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Episode 58: “3 Ways to Engage Investors Through Hyper-Personalized Communications” with Mike Tropeano, Senior Director of Wealth Consulting at Broadridge

Mike Tropeano, Senior Director of Wealth Consulting at Broadridge, joins Matt Swain to discuss the role hyper-personalization plays in optimizing communications and creating engaging investor experiences.

I'm Matt Swain. You’re listening to the "Reimagining Communications" podcast, where we discuss the opportunities and challenges facing companies on the road to optimizing their communications for the future.

Today, I'm joined by Mike Tropeano, senior director of wealth consulting, within our very own Broadridge Consulting Services. Mike, thank you so much for joining today.

Mike: Matt, thanks for having me. Big fan of the podcast, listened to many of the episodes, and it's really a pleasure and privilege to be part of it.

Matt: Well, we have a fan. I like that. Good start, Mike.

So, when I think about your focus on the bank, the trust, and RIA or Registered Investment Advisor spaces, I wanted to piggyback on Episode 56, which was The Role of Personalized Video in Improving Communications Between Advisors and Investors.

But then Episode 57, where we covered highlights from our annual CX and communications insights research. And that really drove home the point that most companies are falling further behind CX leaders year-over-year, and companies need to take steps to improve, and this is across industries. And the steps they need to take include creating more personalized experiences. And I think that's a really interesting space for us to further explore with your expertise.

So, before we dive into it, why don't you provide a little context, talk a little bit about yourself, what you do in your role within Broadridge Consulting Services?

Mike: Sure, absolutely. So, my role within Broadridge Consulting Services is to work with a lot of our clients in a bank trust, RIA, overall wealth management space, clients who are going through some level of transformation. They could be going through some type of change in target operating model. In this situation, they could be looking to engage differently with their clients across different segments, across the entire client base, changing the advisor experience as much as changing the client experience.

So, we work with those clients collaboratively, apply industry best practices, along with the market research in what is available in technology, to help them better position themselves to capture next-generation wealth, as well as assets through the great wealth transfer, which is ongoing right now.

Matt: Yeah, and I think a little bit about the content in Episode 56 was talking about tools for advisors to improve the experiences or the relationships they have, with their investors. Is that somewhat what you're doing in your role as well, working directly with organizations that have large bases of advisers, and supporting them on putting the right tools in place?

Mike: Absolutely. It's a key part of what we do. That advisor experience is directly correlated to how strongly the client or consumer experience, or investor experience is. So, we work with the firms, and we try to look at the whole journey map of each client interaction to make sure that it's optimized so that the client is having a positive interaction, but also the advisor is trying to drive scale out of what they do on a daily basis.

When you talked about Episode 56, I thought one of the things that was really interesting in that is when Kevin Darlington was talking about engagement, tying more towards the Robinhood or the micro-investing experience. That's what a lot of the firms that I work with, are dealing with. They are competing against Robinhood, from an experience standpoint. Yeah, maybe not from a total wealth standpoint because of the lack of planning tools, the lack of true portfolio management for that individual.

But what they are is, they changed the experience, meaning the micro investors, on what the expectation is of some of the younger generations. It could be younger Gen X'ers, definitely millennials, and even Gen Z to some degree. So, that was a good part of Episode 56, ties to what we're trying to do here within the wealth segments that I cover.

Matt: In consulting, similar to my role, you get to see and hear from a lot of different clients with varying challenges, with varying levels of transformation.

I'd be curious to hear what you're hearing and seeing, relative to what investors want from their trust providers or financial advisors, or otherwise.

Mike: Simply put, the investors are looking for a hyper-personalized experience. Now, that isn't as simple as that. Hyper-personalization means so many different things and it really comes down to what the investor, or what that client, is looking for, from the experience. If we were to put three main themes or pillars around what needs to be delivered in that hyper-personalization, the first thing I would talk about is, we need to start changing the focus of the discussion to the client, in their objectives, in their expected outcomes.

Many times, within wealth management, within the industry as a whole, we tend to talk about ourselves, and we tend to talk about, we did this for performance, or we're doing this for expanding our asset management capabilities or investment capabilities, or this is our new client portal or mobile app, rather than focusing that discussion on what is the client really trying to do?

