Simplify Client Workflows in Wealth Management with Electronic Signatures

The wealth management industry is undergoing a period of massive disruption.

Two significant trends are converging. A surge in advisor retirements is outpacing firms’ ability to hire new professionals, just as the industry faces a record generational transfer of wealth from baby boomers to their millennial offspring. These new investors are digitally savvy and are seeking firms that can provide a level of engagement that is fast, convenient and always available.

Both demographic earthquakes are impacting the wealth management industry, making it more challenging and competitive to get—and keep—qualified clients. Clearly, providing investors with an outstanding digital experience is a key differentiator for wealth firms, yet over 50% of younger investors believe their wealth managers are currently falling short in offering compelling digital capabilities.

Add to this volatile mix a growing regulatory burden, the rising cost of risk management and the emergence of new, nimble competitors—especially low-cost robo advisory services—and the result is an unprecedented and highly challenging environment for incumbent wealth strategy firms.

The pressure on wealth management firms to transform their client experience to attract and earn the business of an emerging class of investors is building. Since a new client’s first impression is established during the initial onboarding process, it’s critical for firms to get this process right. Yet the current state process is typically inconsistent, paper-intensive and onerous, and involves multiple, disconnected steps.

The road to digitization begins at client onboarding

To achieve a truly frictionless client onboarding experience, advisors must be able to navigate multi-party scenarios, whether that includes several individual family members who are part of a larger engagement, or third-party custodians who only need to access specific agreements or parts of an onboarding package. In either case, all parties must be able to receive, view, sign and send onboarding documents efficiently and intuitively.

Compliance with SEC and state agency requirements is also critical. In essence, regulators want to ensure that wealth management firms properly disclose their practices and make investment choices that are in the best interests of their clients (or at a minimum, meet suitability standards). This typically means providing internal compliance teams with access during the client onboarding stage to ensure advisors are offering product recommendations that meet these minimum standards.

Lastly, advisors must be able to deliver client disclosures in a timely, integrated and fully documented fashion that creates an audit trail for compliance purposes.

By digitizing key agreements and processes through advanced workflows, advisors can address these challenges and accelerate the client onboarding cycle while also supporting compliance.

Four steps to removing friction from the onboarding process

Advanced workflows can help streamline aspects of the client onboarding process in four proven ways:

1. Digitize agreements with eSignature: For wealth management firms, an ideal first step toward digitization is through eSignature. This step alone has helped wealth managers reduce paper-based contracts by 51%, resulting in a 40% reduction in hard costs. On average, wealth management firms using Docusign eSignature reduce their new client onboarding time by 41%. eSignature is easy to implement, providing advisory firms with a quick win.

2. Embed ID Verification into the signing process: Identity verification is an essential step to any new client relationship. Through eSignature, advisors and broker-dealers can quickly collect and verify identification information by embedding ID Verification right into the signing process. Options include verifying signer identity through knowledge-based authentication (KBA) questions, government-issued photo IDs or electronic IDs.

3. Delight clients with a mobile-friendly or virtual signing experience: Wealth management is all about establishing strong, trusted relationships with your clients. That’s why it’s critical to begin the relationship on a positive note through a frictionless, client-friendly experience.

Through native Docusign features like SMS Delivery, Responsive Signing, and Smart Sections,  lengthy, cumbersome IMA/IPS investor agreements become easier to access, read and consume on a mobile device.

And for advisors who meet with their clients virtually, the onboarding experience can be every bit as seamless and positive as a face-to-face meeting. eSignature is easily accessible through Docusign’s integration with Zoom, which means that instead of having to ask a signer to scour through their email to find, share and sign their onboarding agreements, advisors can locate the required documents within the Apps menu in their Zoom meeting and present it to them during the session.

4. Simplify workflows for internal and external third parties: As previously noted, compliance teams often need to be looped into the onboarding process to ensure that certain products included in a client’s portfolio strategy meet best interest or suitability standards. Depending on the process, these reviews could be triggered based on products that are checked on a client intake form. With conditional routing and designated signing groups, the proper form can be routed to the appropriate compliance team for faster approval.

In addition, users can set up document visibility controls within advanced workflows to enable efficient, multiple party management without fragmenting a workstream. Advisors can also attach the correct ADV/CRS/Form 5500 disclosures for acknowledgment in the same onboarding package as core IMA/IPS investor agreements. And to help support compliance and clear documentation of signed and acknowledged paperwork, Docusign offers audit trails and  email archiving.

By applying advanced workflows to the client onboarding process, advisors and broker-dealers can support compliance with SEC or state requirements, seamlessly prepare onboarding packages and provide their clients with an outstanding first impression.

This collection of electronic signature capabilities can help wealth management teams uplevel their client experience and advisor productivity while navigating complex compliance requirements.

Tips to simplify agreement processes and boost efficiency with Docusign eSignature

To learn more about advanced workflow capabilities, register for our webinar on signing workflows.

Ready to get started? Contact us.

Manas Baba
Financial Services Industry Expert