Traditional investment service providers need to close an expectation gap when it comes to servicing different generations and types of investor. Those able to offer a seamless, personalized and omni-channel customer experience will be the winners in an increasingly competitive market. 

Our fourth and final article of this Wealth Management series, based on our 2020 Market Pulse Survey (MPS) of 1000+ Belgian investorsis dedicated to customer service. Widentify five trends that can guide more valuable interactions with investors and explore how investment service providers can develop a consistent branch experience by combining digital and human touchpoints.   

  1. Changing and unmet customer needs  The traditional one-size-fits-all approach to customers no longer works. The wealth management customer service model is progressively evolving towards a segment of one’ that addresses individual behaviors, values and needs.  
  2. Trusting financial advisor/investor relationship – Today’s investors still heavily rely on their financial advisor when making their investment decisions. Digital solutions can elevate this relationship of trust by enabling financial advisors to interact remotely and more intimately with their customers.  
  3. Customers still value human interactions at their local branch – Although some activities (such as portfolio restructuringcan now be performed onlinethere is little doubt that technology will continue to complement rather than replace the human financial advisor in the future. 
  4. Smart Advisory services are a source of revenue and cost reduction – Innovative technologies such as robotics or Artificial Intelligence (AI) can add value by enabling investment service providers to serve multiple client segments at scale while generating cost efficiencies. 
  5. Data as an enabler – Relying solely on existing datasets for more segmentation and personalization will not be enough to improve customer experience and attract new investorsIf customers are willing (and incentivized) to share additional personal data, more tailored offerings and services can be offeredHowever, data security concerns remain a major barrier.


          Belgian investors don’t feel served in the best way

          Belgian investors have traditionally maintained long-lasting and trusting relationships with their banks. However, cracks are appearing on the surfaceAround 20% of respondents to our survey have changed their main investment provider over the last three years and 15% of them are planning to do so in the future. To anticipate and prevent investors jumping ship, service providers need to understand the triggers 

          Specifically, our survey reveals that there are still service gaps to be resolved for customers seeking a clearer understanding of the investment landscape and customized advice at the right frequency. 

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          of respondents express disappointment in not being contacted at all by their financial advisor. 

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          The younger the respondent, the greater this lack of connection with a financial advisor becomes. Iis therefore not surprising that a large portion (+44%) of investors would welcome more frequent touchpoints with their financial advisorand this is especially the case for womenAlthough 64% of respondents agree that they are being contacted via the right channel, only 42% believe they are being contacted at the right moment. 

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          These findings suggest an opportunity for banks to reinforce the frequency and timing of contacts with advisory-based investors.

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          Banks should also build a better understanding of customer preferences and work out a tailored approach to deliver superior value (only 47% respondents feel they receive sufficiently tailored solutions)With the customer service model progressively evolving towards a segment of one, the traditional one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. Capturing the wants and needs of younger, digital-native customer base is crucial. According to Orbium’s 2019 report ”Accelerating To Future Success Models”, a $1.2 trillion wealth handover to the generation following the baby boomers will take place in the next 10 years.  

          The timely delivery of personalized offerings through channels that fit today’s lifestyle will enable banks to improve the satisfaction level of all generations of investors. 


          Digital can help financial advisors enrich their relationship with investors and deliver superior value…

          Customers are increasingly moving towards more advisory-based services and new asset classes to make their investment decisions and grow their capital. Our survey reveals that 59% of investors believe that their financial advisor understands the financial markets better than they do, while 56% rely mostly on their financial advisor to make their investment decisions.

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          However, this relationship of trust is currently at risk.

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          Only 49% of respondents acknowledge that their financial advisor takes enough time to get to know them and only 42% perceive him/her as a financial coach rather than a salesperson. In this context, digital channels and data-generated insights could definitely support advisors in their key advisory role. For example, hybrid advice models can turn traditional F2F interactions into an omnichannel experience that combines digitally enabled self-service and F2F moments (i.e. videoconferencing, remote collaboration tools…) and help financial advisors to interact more often with their customers. This will strengthen the relationship between the investor and service provider and improve customer satisfaction.


