Business Transformation | 11.07.23
Wealth Unification: The Next Paradigm — BISA / Bielan Webinar Recap
BISA recently partnered with the Bielan Group on the webinar “Wealth Unification: The Next Paradigm." Presented by the Bielan Group’s Peter Bielan and Strategic Advisory Consulting Group’s Dave Coffaro, the webinar featured a panel of experts on unifying wealth: Diane Young of Navy Federal Financial Group, John Olerio of Webster Investment Services and Rhomes Aur of First Horizon Advisors. Read on for a few highlights from this informative session.
A Growth Opportunity
Often, clients move through a firm’s different segments in a process that’s more about what benefits the firm vs. what benefits the client. But whatever door they walk through first defines their experience — e.g., they could have a completely different experience if they go to a fiduciary advisor vs. a financial advisor. Because of this, one firm may seem like three. Negative impacts of this structure include diminished relevance in the customer’s eyes and less-sticky relationships.
On the bright side, this means many financial institutions have untapped opportunity to meet clients’ needs. Only 6% of client investments are currently held by banks, so there is plenty of room for growth.
Identifying Four Personas
The Bielan Group identified four personas of the wealth unification continuum that most firms can see themselves in:
Wild West — The firm’s organizations are completely disparate and there are no rules of engagement amongst them.
Playing Nice in the Sandbox — Although there are disparate organizations that operate separately, there is less ambiguity amongst internal staff and clients are directed to the “right” area.
- Partially Unified — The firm is leveraging tools to create consistency across firms and product redundancy is eliminated. There is even some cross delivery of services across teams.
- Largely Unified — All of the above is true along with regulatory adherence being aligned, there being a single team with common leadership and data overlays across departments.
Each panelist shared where they believe their firm is along the scale, and why they ended up there.
Navy Federal Credit Union is somewhere between “playing nice” and “partially unified.” Although every business unit is still somewhat siloed, they are extremely unified in their mission. Everyone understands their roles. One thing that has helped them reach this position is listening to frontline team members who are interacting daily with customers through chat and phone. This enabled the credit union to make day-to-day improvements in connecting with clients. As an example, they’re integrating data, as they’ve learned clients wish to be known across different channels. A building block of this change is that their firm always starts with who their members are, what their focus is and how they can help across the firm.
John Olerio feels Webster is in a similar place as Navy Federal, but two years ago, they were closer to being “fully unified.” The firm had begun unifying and found this model had many benefits, but a merger required them to take a step back. Now, the firm is working toward a new paradigm.
Rhomes Aur sees characteristics from all the personas in his programs. His bank has been on this journey since 2008, beginning this process coming out of the economic crisis. At the time, they had a lot of customers, but were not going as deeply with them as they could, so they decided to become more relationship-oriented, and the wealth unification process was part of this. Now, they are combined under one leader and develop a common vision that brings people together. Their goal is to continue moving toward the right side of the scale.
Future Strategies in Wealth Management
Driving service is a continual journey for Navy Federal. Their team is constantly aiming to ensure unification on value propositions and to pull products and services members want by asking the right questions. Having the right tools to do this across the firm is key. Something that has helped propel them toward this growth is a rebrand which clarified their integration for members. This is particularly helpful for younger members, she explained, whose parents may have signed them up. Although data has been incredibly helpful in ensuring unification, she warns caution when wielding this data. Members often don’t want to feel an employee is asking them about data they didn’t give permission to comment on. Asking “do I have your permission to introduce you to a financial advisor at our company?” is important.
A goal for First Horizon is intentionality around the clients they choose, Rhomes explained. Their bank is currently focused on a few niches: doctors, business owners, women and those with generational wealth. These niches mean having employees with specific focuses at the firm, e.g., teams trained in the medical industry and providing tech the new generation will understand and appreciate. Although Rhomes acknowledged everyone cannot sell everything, it’s helpful to know what steps a client has already taken so you can lead them to the next one. For example, recent med school graduates are often looking for their first home. So, bringing in a financial planner at that stage as well as someone who works in insurance would be a logical step — and so on and so forth. Despite these niches, a unified client experience can take place.
John addressed his approach to roadblocks to unification, sharing that people must look at the opportunities instead of the roadblocks. Starting right away with your people — asking who will be able to serve the end client best — is a must. Ultimately, it’s all about being able to deliver wealth exactly the way the client wants it. You need to maximize your opportunities to serve better through technology and staffing. Shortening the timetable of tech is one example. Another key is to bring your customer-facing teams all into one room. John explained these teams will lead the way faster and better than you could imagine. At Webster, this happened during the initial unification process, and when the merger required Webster to take a step back, the relationships continued, setting the stage for a future paradigm.
Diane also weighed in on how to address challenges, explaining she spent a lot of time understanding the challenges and roadblocks as well as understanding her firm’s strengths and weaknesses. The team formed a transformation strategy, ultimately coming up with 17 initiatives across the organization. Now, they have an organized milestone plan with dates.
The final topic the panelists addressed is how their firms manage and lead through change. For Rhomes, this means defining success through metrics and aiming for consistency vs. taking a “soup of the day” approach. For John, both listening and dialogue are key. He listens to his team’s reaction to change and then starts a dialogue around it. For Denise, a challenge she’s experienced is the team wondering why fix something that isn’t broken. She aims to bring in strong talent and get the team to be owners of the change as they go forward, all with the goal of client satisfaction.
BISA provides webinars regularly and is continuing its series in partnership with the Bielan Group. Visit our webinar page to learn more and sign up.