical support to help those clients figure out how to use a mobile app falls much lower on the totem pole. A poorly designed app doesn’t just lead to frustrating experiences for advisors and clients, it can increase costs, too. This bears out several different ways. Time spent helping a client navigate a confusing or clunky mobile app takes time away that could be spent helping that client (or other clients) manage their money. Considering that Baby Boomers control more than 53% of the wealth in the U.S., advisors must be cognizant of how these users engage with mobile technology. Yes, they use it. But they are less adept at troubleshooting problems than their digitally-native counterparts in Gen Z (and millennials). Time spent walking each and every client through a bad mobile app experience can drain time and resources from a firm fairly quickly.
We get it: you’re a wealth management advisor, not just a digital platform or robo-advisor. That doesn’t make offering a (well-designed) mobile app any less important. Mobile is here to stay, and your clients now expect the best experience possible. The question is, is your mobile app here at all? If you do offer a mobile app, does it have what it takes to keep your clients happy and engaged?
Stay tuned as we walk you through how a well-designed app can help you attract and retain clients.