          ... Nevertheless, digital doesn’t strike the “coup de grace” to human interactions

          Although the customer journey of Belgian investors is becoming more digitized (an increasing preference for online and mobile self-service solutions for the most basic financial transactions), the branch environment is by no means dead. When asked about their preferred channel for performing core investment activities, the only time a digital channel preference comes out on top (32%) is “consulting the performance of your portfolio”. For other activities ranging from “defining investment strategy” and “getting portfolio advice”  to “subscribing to a pension/life insurance product”, the F2F and remote advisory models remain the preference among Belgian investors. The Covid-19 pandemic has also reshaped the way customers manage their finances and has highlighted the continued importance of the human touch in an increasingly digital banking environment.

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          of respondents also acknowledged the importance of having human interactions at key moments in their life, being that F2F, via mail or over the phone.

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          Although our survey shows that younger investors tend to prefer digital channels for performing more complex activities such as “buying/selling investment product”, the branch environment will still play a vital role in building deeper relationships with all customers.  


          Investors are open to Smart Advisory services

          Although Belgian investors are strongly attached to their local branch and demonstrate a clear need for human interactions they are also willing to receive computer-generated advice and services requiring no human intervention at all.

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          Surprisingly, the appetite of Belgian investors for innovative technologies (such as Smart Advisory services) prevails across all age categories.

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          This openness represents an opportunity for investment service providers to adopt innovative technologies such as automation or AI to serve multiple client segments at scale while generating cost efficiencies.

          Our survey also indicates that self-directed investors (those who don’t seek any human involvement in their investment decisions) are more likely to fully rely on robot-generated advice and services than their more traditionally-minded peers. The value of implementing Smart Advisory services is therefore also a tangible way for investment service providers to enlarge their customer base.


          Data can be an enabler of tailored offerings, but tread with care

          In an era of hyper-personalization, the traditional one-size-fits-all approach of investment service providers to drive customer value is doomed to fail because customers expect to receive tailored offerings whenever needed and via any channel. The future will be all about offering a highly personalized experience through digital and non-digital channels to serve multiple generations of existing and new investors looking for tailored offerings that also respond to their ethical values.

          Relying solely on existing datasets as an enabler for more segmentation and personalization is unlikely to be enough. Banks first need to understand their current customer base by pro-actively (i.e. anticipating changing customer behaviors) and re-actively (i.e. understanding the reasons to leave) analyzing existing data before targeting new prospects. Banks that have already developed a profound understanding of their existing customer base can then benefit from their customers’ willingness to share additional personal data in order to develop more tailored offerings and services.

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          Our survey reveals that 73% of investors today are willing to share personal data in return for personal benefits.

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          Clearly communicating the mutual benefits of sharing data and making the data gathering process easy by asking permission to access customers’ social media (feeds…), governmental (income taxes, pension, legal information…) and other platforms will enable banks to further encourage people to say ‘yes’. Combining these 1st and 2nd party data sources and potentially enriching them with data from 3rd party providers will require banks to develop additional analytics capabilities. This is necessary to identify the advantages that customers value the most (ESG products, automatic fraud detection service, frequency of touchpoints, need for advice at key moments…) and to propose data-enabled solutions across all channels.

          At the same time, data represents a major risk if not managed securely.

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          Our survey shows that data security is the #1 barrier for customers sharing personal data.

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          This paradox at the level of client willingness to share their personal data in exchange for personalized offerings can only be addressed by financial institutions improving their data security systems. Capitalizing on customer data and lowering the churn rate in the event of a potential data breach requires a strong commitment to trust and transparency.



          Our 2020 Market Pulse Survey (MPS) of 1000+ Belgian investors has exposed the existence of a service gap that investment service providers need to close in order to effectively service different generations and investor types. Banks need to acknowledge that the one-size-fits-all approach to their investor customers will no longer be fit for purpose in the future. Despite all the digital solutions currently available, Belgian investors remain very attached to human interaction in their investment activities, and in particular to their financial advisor.

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          This relationship is the key to why traditional players still retain a loyal customer base.

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          However, caution is advised. More and more younger investors are testing out other providers with different service models. It is therefore crucial that financial advisors are armed with the right digital tools to complement their traditional way of working and to meet the expectations of this growing customer base. Fully utilizing existing customer data, complemented with personal or third-party data, should allow investment service providers to better segment and calibrate channel experiences for all generations of investors. Investing in technologies such as AI or robotics can provide additional value by servicing multiple client segments at scale, while generating cost efficiencies. We recognize that this will require a major effort by investment providers. However, not acting now, might have serious consequences for the future.


          This article has been co-written by Jamel Hachmi, Maxime Tsvirko and Lorenzo Facq.


          Jérôme Lejeune

          Managing Director – Capital Markets Strategic Deals, Europe

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