The global emergence of the Indian economy has led to a rising number of wealthy individuals and families. By targeting the right audience and leveraging technology wisely, Indian wealth and asset management companies can deliver an exceptional client experience to ensure their share of clientele in a large and promising domestic market.
Despite COVID-19 affecting the economy and growth forecasts, India has shown incredible resilience in its recovery and return to expansion.
India has been the fastest-growing major economy, growing by 6.3% in July-September 2022.
Additionally, the Indian stock exchange, Sensex, hit a record high of 63,000 on November 30, 2022, and it is projected to rise another 9% by 2023, according to market experts polled by Reuters.
All these developments reflect India’s growing economic clout and influence on the global stage, surpassing the UK to become the world’s 5th largest economy.
Despite the Indian middle class shrinking by an estimated 32 million at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is improving and returning to an upward growth trajectory.
Close to 1 in 3 Indians are now in the middle class, and that number is projected to double by 2047.
Growing Wealth in India: Rapid Growth Brings More Opportunities and Is the Best Yet to Come?
Not only is the middle class predicted to double, the number of Indian millionaires will also double by 2026, according to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report.
Furthermore, the number of US dollar millionaires in India, according to projections from the Credit Suisse Research Institute, will grow by 81.8% to 1.3 million by 2025.
And in 2021, the number of US dollar billionaires across India was approximately 177, up from 134 in 2019.
With that in mind, the number of potential clients is growing, and thus, it’s an exciting time to be a wealth or asset manager in India.
Just as potential clients grow, so does the amount of wealth to be managed. In fact, financial wealth in India jumped 11% to USD $3.4 trillion in the first year of the pandemic alone. That wealth is projected to grow 10% per annum to USD $5.5 trillion by 2025, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
With more and more wealth and assets in need of managing, the demand for professional investment management talent increases as well.
“The amount of wealth creation is increasing in India, leading to a greater need for people to manage it,” said Anshu Kapoor, head, at Edelweiss Private Wealth Management.
Further proving the case, the BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance) industry in India grew by 27% year-on-year in February 2022 and 34% in January 2022, exceeding pre-pandemic growth levels.
PwC predicts that by 2050, India’s economy will be the 2nd largest in the world in terms of PPP (purchasing power parity), putting India behind China, and edging ahead of the United States.
Sucha prolonged upward projection in economic growth should not only translate to more of the Indian population lifted out of poverty, but also more Indians in a position to seek investment management services for years, if not decades, to come.
Despite the positive outlook for the Indian investment management industry, simply existing as an organization in India is not enough.
New clients will not simply “show up,” not unless a great deal effort has gone into marketing and business development.
Brand-building and relationship-building take time, and a strategy is needed to identify who and where the prospects are, how to target them, and what products and services will distinguish the organization from competitors.
The client experience doesn’t just start when the prospect converts to a client. Rather, the client experience begins from the moment the prospective first encounters the firm. Although more people are venturing outside with lockdown measures lifted, increased use of technology and digital communication will remain a key method in attracting clients.
Delivering the Right Client Experience Requires Proper Gauging of the Target Market
Indian Investment Management Client Prospects: Who and Where They Are
An understanding of the target market is an important step in determining outreach and advertising in the right places.
Mumbai and Delhi top the list of wealthiest cities in India, followed by Kolkata, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Gurugram.
These cities have been and will remain centers of affluence, but they’re not the only places to find new, high-net worth clients...
Expansion Beyond the First-Tier Cities
There is less awareness of financial services offerings and competition in the second- and third-tier cities, which means more possibilities in those areas.
For wealth and asset managers looking to pioneer new territory, consider the second-and third-tier cities, the likes of Chandigarh, Vadodara, and Rajkot, as examples.
“Not all the industry’s big players are in those markets, so the competition is less fierce,” said Centrum Broking CEO Sandeep Nayak.
The awareness of financial products in Tier 2 and 3 cities is relatively low, according to Cognizant Business Consulting and wealthy individuals and families in the provincial cities are less likely to have access to the same wealth management services more readily available in the larger cities.
By establishing a presence in the second and third-tier locations, the clients can learn about new investment products and strategies.
And at the same time, the consumers are slowly becoming more aware and knowledgeable.
When it comes to the wealthy outside the first-tier cities, “their expectations are changing and rising," says Rashesh Shah, the CEO of Edelweiss Financial Services.
“Before, they might have kept their money in banks and earned 4% to 5% returns. But with the help of investment advice from firms like ours, those same people are beginning to invest in liquid funds generating 7%, closed-ended funds earning 9%, or credit strategy funds earning 13%.”