So, we need to turn it from an inward to an outward conversation about the client. The second thing and this came up a little bit in Episode 57 when you talked about timely communications. It came up a lot when you were talking with Debbie in that episode about making sure it's not only timely but relevant to what the client is looking for, in that situation, right?

We focus so much on, "We need to get a month-end statement out," that's great. There are regulatory reasons around whether it be a monthly or quarterly, annual statement to the investor. But that isn't really what the investor is looking for. He or she is looking to be engaged at the right time and it could be a life experience. Research has shown clients are at risk when they experience a life change. And that could be a death in the family, that could be an inheritance, that could be the birth of a child, that could be a divorce, marriage, whatever. They want to be reached out at that point because they need help, they need guidance, and we don't do enough about that. So, the timely communication is probably that second pillar we need to do when we look at hyper-personalized experience.

And then the last, and this definitely came up in both of the episodes is, we have to better use the data that we have. Clients will give us more and trust us with more information if we're using it to improve their outcome. Many times, we take that information and because we're disjointed, we can't put that information together to come up with a better communication for that client, to enable them to better understand what's going on within their portfolio, within their investments, or better off, put that in front of the adviser so he or she can engage at the right time, and with the right message.

I think one of the things that you talked about in episode 57, which I thought was interesting, was roughly two-thirds of individuals are more likely to respond to personalized information or personalized communication.

We need to think about how we give them that personalized information through different channels, again, through the human channel, through the adviser channel, and then even through the digital, and digital has those multiple flavors.

Matt: I was thinking a little bit about the access by channel, and I just went through an onboarding with a big-name bank for a new checking account. And when I signed in on my mobile device, the content wasn't mobile-optimized, which really surprised me that I had to resize on that mobile device because it probably was set up a few years ago, maybe 10 years ago, and the process hasn't been switched.

They're not using an html5 template, or whatever it is. But you have this expectation that for a big-name institution, that should no longer be the way that you interact with them. That should be mobile-optimized, and it should create a better experience.

Mike: Absolutely, definitely. And that is just one of what I think we could talk about as many examples of where we're not looking at ourselves as the client. If you start to think about, how do we do better in this space, we have to ask ourselves one fundamental question, would we do business with our client experience self, whether it's your checking account example, or in some cases, I was working with a client in a previous lifetime, where their account opening document spanned close to 100 pages because of disclosures.

Ultimately, would we do business with ourselves? Is that the outcome that we're looking for? Or did we effectively make our problem, the client's problem?

And then that's what I think one of the things we forget. We just say, "We need to make it digital. We need to make it more efficient and more effective and drive scale." But that scale is effectively for us. It's not for the client. And I think your example is a really good one, because it slowed down the account opening process, while you needed to resize and try to figure out what's the best way to look at those documents.

Matt: And then also, just that it's a head-scratcher for that kind of experience, right? You even mentioned that the disclosure, an example where there was 100-page disclosure, probably because they had chosen not to do a dynamic disclosure, right? So, they had to put every possible scenario in there, instead of saying, "Well, Mike Tropeano needs disclosures on these particular points, because that's what's relevant to him." Instead, it's here's every possible thing that we need to disclose. So, let's just stick it all in there.

Mike: No doubt. Again, it comes down to that whole concept of how are we looking at the journey map, and then how does the client look at that journey map? We may think it's all great, but do we test it within the confines of our own organization? And do we benchmark it against the competition? Your competition isn't just the organization next door. It's those digital channels, and those digital banks, digital investing, or micro-investing.

So, those are the people we need to look at, for our experience. There's this whole concept, right, is big tech going to come into wealth management. Well, maybe/maybe not. I mean, if you look at some of the big firms, Apple and Meta and Google, they all have some type of financial service they offer.

So yes, they could come into the space. But even if they don't, they set the expectation of experience. And we need to look at what they do and how they do it and learn from it. Clearly, we're not going to do everything they've done, and every firm I think I've mentioned has had a struggle here or there. We just need to learn to see how they're engaging clients and how they're keeping that client relationship in the long term.

Matt: Great points. What do you think is standing in the way of clients delivering on the experiences that investors want?

