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Face-to-face contact still crucial for HNW clients: SEI

Face-to-face contact still crucial for HNW clients: SEI

Face-to-face contact is key in wealth management client relationships, although technology back-up is increasingly crucial, according to SEI, whose research found that 11 interactions a year is the ‘sweet-spot’ level of contact.

Brett Williams, managing director for UK private banking at SEI Wealth Platform, told FTAdviser that there is a balance to be struck between regular client contact and letting them do some things themselves online.

“Accessing information and some form of decision making - say choosing Isa funds - can be done virtually by clients, but deciding what to do with one’s retirement income will still require several meetings with an adviser.”

New findings by wrap platform Nucleus also highlighted how face-to-face contact and helping clients ‘make sense of it all’ are the two most important elements of an adviser’s service, with Nucleus users spending most of their time - 21 per cent each respectively - on ‘client reports’ and ‘time with clients’.

Sebastian Dovey, managing partner of Scorpio Partnership, commented that for those most deeply invested in their wealth management relationships, the human interface is still the ballast of a communications strategy.

“This isn’t simply about having good people on the front line but about understanding the nuances of a good conversation from the perspective of the global wealthy.”

However, online wealth manager Nutmeg’s chief executive Nick Hungerford, said that Nutmeg’s model means customers can see an overview of their investments whenever they like, so they always know exactly how they are performing and how much they’re paying.

“We find they have questions on an ad-hoc basis rather than a fixed time each month. It might be sparked by something they’ve read in the press or a conversation with a friend or family.

“Customers like to get in touch via built-in secure email, live chat, or phone to talk to a real person. Chat is really popular with professionals in working hours - they like to have a conversation with someone who can see their portfolio- while others prefer the reassurance of a voice at the end of the phone.”

The comments followed research published last week by SEI, in association with NPG Wealth Management and Scorpio Partnership, that found 11 interactions a year is the ‘sweet-spot’ level of contact between wealth management firms and their high net worth clients.

The research took into account the views of 3,113 investors, showing that when interaction levels dipped below this level, clients were more likely to give a negative review of their experience.

The most important features of a good interaction with a UK adviser were discussing new investment opportunities (42 per cent) and reviewing overall progress towards existing goals (40 per cent), while by far the least popular was being introduced to other specialists (12 per cent).

Mr Williams added that the US was undoubtedly further ahead with technology than the UK - although “there is still a lot more talk than action” - but reinforced the point that recent at-retirement rule changes meant more need for face-to-face contact to work through the new options.