Another reason to look beyond the first-tier cities is the changing nature of the economy, driven in large part by advances in technology, the entrepreneurial spirit, and startup culture.
Young entrepreneurs are creating wealth in new industries that are more likely to be located outside the major city hubs, as reported by Euromoney.
And technology is breaking down geographical barriers that previously may have limited wealth generation to a few concentrated pockets in the country. These developments have led the way for small cities becoming new centers of wealth.
With over 900 million Internet users, India was ranked the second largest online market worldwide and is projected to grow to over 1.5 billion users by the year 2040. This means it is possible for entrepreneurs to reach a larger market for their goods and services without necessarily having to physically move from one location to another.
Age Considerations for Attracting Clients
Age does matter, and it should be kept in mind when attracting clients. It can predict a lot about one’s tolerance for risk, investment strategies, life goals, and demands for technology.
The older generation, by nature of being older, are more risk averse. With fewer investing years left and not enough time to withstand another major market downturn, these clients may prefer safer investments in gold and real estate.
What’s more, older Indians grew up at a time when average lifespans were shorter and economic uncertainty was higher.
As a result, the desire for predictable returns on investments meant everything, and one place to find stability was in bank deposits.
But even today and despite COVID-19, as economic optimism is relatively higher and investment options have expanded, the older generations’ have nonetheless been shaped by earlier life experiences, often defined by that economic uncertainty, which led them to favoring conservative investment approaches.
Accommodating the older clients’ investment preferences should certainly be respected and catered to.
But even if it turns out they could afford to take more risk or diversify their investments in areas they aren’t familiar with, one should acknowledge that old habits are hard to break.
The client will need to be educated about what else is available, and the investment manager can back up their case by showing a proven history of returns.
Just as older generations can be defined by risk tolerance and investment preferences, they’re also defined by life stages, where they might be thinking about:
- entering retirement
- establishing succession plans for their businesses
- transferring wealth and assets to beneficiaries
- how to govern the family’s future financial affairs in their absence
Considering inflation and global economic headwinds, it is especially important to think about time horizons and how they may affect older clients’ portfolios.
India’s economic situation has changed rapidly and for the better over the last two decades, creating an environment of relative optimism for young people.
The younger generation has shown more openness to entrepreneurialism and risk taking, feeling confident that a reward will follow.
After all, they have seen the success of Indian startups and other entrepreneurial ventures, being successful at higher rates than the rest of the world.
Compared to the older generations who typically have had fewer opportunities, younger Indians are increasingly well-educated, well-traveled, and well-connected with the rest of the world.
They are tech-savvy and do just about everything on their mobile devices. Thus, in their case, providing digital services can be easier as they understand tech very well.
By virtue of being young, time is on their side for investing, hence they will be open to exploring many ways to build wealth.
And if they aren’t fully aware of investment options, they are young and impressionable enough to be open to all opportunities.
There’s no need to wait to reach out; this young market is currently investing.
Also, the youth today between the ages of 19 and 30 prefer mutual funds through SIP as an investment option.
And according to data from Computer Age Management Services (Cams) a transfer agency that services 68% of mutual funds in India, millennials (those aged 20 to 35) were almost half of its new mutual fund investors for FY 2018-2019, representing 1.7 million of the total 3.6 million new investors.
Indeed, time is on the side of these younger investors. For those who may not readily need the money in the next 8-10 years, remaining in the market and “doing nothing” is advised, per The Economic Times.
Hemant Rustagi, CEO of Wiseinvest Advisors, shares a similar view: “Continue with your investment process. But make sure you realign your portfolio when required.”
Indian Population Age Distribution: How It Affects Investment Management Client Prospecting
Old and young clients differ in terms of investment objectives, channels of communication, services requested, and tech savviness.
They will also differ in terms of numbers and share of the market.
Compared to countries with large economic clout, the Indian population is young, with a median age of 28.4 years.
(The United States, China, and Japan are 38.5, 38.4, and 48.4 respectively.)
With half of India’s population below the age of 28.4 years and less than 7% of the population below the age of 65, the age distribution of the nation’s wealthy will reflect that youthfulness.
And it is the younger generations who have started their careers and businesses in this more economically prosperous environment, hence young high-net worth individuals will represent a larger share of India’s wealthy population.
Furthermore, the sheer number of young people and the money they're generating and investing underscores the fact that they are the largest and fastest growing segment of the market.
