If customer experience is the question, are portals the answer?

Providing a seamless experience takes a leap into the light

In early Summer 2022, sponsored by Instinct Digital, Sionic asset management experts Rebecca Gashi and Clare Vincent-Silk conducted an industry-wide survey of asset managers and asset owners, producing a subsequent white paper addressing “The Future of Client Reporting”. 

This opinion piece draws on the findings and the full paper can be downloaded here.

Although many asset managers assume that providing clients with access to their reporting via a portal is essential to providing a great customer experience, not everyone agrees!

Within the world of client reporting, momentum has been growing over the last couple of years, with some firms looking at a revolution, others at an evolution and all heading towards a shift in the way they understand, deliver and expect to receive client reports.

In Sionic’s 2022 survey of asset managers, 19% stated that they can now provide their clients with a self-service portal to directly interrogate/slice and dice their investment data. With 88% either considering digitalisation a core need or embarking on the change to develop it, the drive to portals seems certain.

But is this really what the industry wants?

What is a portal?

Well for a start, portals are more than one thing.  At their simplest, they provide clients with a secure private website through which they can view their personal information – but there is considerable variance across asset managers in the functionality available.

  • The most basic capability gives clients access to pre-existing pdf reports.
  • Greater sophistication gives options to self-generate reports, through to slicing and dicing data to create ad hoc tailored reports and ultimately, offers full flexibility to interrogate data, including the ability to look-through to core data.

The majority of portals sit on the basic to middle end of this scale, with most firms intending to upgrade further in future.

Portals are the way forward 

  • Asset managers are enthusiastic about portals, and see them as key to enhancing their clients’ overall digital experience (something 80% of our survey participants felt was a key development driver).
  • Portals are an access point enabling clients to engage in the digital experience, interrogate their data and produce reports that meet their needs.
  • They are an effective tool for managing data, especially for operational teams needing easy production of tailored reporting.

But they’re not always the solution

  • Distribution teams are concerned about the impact of encouraging clients to self-serve, potentially cutting out the client servicing teams, with the risk of losing client interaction and opportunity to offer intelligent analysis and interpretation.
  • Asset owners want to create custom investment analytics, but if using multiple asset managers, this has limited benefit without prior consolidation of all holdings.

A real conundrum

Asset managers who want to provide a unified client experience find themselves challenged with the balance between the desire to give asset owners a complete package, accessed via a portal, and giving their clients raw data to enable them to generate their own aggregated and consolidated reports, in addition to portal access.

The trade-off for asset managers lies between fulfilling each asset owner’s specific requirements, which can then be folded into the client’s aggregated reporting, and trying to create a more efficient, standardised package which multiple asset owners can use.

Key challenges

Asset owners must provide reports to their trustees that meet new requirements such as ESG disclosures, demands that extend over both public and private markets.

For asset managers, legacy systems create multiple issues, with two thirds considering dispersed and fragmented data sources and out of date and inflexible technology to be blockers to resolving their challenges.

Many asset managers are seeking digital solutions to these problems, with their clients’ experience a priority, portals are being seen as a key part of those solutions.

The opportunity outweighs the challenge

Everyone agrees the goal must be an enhanced customer experience and that digitalisation is fundamental to its provision.

At the heart of that is the shift from the provision of static reporting to two-way communication, creating a model that aligns with changing social expectations.

Competition for customers is ever more fierce, and the need to provide excellent and seamless customer journeys from first contact to regular client reporting has never been greater.

It’s time for the industry to adapt and thrive.

About the author

I have a background in international law, and 30 years’ experience in asset management, banking transformation and life and pensions