When done well, onboarding new clients can mark the beginning of a long-term, successful relationship. Done poorly, however, you’ll likely see clients jumping ship and finding yourself where you might be defending your reputation.
Client onboarding is one of the first, if not the very first, opportunity for financial advisors and wealth management professionals to win over new clients.
It really is that first “leap of faith” and step toward building a long-term relationship with your new clients—which means that your onboarding experience must be fast, frictionless, and enjoyable. When it comes to onboarding, your goal should be for new clients to gain immediate value from the onset and for them to get introduced to products and services that will help them reach their goals for their life and finances.
When done well, onboarding can mark the beginning of a productive and profitable partnership. Done poorly, however, and you may see unwanted churn.
But onboarding is still so much more than that — well-thought-out and personalized client onboarding results in improved client satisfaction, increased revenues, and enhanced process efficiency.
So how can you create a smooth client onboarding process or improve the one you already have? Before diving into best practices, let’s dive into some important and must-know details.
The Benefits of Having a Smooth Onboarding Process
Client onboarding isn’t just a nice add-on—it is a crucial business strategy. When done effectively, it leads to:
- Less churn: When it comes to onboarding and working with clients, first impressions are everything. Advisors should aim to build relationships and demonstrate value early in the client’s journey to help them stick.
- More efficiency: Onboarding helps you just as much as it helps your clients. It provides you with need-to-know information at your fingertips, leaving you in the best possible position to begin working for a client.
- Happier clients: Clients want to work with advisors who know what they’re doing, have a clear plan of action, and build strong relationships.
- More clients: By putting your client first, you’re far more likely to build strong relationships and gain steady referrals.
- Ensures compliance: Having a well-thought-out, highly repeatable onboarding process helps to ensure that compliance is already built into everything you do instead of simply becoming an afterthought.
Remember—not all onboarding processes are created equal.
Five Onboarding Best Practices
1. Make Paperwork Easy… For Everyone
Onboarding is almost always synonymous with paper, which is a necessary evil in all aspects of wealth management. Streamlining the paperwork process is an effective way to show new clients you are trustworthy, reliable, and well prepared.
For starters, you’ll want to make sure all required agreements and forms are ready to go and easy for clients to not only sign but to understand. It’s also important to make sure that your clients have an easy, efficient, and secure way to access their onboarding materials and documents after signing has taken place. A Digital Vault platform provides can confidently equip advisors and clients with the tools they need to handle document exchanges such as sharing key onboarding documentation and information.
Importantly, using a digital eSignature tool like DocuSign, among many others, for your signature workflows significantly reduces unnecessary back-and-forth communications and makes it easy for clients to sign and return documents instantaneously.
2. Establish a Clear Line of Communication
By establishing your clients’ preferred communication method(s) and the frequency of communication from the get-go, you start your relationship on the right foot.
It is important to identify early with new clients how they prefer to be contacted and how often they expect to hear from you. When this step is deliberately done from the onset, it provides your clients with a sense of them knowing that you care for and value their relationship enough to make sure they are comfortable. Some clients may want to have one call at the beginning of the relationship and then continue with minimal contact. Others may prefer to connect once a week or month.
The point is this, you won’t know unless you ask and establish this. What is even more important is making sure that you follow through and deliver on what has been established.
3. Have a Kick-Off Meeting
Once new client agreements have been signed and you are ready to get started, it’s now an appropriate time for you to hold a kickoff meeting to review details, goals, communication preferences, and more. This meeting establishes your future communication cadence and helps clients feel confident they made the right decision to hire you.
A well thought-out and organized kick-off meeting sets a positive tone for your new relationships and should be used to make sure you and your new clients are aligned and on the same page. This serves as the building block for a strong relationship, ensuring clients are satisfied with your services.
During your kickoff meeting, make sure to review:
➜ Overall goals
➜ Metrics for success
➜ Your strategies or approach
➜ Roles and expectations
➜ Information you need from them to get started such as critical documents
➜ Online access and portals where clients can access their portfolios, including accessing their documents and statements
➜ Next steps
4. Provide New Clients with Tools and Resources
Notably, your clients will want to and will need to have access to their portfolio, documents, and information at any given time. Providing them with secure and personalized access via a client portal, will help your firm and your advisors (including yourself) establish trust.
When it comes to storing documents, providing your clients with a secure and personal document vault is a great way to continue building trust via delivering all critical information assets, including resources such as market updates and monthly commentaries. A well structured document vault can and will help your clients not only access the documents directly related to your relationship with them, but it can serve as a place where they can securely store and organize all their important personal documents such as family documents, legal, healthcare, etc.
Ultimately, it is part of your job to provide your clients with the tools and resources that instill confidence in your services and that continue to provide tremendous value in their everyday life.
5. Provide Ongoing Value, Forever
Advisors, please remember that your job as a wealth management professional is to provide ongoing value to and for your clients; you are in the business of enriching your clients’ lives. This means that once you’ve onboarded new clients, your job has only just begun.
Offering ongoing services or resources—such as financial literacy resources, answering questions or concerns, offering monthly consultation to review financial plans or investment strategies—shows true professionalism and proves your commitment to providing long-term value, in turn encouraging clients to stay on. Don’t forget to notify new clients about all these services during the onboarding process.
Create a Document Checklist to Scale New Client Onboarding Processes
A client onboarding document checklist is a great way to help you standardize your onboarding workflow and ensure you’re efficiently gathering the required information and documents from your clients.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of common documents often required when onboarding a new client.
➜ Necessary bank statements (including any retirement or investment accounts)
➜ Mortgage paperwork and/or your client’s most recent statement
➜ Statements showing the balance and monthly payment for any auto loans
➜ Credit card statements and current balances
➜ Student loan statements
➜ Paperwork pertaining to a business (should your client own one)
➜ Alimony or child support statements—if applicable
➜ Disability insurance documents
➜ Declaration pages for home or renter’s insurance, automobile insurance, and/or any umbrella policies or commercial insurance policies
➜ Life insurance information or policy statements, including group term life insurance from your client’s employer
➜ Paperwork for any other financial accounts not listed
➜ Government ID, etc.
When onboarding a new client and especially when working with them to create a financial plan, we know all too well that information is power. Equip your firm and your advisors with the right resources to securely and efficiently collect the information you need in order to capture your clients’ financial life and provide them with value every step of the way.
Take Your Client Onboarding to the Next Level
Onboarding is often the first place for new clients to place their trust in your hands; a difficult thing for most individuals and families. Having a smooth onboarding experience creates immediate value by showing new clients how much you care, that their personal information and documents are safe and secure, that you understand their personal needs, and that you’re in it with them, together and for the long term.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.