When thinking about client acquisition and the age distribution of wealthy individuals, questions abound:
- What market segment(s) do wealth and asset managers feel most confident in serving?
- What should the client experience be like for different age groups?
- Are the tools and resources in place to adequately serve these different markets?
Just as the nation has seen overall growth in demand for investment services, female investors are contributing to that growth in demand.
Despite issues with gender inequality, women have overcome many of these challenges, and more and more women in India are financially independent, participating more frequently in money-related decisions.
“More and more women are investing in assets other than gold and real estate. This goes to show women are turning into investors. About time," said Shweta Jain, certified financial planner, CEO and founder of Investography Pvt. Ltd.
As women gain more financial independence and deal with challenging economic environments, they look more to investing.
Ravi Kumar, co-founder and CEO of online brokerage Upstox said, the increased need for sharing household expenses with rampant pay cuts and lay-offs is what seems to have brought more women into trading.”
While the female Indian investor market may be growing, quality service for them may be lacking.
According to the Center for Talent and Innovation, 67% of Indian female wealth management clients feel their advisors misunderstand them, their goals and lifestyles.
Just as younger and older investors have different needs, studies have shown men and women share different views on client experience.
According to Ernst and Young,
- a higher proportion of women (35%) than men (30%) see a deep understanding of their investment goals as central to their experience of wealth management.
- women place a much higher value on security, accuracy and privacy than men. Two examples are accurate account information, considered important by 20% of women but only 14% of men, and personal data privacy (important to 18% of women and 12% of men)
- women place less importance than men on several areas of client experience where many firms have been investing in recent years, including product range and self-service capabilities.
- women value same-day responses and more frequent interaction with advisors more than men do.
- women are far more likely to rely on the advice of friends and family when making investment decisions, and they are more likely than men to value advisors who build relationships with their other family members
If women’s needs are not being met, they’re more likely than men to look for a new advisor. Ernst and Young stated that 62% of women are willing to consider switching to another wealth manager, compared with 44% of men.
Women place more value than men on advocacy or referrals from family and friends, and investment firms can see increased revenue by having satisfied female clients, who can refer business to them.
While these findings are not specific to India, the male-female client differences can reasonably hold true in India as anywhere else in the world.
Hindi and English, despite being spoken by a sizable share of the population, are not the only languages to consider when reaching out to various markets in India.
State and regional languages will be a more common, convenient, and preferred way of communication.
For Indian investment managers who want to expand their services into other states and/or outside the first-tier cities, knowledge of local languages is a must.
If they cannot provide services in the local language, then they should consider hiring local talent who can, and company websites and marketing material should also be available in the language of the target market.
Otherwise, such content can also be translated through Google or specialty translation apps.
A widening of products and services available in one’s native language should have a positive effect on user engagement, and depending on the language, there may be opportunities for investment firms to establish themselves in that market early on and maintain an edge over competitors.
After all, as the number of Indian language Internet users increases, localization will be an emerging trend in digital classifieds, according to KPMG, on the basis that Internet users are more likely to transact with others in the same area.
How Technology Will Shape the Client Experience
While many Indian companies have been slower to adopt technological change, previous campaigns and policies sponsored by the Indian government, as well as the effects of COVID-19, have helped the population transition to and grow accustomed to an increasingly digital world.
Digital India Campaign
The advances in technology and its impact on the economy and geographic distribution of wealth may be organic occurrences, but these occurrences are actively supported by the government’s Digital India campaign.
Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 1 July 2015, Digital India is a nationwide campaign that seeks to expand electronic access to government services, as well as improve overall technological literacy of the citizenry by investing in digital and mobile infrastructure.
The idea behind the campaign was to expand technology (including mobile and wireless tech) in every part of the country, especially the rural areas. Modern technology, once accessible to a larger number of people, will further strengthen the economy, which in turn will increase the number of people seeking financial services.
According to Deloitte, Digital India has the potential to create an incremental 20%-30% in GDP by 2025, as well as add Rs ₹74 lakh crore (USD $1 trillion) to the Indian economy, leading to improvements notably in education, banking, and healthcare, along with increased overall job opportunities for a more tech-literate population.
Since its inception in 2015, the Digital India campaign has proven successful and largely achieved what was intended. The outbreak of COVID-19 and the population staying at home only sped up the digital adoption process.
And with this success, new sources of wealth will emerge, which in turn, will increase demand for that wealth to be professionally managed.
And with a population increasingly accustomed to digital and mobile access, wealth and asset management firms in India should be ready to deliver on digital and mobile platforms.
