Customer Journeys in Asset & Wealth Management: Overcoming barriers in a headstrong industry

At Hooplot Associates we’ve recently  studied the article Are you really listening to what your clients are saying?’ from Harald Fanderi, Kevin Neher and Alfonso Pulido of McKinsey, and really liked it.  

The reason? The writers make the case that many large companies still are tone-deaf to the voice of the customer. They argue that many companies fall short. They often gather customer feedback through sales channels, while missing important insights from users and influencers. Nor do they sufficiently connect customer experience metrics to business performance (see metrics blog post). These are just a few of the many possible complications representing a formidable barrier to building the foundation of a successful customer-centric strategy.



However, since the article does not mention the Global Asset and Wealth Management Industry we have taken the liberty to add our insights from the industry by means of this short article.  

When it comes to delivering durable end-to-end customer experiences, international Asset & Wealth Managers, but also banks and insurance companies often find themselves feeling as if they are being told how to build an H-bomb, without a written formula, nor the right raw materials. While they might understand the general steps, that doesn’t mean they can actually build it.


Asset and Wealth Management (AWM) firms often struggle with the popular concept of customer journey mapping and customer experience optimisation.  3 common questions around actioning these concepts within the AWM industry are:

  1. How can we apply this knowledge in our industry?
  2.  What if we don’t have the processes, systems and skills to implement?
  3. How do we get our colleagues to embrace this way of working?

Behaviour varies across industries, client segments and geographies


Regarding applying this knowledge in our industry we need to realise that some things in AWM work slightly different from the industries mentioned in the article of McKinsey: utilities, leisure and automotive. We notice that too often AWM is treated as a niche industry in which clients behave more or less the same across geographies. With the global research that we have been conducting for the past 10 years among Pension Fund Directors, Distributors, Fund Selectors, Discretionary Portfolio Managers,  IFAs and Private Investors we have gathered detailed information about what drives their choices when assessing suppliers. We also know from this research that what works in one country and client group doesn’t necessarily work in another. Optimising the end-to-end customer experiences for each client segment in each country requires designing flexible customer journey frameworks entailing all possible journeys.


Make and buy


We fully agree with Fanderi et al. that implementation of customer journeys is a transformational process and takes time, often 18 to 24 months, if not longer. Successful implementation involves developing processes, selecting and installing systems and skills.


We experience effective and less effective approaches that AWM firms take when dealing with design and implementation of customer journeys. Amongst the less effective approaches is flying in a generic customer journey specialist who does not know the difference between stocks and bonds, let alone that between active and passive investing. Or, quite the opposite, trying to do everything in house and at the same time:  asking HR to hire new skill, while training existing colleagues, reassigning others or even restructuring while implementing.


At Hooplot Associates, we take a focused and phased approach based on ample industry experience. We also bring specific industry knowledge and industry specific data per target group and country to the table based on our global research.  Our approach involves setting up a multidisciplinary team that consists of professionals within the clients’ organisation, complemented with selective industry specific external expertise as well as leveraging on our proprietary data sources which together aid in shortening the implementation period. At first, we focus all activities around one specific customer segment, ideally in one country, to enable swift progress resulting in immediate and visible impact on the customer experience of that one target segment. 


Change is difficult in a headstrong industry


In addition to what is laid out in the article of McKinsey we notice that professionals in this industry are quite headstrong. They are the pinnacle of the knowledge workers paradigm and will not just follow indiscriminate corporate decisions,  they might just as well fight them. We argue that achieving transformation, especially knowledge workers’ industries such as AWM, requires a clear purpose that should be the fruit of a thorough inquiry among (key) people and credibly linked to company strategy. Besides understanding the link with corporate strategy it is crucial that everyone understands how the transformation will benefit them and also how they can contribute. Achieving successful change starts with understanding of the interests and motives of the people e.g. portfolio management, sales, investment specialists and other involved stakeholders. Once the right level of engagement is reached and the ball starts rolling, you will have to see things through till the end and facilitate it: week after week, month after month, well into years. 




McKinsey’s article ‘Are you really listening to what your clients are saying?’ addresses key elements involved in customer journey mapping and customer experience optimisation. Moving beyond measuring touchpoints and homing in on customer journey feedback, providing you with an end-to-end real time view of how customers experience your company and how they experience doing business with you, indeed is crucial. We recommend reading it, as are the learnings presented in the article are very useful.


Still, for Asset and Wealth Management (AWM) firms industry specific data, insights and knowledge can be added, since they often struggle with the generic concepts of customer journey mapping and customer experience optimisation. 


Important factors to overcome the Barriers to building the foundation of a successful customer-centric strategy:

  • Following a multi-disciplinary approach, involving all disciplines working with the quality of end-to-end customer experiences and adding specific data, insights, knowledge and skills.
  • Understanding the interests and motives of industry-specific disciplines e.g. portfolio management, sales, investment specialists and other involved stakeholders.
  • Creating an inspiring and clear sense of purpose that is fully linked to the company strategy.
  • Make and Buy - secure the availability of the expertise, usually only partly available within AWM’s, that is required to bring the project to a good end.
  • Preventing losing time and money by hiring external (marketing) expertise without Industry and AWM specific organisational knowledge.
  • Leveraging readily available data and insights from industry experts about the different client groups. First understand which target segment has the highest contribution margin, CLTV or the highest strategic value for the company and start there.
  • Seeking senior management buy in, starting with showing visible impact on the customer experience of that one target segment.  


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