Client Affairs

A Real Differentiator - Getting Client Reporting Right - Coutts

Jackie Bennion, 28 February 2019


Coutts’ head of digital and design experience shares his insights on client reporting and finding the sweet spot between the tech and the human touch.

Continuing this month’s coverage of how firms balance good client reporting with compliance obligations while still embracing all that tech has to offer, this newswire spoke to Coutts Private Bank about what the key drivers are for improving the customer experience and the bottom line.

It’s a good time to talk to Coutts, part of the wealth management arm of Royal Bank of Scotland that turned in impressive financial results earlier this month, with operating profit and equity more than doubling for the year. Coutts chief executive Peter Flavel said that the bank’s “new operating model is feeding through to financial performance”.

Jonathan Brierley, head of digital design and experience for the bank, shared his views on how the bank approaches client reporting from the clarity of the communication to finding additional value through AI, Google’s Duplex, live data reporting, and always keeping the mindset: personalise don’t generalise. He says there has never been a better time for “easily and transparently displaying financial data sets in an interactive way, and the space has huge scope for innovation." He also says, “Finding a way to become a part of the client's day-to-day messaging approach is where the real opportunity lies.”
Wealth managers can gain an edge over their rivals by delivering a great experience for clients, such as in clear, efficient and fast reporting of what’s happening to their money. Technology has a big part to play in making this happen. Can you explain what you see as the main ways in which firms can often fail to get client reporting right? Are there any examples (names of firms redacted) of particular problems?
The mindset shift has to be from thinking of reporting as a regulated touch-point, to a key driver of the client experience. As with landing any good client communication, good reporting has many of the same core concepts.

Don’t bury the lead story. When a client opens the report, there are a few key items that they will want to see right away, so provide the key information you want to land right up front.

Be clear and transparent. Create content that is personal and engaging rather than just generalised. Use graphs and infographics to break down large data sets, and clearly communicate performance and trends.

Perhaps the biggest: don’t just focus on today, but the clients’ goals. Just because a client may be earning a significant sum, doesn’t mean they aren’t also spending it. What does that mean for them next year, the year after, and five years after that?

How can technology help a firm balance the need to give clients sufficient information to do client reporting well without burying them in data?
Technology lets us create more value in client reports through availability and interactivity, and so generating a better understanding of what our clients really engage with.

Access to our data, personal or otherwise, is quickly becoming a basic utility rather than a luxury. Importantly, by providing a ‘live report’ online, a client can follow the narrative of their position at any time they choose. This engagement lowers the risk of a surprise coming down the line and provides a feeling of empowerment.

With immediate access to data, a client doesn’t just have to wait for a report that appears through the mailbox monthly or quarterly. They are able to have a constant view of their assets.

There have never been more methods to easily and transparently display financial data sets in an interactive way, and the space has huge amounts of innovation. It’s no longer an excuse to hide behind the old fashioned table. Bring on the graphics!

What a report lets us do is freeze that moment in time and provide some much-needed additional colour. It’s also a chance for us to introduce the human touch and a higher level of service. Providing these details in a printed format, using tables upon tables of data isn’t going to make a client feel any better about their financial wellbeing.

What has been the main trend you have seen in the past five years in how firms are managing client reporting? For instance, are you seeing an increase in the amount of such reporting going online and onto mobile platforms; are you seeing more examples of foreign language channels, customised approaches, other?
This is a challenging space to transform, and I believe that’s why there hasn’t been a huge amount of change, industrywide outside regulation over the past five years.

Instead of focusing on the traditional reports, the concept is quickly being replaced with interactive client dashboards and constant access through online banking and investing. These provide an immediate view of assets and can supplement mandatory reporting (which clients can often overlook) in favour of these more engaging and up-to-date tools.

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