Demonetization and Mobile Transactions
Just as Digital India helped move the country to a more digital future, so did the 2016 demonetization campaign.
Ever since the government’s crackdown on hidden wealth and financial corruption by demonetizing 500 rupee and 1,000-rupee banknotes, Indians have taken to digital and mobile transactions in droves.
A record 23 billion digital payments worth Rs 38.3 lakh crore in Q3 2022, and the number of digital transactions is predicted to hit 214 billion by 2026.
“Government policies to promote electronic payments, rising smartphone penetration, the launch of new mobile wallets and growing QR code installation among SMEs are driving mobile wallet adoption in India,” said Ravi Sharma, senior payments analyst at Global Data, a business intelligence firm.
Sharma also stated, “Mobile wallet adoption was boosted by the government’s demonetization move in November 2016, which led to a massive cash crunch in the country.”
To put in perspective, the adoption of mobile-based payment methods in India is notably higher than in mature markets like the United States and the United Kingdom.
According to market research company Insider Intelligence, 67% of respondents from India use digital wallets every day or
several times a week, second only to China at 79%. Mobile wallet usage daily or several times per week in the United States and United Kingdom came in at 24% and 30%, respectively.
The trends clearly show that India is not only just going digital, but also a global leader in the switch to digital.
And by 2025, digital transactions in India could be worth USD $1 trillion a year.
As Indian people are increasingly accustomed to transacting money from mobile devices, it is not a far-fetched idea to assume that, when working with a wealth or asset manager, they would expect the ability to see how their money is being managed, from a mobile device.
Higher Expectations in India
As the nation continues its digital transformation, Indian people will have higher expectations for their wealth or asset manager when it comes to digital offerings:
- Can clients access their investment portfolio online/via mobile device? (Client web portal or mobile app)
- When clients look at their investment details and reports, will the data they see be accurate?
- Can clients easily contact their advisor across digital channels?
Accustomed to amenities like faster Internet and same-day delivery, the clients – young ones in particular – will increasingly demand instant gratification. When they want to see reports and investment details, they’ll want access right away. And they’ll assume what they see is reliable information.
They’re becoming used to mobile banking and the instant transactions that take place. As they’re used to dealing with financial matters on smart devices, not to mention the ease of use, speed of transactions, and reliability, clients will similarly expect a similar convenience when seeing their investments.
As clients’ expectations rise, smaller- to medium-sized wealth and asset managers in India will feel the pressure to keep up. With limited resources and uncertainty in their strategy, what can Indian investment managers do to deliver a superior client experience?
Telling the client to “wait a few days” for when reports will be ready will not cut it. Reports should be ready, timely and digitally.
What Indian Investment Management Firms Can Do To Improve the
Non-technical factors are equally important in improving interactions with the client.
Communication and listening, in addition to thoughtful gestures, go a long way in delivering a more personalized service, in which the client feels like they are being well served.
Technology aids the traditionally non-technical components of client service, and technology that is marketed to benefit the wealth and asset management firms, like a data quality assurance system or portfolio rebalancing software, will ultimately end up serving the clients’ interests, even if the clients are unaware these systems exist.
Improving the client experience may also require changes to how the organization fundamentally operates, eliminating risk and efficiency, which ultimately puts Indian investment management firms in a better position to serve clients.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the client experience required more digital means of communication (messaging apps, video conferencing, etc.) and that digital component is now a permanent fixture in client interactions
The relationship between client experience and technical/non-technical factors will be explored in further detail below.
Put the client in a position to speak his or her mind by asking open-ended questions and relevant follow-up ones.
Take interest in what they want to share personally and create a comfortable, relaxed environment in which the client feels safe to share their inner, personal thoughts.
Ask questions beyond the basic straightforward information like age, current income, sources of wealth. This will help the advisor understand the client on a deeper level. Some of the thoughts that might arise in the minds of the clients like:
- What is it that drives the client to get out of bed each morning?
- What are their hopes, dreams, and fears in life?
- What kind of lifestyle do they want to live as they get older?
- What kind of legacy does the client want to leave behind for his/her family?
By hearing the client, the advisor will have a clearer picture that will help determine the right financial planning and investment strategy for the client to achieve their goals and dreams.
The nature of client conversations must surely be confidential; this will create a sense of trust and reliability between the advisor and the client.