Mike: Sure, I think there's two things. First, is something we've touched on a little bit is, the infrastructure. Our data infrastructure, there’s fragmentation across the board. We have a CRM system that the advisor or front office uses to do prospecting. Do we always have that connected to an account onboarding exercise?

We have information on the client that we need to gather for regulatory purposes. Are we tying some of that demographic information into other areas, where it could impact the investment process? Risk profiles, how is that married together with a whole account relationship? So, we fragmented the data, and that's something clearly, we can put together through infrastructure.

So, to me, that may be the easier problem to solve than the other thing that I think is holding us back. And not to sound too flippant, but it's ourselves. We're trying to solve new problems with old solutions. And I'm not talking technology. I'm talking about a mindset. I'll start with what I spoke about a little bit earlier about thinking as we are the client, would we do business with ourselves? But then also, we could talk about post-pandemic, and I think people are kind of tired of that. But the pandemic definitely has changed us, in some cases for the better, for the long-term. But have we learned enough from that, that number one, we're going to change how we do business and look at problems?

But then number two, have we made the changes to our infrastructure and our way of thinking, have we made them permanent so that we can prepare them for the next disruption? Or did we just patchwork it in, so the next time we have a major disruption, we're going to have to rebuild? One of the things I work on a lot is digital assets. And are digital assets preparing us for the long-term for the next disruption? And that's one thing as an industry, I don't know, I don't think we've done that. I think what we're saying is, "Okay, here's the problem. Here are the boundaries. Let's solve it," rather than, "Here's the problem and the use case. What are the ancillary use cases there are, and how do I prepare for those?"

Because the one thing that is going to be clear is there will be another disruption that comes about and either changes the need to accelerate transformation of the client experience, or completely change the way the investor does business with us today.

Matt: It seems like a prescient statement, and I look forward to seeing what it is that comes about.

So, it's also interesting to look at the disconnect between what the provider wants, whether it's the bank, the trust, or RIA in this case, but what the account holder or investor wants, and whether or not those are aligned? And I'm sure you see this as well. But we have clients who are so focused on driving all interactions to digital channels, but that doesn't necessarily improve the experience for the customer or investor. In fact, they actually don't want to be fully digital. Any thoughts on that?

Mike: Yeah, you're absolutely correct. Clients, no matter the generation, and this includes millennials, do not want all interactions to be digital, especially when they are paying for a service. You think of some of the more frustrating interactions we all have is when we can't get to an operator, or we can't get to a human to solve a problem.

So clearly, we need to make sure that we line that digital channel up to support many interactions. But it can't support them all and we can't be pushing people to that. We are humans. We like human interaction. We want to hear a voice on the other end. We also want, in some cases, to be able to go and have a conversation. And that conversation, when I started in this industry, that conversation was a quarterly meeting, an annual meeting, depending upon where you were in the wealth lifecycle. It could be a monthly meeting, but at least it was a very structured engagement.

What we're seeing is, we're seeing less structure, but people picking up the phone and wanting to have that conversation. With some of the world events going on, people are getting nervous with what's happening to their investments, and they want to know, what are you doing to protect me during this time of uncertainty?

The start of 2022 is clearly different from a market standpoint than any of the previous probably 5, 10 years, with a lot of the volatility. You don't want to be looking at a digital experience clicking 'refresh,' waiting for an article to pop up to say, "Okay, make me feel good about my investments." You want to be able to talk to your advisor and say, "What are you doing? I saw this article about commodities. Is that a good fit for me or not? Are we going to stay the course?"

So, we need to make sure of two things. Number one, we offer the investor the way to get to that human channel. But then second is, we give the advisor the tools in order to meet the expectations of the client. Most of what we do has been focused on next best action, NBA, and we want to be able to be proactive with that engagement.

But what happens if we need to be reactive? My phone rings. Matt Swain calls up and says, "Hey, Mike, my portfolio went down 3% today. The market's down two-and-a-half. Why?" And if I'm sitting there saying, "Matt, hold on," and you're clicking buttons, and I'm running spreadsheets, and I'm doing math on a legal tablet, that's a really bad experience. There's only so much I can say, "Hey, Matt, how's the wife and kids and golf game?" I need to be able to get to something about Matt quickly, so that I can answer your question and build, and continue to maintain trust with you. Because if I can't give you an answer, you lose trust in my ability to service you, and you're looking for somebody else at that point.

