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Financial intermediaries and advisers need to accelerate digitisation of their marketing efforts to buffer against the rising challenges exacerbated by this pandemic.

Financial services providers, from wealth managers to asset managers to lenders, have by and large withstood the rising tide of regulation and compliance over the past decade, though not without pain and increasingly broad-based industry consolidation. They have achieved this in part through rapid digitalisation, the embrace of technology to improve customer engagement, improve compliance and deliver operational efficiencies.

The same however cannot be said of advisers, many of whom are small and medium sized businesses and now find themselves pinched by high operating and compliance costs and unable quickly to respond to the challenges posed by this pandemic, and particularly in areas such as customer retention, communications and acquisition. These businesses, mortgage brokers, finance brokers, planners and advisers, despite the supposed advantage of agility, have not been afforded the space to initiate the broad digialisation of the marketing and communications required to help offset the increases in compliance and regulation. They have been treading water.

We are seeing, and particularly in Australia, an increase in the numbers of financial services which are not being renewed – 83 were discontinued in the three months to June 2020 according to this piece from the IFA. This is likely symptomatic of the pressures now upon smaller and typically younger operators who cannot continue – at least in their current form – to operate and compete effectively without additional scale or the benefit of trading under a dealer group license.

Intermediaries and advisers can no longer exist with a sub-par web presence, lack of centralised customer relationship management tool and the ability to communicate rapidly across channels. It is a matter of survival.

But for committed operators of smaller, younger practices, the time for digitalisation is now, in order to provide them some buffer against the significant margin compression we are seeing. Fortunately, for example, there has been an explosion of technology solutions available for advisers on the operational side of the business in recent times, specifically so-called ‘RegTech’ solutions which can reduce the cost of preparing an SOA or drafting required documentation and replace old paper-based processes and wet-signatures. Marketing technology has however, been mature for some time.

The current challenges are now highlighting the value of marketing and communications to intermediaries and advisers, as organisations scramble to manage customer run-off and preserve pipelines. Without the benefit of modern marketing technology and practices, the organisations in the cross-hairs of this near-fully-fledged ‘shakeout’ stand to be swept aside by better-resourced competitors who can market services and value propositions in a more personalised manner, more quickly and at scale. In a shrinking and increasingly price-driven marketplace, intermediaries and advisers can no longer exist with a sub-par web presence, lack of centralised customer relationship management tool and the ability to communicate rapidly across channels.

Core critical marketing infrastructure in 2020

What is needed on the marketing and communications side to support intermediaries and advisers with their response to current conditions? The items below are recommended to be at the forefront of your marketing infrastructure priorities.

  • High-performance responsive website – The ability to reach audiences 24/7 online across multiple browser and device types is now a critical requirement, and firms which fail to deliver a satisfactory experience now risk being overlooked for consideration.
  • Cloud-based CRM platform – Organisations which lack a central repository for sales, marketing and client data are at a sizeable disadvantage against those which can aggregate and action against that data using modern cloud-based tools.
  • Capable email marketing system – The ability to send personalised email communications to specific customer groups rapidly at scale is an essential communications requirement.
  • Basic web analytics package – The ability to understand where site visitors are coming from and attribute results to paid or other campaigns is critical visibility to ensure every marketing dollar is delivering a satisfactory return.
  • Social media management platform – Management on multiple single social media platforms is inefficient, and now necessitates a platform tool to enable efficient cross-posting of materials across multiple social channels simultaneously whilst also providing the ability to scan competitor activity.
  • Online survey tool – The ability to rapidly capture feedback from customers, prospects and others and use this to refine offerings, optimise the client experience and monitor organisational performance in uncertain times is essential, and requires at least a simple survey tool.
  • Web to lead capability – Organisations do not have resource to commit to manual data entry. Modern marketing tools allow for website forms to write directly to CRM platforms to ensure no data is lost or mishandled and that time can be deployed on higher-value priorities.
  • Cloud-based design tools – The requirement to outsource design for routine work can now be replaced with new tools to significantly reduce cost and accelerate delivery.

The list about is not exhaustive but intended to illustrate base requirements of a modern digitised marketing function. To ensure that firms can compete effectively and navigate current challenges, intermediaries and advisers should consider taking advantage of now-mature, pre-existing marketing technologies to increase marketing efficiency, reduce overall cost and accelerate delivery of marketing initiatives.

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