According to a report from YCharts, a cloud-based investment research platform, clients want more engaging and frequent communication (aside from financial planning and advice):
- 64% of clients heard from their advisor infrequently or very infrequently
- 46% of households with more than Rs ₹3.7 crore (USD $500,000) of assets managed by an advisor said they have infrequent communication
The respondents said that increased engagement would give them more confidence in their financial plan, and 85% would consider their advisor’s frequency and style of communication when deciding to retain their services.
Although the findings are based on a survey of 650 Americans who have financial advisors and wealth managers, it is reasonable to assume that Indians surveyed might have expressed similar sentiment.
While similar data on clients and investment management firms in India does not exist or is difficult to locate, 67% of Indian female clients feel their advisors do not understand them, as previously mentioned, proving the client experience across the board has room for improvement.
Communicating is one aspect of a good client experience but communicating at the right time is also important.
Reaching out should not be forced, and there should be a purpose for it. Firms should not reach out to clients only when there is a product or service to sell. They should think about ways to communicate in which the client is comfortable and is able to share his or her thoughts properly.
Clients may take interest in various financial topics, and advisors can share relevant data with them to help them expand their knowledge. According to the YCharts report, 66% of respondents said they
would be interested in receiving market related news, saving and planning tips or financial “How To’s” via email, 44% are open to receiving phone calls, and 31% would opt-in to text message updates.
As a bond has been created, and to make the client feel extra special, consider sending them a thoughtful message or a gift for special occasions.
For example, keeping track of birthdays isn’t just about sending well wishes, but it will also be important for keeping track of client milestones.
When the client turns 60 (the retirement age in India), investment advisors should be ready to communicate with the client on how this milestone could affect their overall financial situation (income, spending, taxes, distributions, insurance, etc.).
In order to keep a track of client details, Indian investment management firms should keep a CRM (customer relationship management) system that reminds the firms to reach out to the client.
Empaxis can help automate communication around milestones and send reminders internally to reach out to clients.
Clients might not communicate daily or regularly, but when they do, their emails, texts, and calls should be responded to in a timely fashion.
In addition to traditional phone calls and emails, some clients prefer communication through text messages, video chat, and use of a client web portal, as well as mobile apps and social media platforms. These methods of communication are necessary in today’s where in-person communication is not always possible.
When the client is upset about something like poor performance and fees, do not avoid the situation. It’s no fun dealing with an unhappy client, but he or she will be more upset by the delayed response or lack thereof.
Be available in good times and bad times. Treat unhappy client moments as a learning experience, an opportunity to listen to the client and make changes so that an issue that happened this time doesn’t happen again.
Treat the client experience as beginning at the prospect stage. Firms need a good outer appearance when it comes to attracting prospects and converting them into clients.
This ‘outer appearance’ can be derived from having a good reputation and any other physical representations of the company, be it the office itself, the company website, logo, advertisements, and marketing content.
Have a Good Reputation: A Positive Client Experience Leads to More Clients
Word of mouth will help prospective clients to become actual clients, as existing clients vouch for the investment firm. Serve clients well, and they are likely to share their positive experiences, which in turn can lead to new business.
According to a survey by the Oechsli Institute, 92% of clients discovered their advisors through word-of-mouth influence, and 60% reported that the main reason they chose their advisor was because of the word-of-mouth influence.
Besides, referrals are the most cost-efficient way of bringing in new business, as a firm is handed warm leads at little to no cost.
Have a Good Online Presence
Prospects, referrals or otherwise, will likely research the investment firm by visiting the company website and read online reviews.
A website that is professional-looking, mobile-friendly, secure (HTTPS, not HTTP), easy to read and clearly states the value proposition are all key features to include.
The site should include client testimonials, and it should also have a call to action clearly visible.
Optimize the website for search engines so that when a prospect is using Google searching on a term like “wealth managers in Mumbai”, wealth management companies in or near Mumbai will appear high in the search results.
Just as happy clients will share positive reviews, unhappy ones will share their own reviews. Be quick to address negative feedback, so at least prospects know the organization takes feedback seriously and that change will be made.
Some investment firms have hurt themselves by not doing enough to improve their online appearance and reputation, but by presenting themselves well on the Internet, wealth and asset managers can have an edge over competitors who neglect the value of a strong and reputable online identity.
Make the Firm Personable
Video marketing and social media are vital in creating an audience in the market amongst other competitors.
Different approaches in advertising can make the firm stand out and carve a niche for themselves.
By making videos that introduce the firm and staff, as well as educate the viewers, wealth and asset managers can establish their position as a thought leader and build a connection with the prospect even before the two sides meet.