Matt: So, let's come back to the timely part of the conversation from earlier, that trend, because you mentioned world events, and those may be forcing people to revisit their portfolios. That's the type of moment that there should be a trigger where the financial advisor proactively reached out, "Hey, we see what's going on. You engaged us for a reason. We're staying the course because of XYZ, or we're making these changes because of ABC," right? But something proactive, so I don't call in a panic, because I've been thinking about it all night. You've actually preempted that and put my concerns at ease.

Mike: Absolutely. That's clearly, that starts to get to even some of the next best action where we're proactive with that communication. But let's take it one step further. Instead of a major event, or a world event, it's a personal event that we need to get in touch with that advisor. Then there's thousands of reasons why, but those are the things that we're trying to do.

I am one of the millions of people who did download TikTok during the pandemic. And I get some interesting tips on TikTok, but it's changed how we consume information, right? And I go back to the stat that was mentioned about 75% of Gen X and millennials, would be interested in receiving a short, personalized video.

If we talked about...Twitter got us to 140 characters, although they've expanded to it. TikTok has got us to videos of a minute or less, there is a way for us to engage clients in that video, so they actually see a face that matches a name that matches a brand.

If we can use that video, which is very easy to do, anybody on a laptop can create those videos, and then email them out or post them to a website, or post them to a shared document share, or whatever it is. Those are ways that you can again, get to that personalization or even get to mass personalization very easily.

Matt: So, Mike, that brings us to the question that I try to ask all of my guests. It doesn't happen every time, but we've got time this time. What do you think accountholder trustee and investor communications experiences will look like in the coming years?

Mike: Sure. There's clearly a transformation going on. However, it's not going to transform so much that paper goes away. To some degree, it will, but there will still be people who want to see that physical paper, right, go paperless. At a minimum, it could be a document that goes out, which is much more concise with the information somebody is looking for.

There will be a change, I think in digital engagement, where we've always prided ourselves, and we're going to give you as much information as possible. We're finding that's overwhelming consumers, and we need to make it concise and talk to them about what is important to them at that particular time.

And we determined that I think by the data we have on them. It could be something about where's their portfolio moved. Again, I'll go back to life experiences. And I'll even go back to where the markets are. So, those are the things in which we should try to restructure the communication.

And then the last thing I'll mention is, we need to better arm our client-facing people with the data they need to engage. So, the way I would describe it is, if we look at those three things, again, paper will lessen, probably it won't go away, at least for a generation or two. I do think the way we engage digitally needs to change, and then that advisor experience changing.

I think that all kind of ties back to one thing, and that's pretty important, is making sure we have structured the data and the communication in a way in which it's personalized to that individual. It's no longer a one size fits many or one size fits most. People are looking for it to be basically that segment of one, and how we engage them. When we engage in communication, we have to think about how we communicate to the executives of our organization. And we're clear, we're concise. And we have a point. We're trying to get to what's the outcome or objective that we're trying to explain to that individual. We need to do that same way in which we engage with investors.

Matt: Yeah, the outcome-based objectives is a really good one. I think it's one that we can spend a lot of time on, as we look forward to how companies continue to reimagine the communications and where they start.

Mike: There’s not a lot of differentiation in investment products especially when we look at a lot of indexing that happens within portfolios. So, we clearly differentiate ourselves by service, in that service is differentiated by how we communicate. And if we don't communicate well, there's somebody else willing to communicate with that client in a better way.

So, how we reimagine the communication, as you're saying, is ultimately going to be paramount to affirm success.

Matt: A great close. Mike, thank you so much for joining today.

Mike: Matt, thanks for having me. It was a pleasure. Time flew for me.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain and you've been listening to the "Reimagining Communications" podcast. If you like this episode and think someone else would too, please share it, leave a review, and don't forget to subscribe. And if you’re ready to reimagine your customer experiences, consider the Broadridge Communications Cloud, an end-to-end platform for creating, delivering, and managing omnichannel communications and customer engagement.

To learn more about Broadridge, our insights and our innovations, visit broadridge.com or find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.