The benefits of video marketing are many, as the visuals and interactive nature will leave a stronger impact on the viewer. Video can show how approachable and personable the company is in ways pure text-based content couldn’t.
Another way companies can stand out from the competition is by incorporating a social media strategy. WealthManagement.com showed how the financial services industry is using social media, and the data shows the importance of when, where, and the type of content being posted.
Firms should have a presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any platforms where clients and prospects spend their time. Posting relevant and thoughtful content, investment organizations can expand their online audience, which eventually could lead to new clients.
Leveraging Technology for the Firm’s Internal Benefit, and Ultimately the Clients’
When it comes to Indian investment management firms, technological upgrades should be a two-way street, where both clients and companies benefit.
While some improvements in tech, like digital/mobile access and having a client and advisor web portal, are mutually beneficial and noticeable by the clients, other advances in technology will be more noticeable and applicable on the investment firm side.
Still, just because certain technology is primarily for the benefit of investment organizations internally, it doesn’t mean the systems’ functions won’t serve the interests of the clients.
For example, a data quality assurance system is important for internal records but having those checks in place will ensure that clients are getting accurate reports. In the end, clients trust advisors who present reliable, accurate data.
Another example is a portfolio rebalancing tool. When clients meet with the advisor to set up their investment strategy, the firm will use the rebalancing tool to make sure asset allocations and risk appetite stay within the model. The clients may not notice the software, but the portfolio rebalancing tool will ensure that their investment strategies are followed, thus clients can trust the firm.
As technology, for internal use or otherwise, can eventually relate back to improving the client experience, wealth and asset management firms in India should carefully assess their current systems and processes:
- Are there any pain points in workflows?
- Will current systems and procedures allow for long-term scalability and efficiency?
Address Pain Points
Addressing pain points in workflows is an important step in ultimately improving the client experience.
Organizational inefficiency leads to wasted time and resources, time and resources that could otherwise be spent on better servicing the client.
Consider a few examples below.
Manual procedures like reconciliation and performing reporting are one of those areas that frustrates many Indian investment management firms.
The processes can be time-consuming, especially when dealing with SMAs (Separately Managed Accounts), not to mention error prone.
Even for experienced operations employees, it’s always possible to hit the wrong button on the keyboard or resort to autopilot, as a person mentally checks out and forgets to complete one of the steps in such mundane work.
Such mistakes are not cheap. Hunting down errors and rerunning the reports will translate to double work, wasting more time and money.
What’s more, the margin for error is so small in investment-based reporting that one small mishap, like accidentally adding an extra zero or inputting the wrong pricing, can completely ruin a report.
Bad data and reporting can undermine the trust built between clients and advisors, and if manual tasks are a pain point, it’s time to think about solutions.
Scattered Data Points
Another issue that plagues investment managers not just in India, but globally, are data points scattered across multiple software and systems that don’t always interact with each other.
Important client details are usually never in one place, and the information is separately found in portfolio accounting systems, CRM systems, custodian and bank accounts, or even paper.
The data is necessary for various reports, but searching for everything can be a pain:
- Tracking down the data is time-consuming and laborious.
- Data gets lost and forgotten about.
- Wrong data points have been imported/exported.
- Data points are entered in the wrong fields.
From there, the extracted data is placed in an Excel file, where errors will most certainly occur.
Such efforts only delay the time to generate reports for clients, and whatever reports are generated, the possibility for error remains.
Assessing Current Processes, Technology and Long-Term Sustainability
Considering potential pain points, Indian investment management firms should ask themselves the following questions:
- To what extent can manual processes and data hunting be accepted as part of a normal, unchangeable workflow?
- How effective is current technology in carrying out an organization’s agenda?
- Have innovative ideas or alternatives been considered to change or improve processes and technology?
- How does current technology hold up when facing an unprecedented crisis?
- Is there a plan in place to maintain long-term sustainability?
When answering these questions in earnest, wealth and asset managers in India may discover there is opportunity to better he organization overall, which eventually lead to a better client experience.
Below are a few ways how Indian investment firms can improve their technology situation.
Perform a Technology Audit
Running an investment management firm can be expensive and complicated, especially considering the technology required.
Think of how many different systems are needed:
- Execution Management System
- Order Management System
- Portfolio Rebalancing System
- Performance and Attribution System
- Risk Management System
- Compliance System
- Reporting System
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
So many systems, but how effective are they? Are firms getting the most out of them all?
While technology in theory should make things easier, it can make things harder:
- The systems are not user-friendly.
- The systems can’t communicate with each other.
- Systems need to be upgraded every year or another year, otherwise they’ll function improperly.
- The software provider locks the investment manager into unfavorable contract terms.
- The software provider might sunset customer support for the systems in use, rendering the firm to fend for themselves when tech troubles arise.
Additional complications can arise when systems are developed in-house. Consider the risks of in-house software development:
- The in-house systems may require constant maintenance and upgrades to be compatible with the various systems it needs connection to.
- When in-house developers leave the organization, they take with them their knowledge and expertise, putting the remaining team in a tough position to manage the technology, especially when they might not feel comfortable or qualified to manage it.
Technology itself won’t solve problems, though. How often has an organization purchased a new piece of software, only to see it unused or underutilized?
When purchasing new systems and software, the organization must have a clear understanding of what it intends to achieve with the purchase, as well as know how to navigate the software and know that it will be used frequently and that its capabilities will be fully used.
Implement Robotic Process Automation
Manual, repetitive processes are a certainly a pain point, and investment firms in India can work around this problem by implementing Robotic Process Automation, or RPA.
RPA is a process in which software, or programmed bots, perform mundane and repetitive tasks in place of humans.
Consulting firm McKinsey reports that financial services firms can expect a 30% to 200% return on investment in the first year by implementing Robotic Process Automation.
Other notable benefits of RPA include:
- increased productivity
- faster turnaround times
- greater data and reporting accuracy
- reduced long-term costs
Assuming the workflow is predictable and follows logic, any such processes within the organization are therefore prime candidates for automation.
Consider report generation as one example, where the following processes can be automated:
- Downloading statements from custodians
- Renaming and reformatting the files
- Storing files to select locations (folders, internal storage servers, etc.)
- Extracting data from statements and organizing it into a spreadsheet/report
- Emailing report to desired recipients
When thinking about work to automate, it’s important to consider the difference between robotics and machine learning; RPA and AI (Artificial Intelligence) are not the same. Learn more about what RPA can and can’t do.
At the same time, some investment managers may like the idea, but are unsure how to access and implement bots themselves.
Wealth and asset managers in India need not look far, because India is home to many large, globally recognized companies that specialize in RPA, as well as third parties that help investment firms implement and maintain the bots.
When it comes to outsourcing to India, a scenario that might come to mind is a Western multinational company offshoring their work, hiring local talent to develop software and applications, maintain data and reporting, as well as provide customer support.
There is good reason why outside firms come to India, and it is not only because labor costs are favorable.
The nation is home to an exceptionally large, well-educated, English-speaking talent pool.
The increased competition and innovation that derives from the quality and quantity of talent further bolsters India’s position in the global economy, making the country attractive to foreign firms while boosting local employment.
But outsourcing in India should no longer be viewed as merely a Western business practice.
As the nation’s domestic investment management industry grows, and as business grows in volume, complexity, and cost, wealth and asset managers in India can consider the very same outsourcing services that their Western counterparts have used.
One area that could be outsourced is the middle and back office. Reconciliation reporting, performance reporting, and billing are a few examples that can be handled by a third-party, and there are already investment outsourcing service providers in India that specialize in this field of work. What’s more, some of these providers are systems-agnostic, meaning they can work on any of their clients’ systems.
Rather than take on the risk that goes with hiring in-house (i.e., hiring/staffing costs and employee turnover), Indian wealth and asset managers can seek operations outsourcing providers that supply the talent and ensure proper levels of support.
Because said outsourcing firms specialize in operations, they should have developed workflow efficiencies that might not be possible in-house.
The benefits of outsourcing for Indian investment management firms are there:
- Reduced costs
- Access to larger talent pools
- Higher levels of operational efficiency
- More time to focus on core competencies
Consider other areas for outsourcing:
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Investing (in the form of an Outsourced Chief Investment Officer)
As it relates to the client experience, outsourcing should be viewed as a means through which to focus on activities that promote the client experience. Instead of being consumed by administrative and operational work, which do not generate revenue, advisors could use their time more productively by focusing on client-facing activities, which not only help the client experience, but also ultimately lead to revenue generation.
Whether it’s an Indian or American investment firm looking to outsource, the goals are the same: improve the client experience, increase revenue by attracting new business and generating higher returns for clients, while minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency.
Move to a TAMP (Turnkey Asset Management Platform)
A TAMP is a cloud-based system where investment managers can keep track of all things related to managing clients’ portfolios.
Outsourced services like reconciliation reporting and data management are standard, built-in offerings when it comes to TAMPs, and manual and time-consuming processes related managing the portfolios are eliminated.
In addition, data points from various custodians and banks can be integrated into a TAMP, where client information and reports can be easily accessed, by clients and advisors alike.
According to consulting firm Tiburon Strategic Advisors, there will be Rs ₹5,476 lakh crore (USD $13 trillion) on TAMPs by 2024, up from Rs ₹962 lakh crore (USD $7.4 trillion) in 2018, illustrating a trend in which a growing number of advisors move their assets to these platforms.
From a client experience standpoint, a turnkey asset management platform delivers on the digital- and mobile-based solutions that Indian consumers increasingly demand. The client-advisor portal feature in a TAMP allows both parties to access portfolio details with assurance the information is accurate and up to date.
Budget and Pricing Considerations
When reviewing technology and third-party provider options, pricing is always one of the biggest considerations.
With pricing, there are questions to ask:
- Is cheaper always better?
- How valuable is it to pay a little more for better quality products and services?
- Does there exist that sweet spot between attractive pricing and quality of product and service?
Many Indian investment management firms have limited budgets and resources, and as a result, they may settle for less expensive alternatives, knowing full well the limitations of the technology and services they are using.
Others may feel they cannot afford the high-caliber systems and applications out there, and as a result, they settle with less efficient systems and processes.
While perhaps saving money in the short term, what are the long-term costs of inefficiency? Is it worth investing in better systems and service providers?
And in some cases, there might be that sweet spot where favorable pricing and quality meet at an equilibrium. The only way to find out is by taking the time to research the technology and service providers out there.
For example, consider the outsourcing and TAMP service providers in India that serve overseas companies and clients. These foreign companies and clients could likely attest to the quality of services provided by local Indian talent, otherwise they wouldn’t have considered India to begin with.
These local providers with global reach aren’t just there to work with international firms; they are also able to serve investment management companies in India. Compare pricing and quality, see if the products and services will benefit the investment firm and client alike.
Leveraging technology is not the only factor in delivering a better client experience. Ultimately, quality leadership and good decision-making leadership will determine successful outcomes, not just in terms of organizational finances, but simply to ensure clients are happy.
Organizational leaders must determine:
- What does a quality client experience look like?
- What will be the benchmarks to determine a quality client experience?
- How will team members be trained and held accountable for their contributions to a more positive client experience?
- What measures will be taken to ensure resources are used efficiently to ultimately serve the clients’ interests?
- How can technology be effectively used to create greater organizational efficiency and help the client?
Treat Staff with Respect
When leadership treats their team members well, the staff is more likely to treat the clients well.
Be encouraging. Offer incentives for satisfactory performance and positive client feedback, and they should acknowledge staff for their success.
Investment advisors should be passionate about what they do, and that passion should be contagious, motivating other employees to follow suit.
Team members should be inspired by the leadership’s desire to make a positive impact on people’s lives by being focused on delivering returns and always putting the clients’ interests first.
Follow the Golden Rule
The Golden Rule, treating others the way oneself would like to be treated, is very important, not just in terms of treating staff well, but also in the interactions with clients.
Advisors should supply advice that the advisors themselves would like to receive, and they should treat their clients’ investments as if they were their own.
Clients don’t want to be sold investment products or services they do not really need, and neither would the advisor like it if he or she was in the clients’ shoes.
With the Golden Rule in place, advisors will remain sympathetic and understanding of clients’ needs, and their actions will reflect that principle.
Despite challenges posed by COVID-19, the future is certainly bright for the investment management industry in India, as overall economic prosperity lifts millions out of poverty and into the ranks of the middle class and upper tier of the economic ladder.
As the number in the middle and upper classes grows, so will there be growth in demand for wealth and asset management services in India.
Understanding the personas of whom to target and how to attract them will require one’s due diligence.
And as India goes digital, clients will increasingly demand mobile access to their investment portfolios and expect what they see to be accurate and updated quickly. Understanding the role technology will play will be key to driving the client experience, both in the client and prospect stages.
Technology, however, should not be viewed solely through the lens of the client’s experience.
Investment firms themselves should look at how upgrades or improvements to their own technology can drive internal efficiencies, which helps the client because internal resources are now freed up to devote more attention to clients.
At the same time, technology alone is not the only solution.
Technology must be used effectively, and non-technological components are equally important when improving the client experience. Human qualities like being available to meet in-person or over the phone, showing sympathy and understanding the clients’ unique needs go a long way.
How Indian investment firms incorporate all these factors will ultimately determine their success, in 2023 and beyond.