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Indian Investment Management Firms: Client Experience & Tech Guide

While COVID-19 has affected the economy and growth projections, India is on the path to recovery. The nation remains an economic power on the global stage, home to its share of wealthy individuals and families.

By targeting the right audience and leveraging technology effectively, Indian wealth and asset management companies can deliver an exceptional client experience to ensure their share of clientele in a large domestic market.

Despite the negative impact of COVID-19, theIndian economy and people have proven resilient.

Though the economy contracted notably when the pandemic first hit, GDP jumped 20% duringQ2 2021. What’s more, GDP growth in the 2022 fiscal year is forecasted to be 9%.

As another encouraging sign, four of India’s stock market indexes are among the top 10 best performing indexes in Asia, as of September 2021.

And as vaccination rollouts continue across the country, the sooner things can return to normal and for economic growth to accelerate.

Still, things have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The impressive gains made in poverty alleviation and growing the middle class this past decade have been reversed, resulting in a smaller middle class and more people falling into poverty. The number of US dollar millionaires fell as well, from 7,64,000 in 2019 to 6,98,000 in2021.

Returning to a more optimistic tone, the economy is recovering, on track to recuperate its losses. That is good news for money managers, who benefit from a growing middle class and a wealthier population.

Growing Wealth in India: Is The Best Yet to Come?

Despite current challenges, India’s economic future remains bright.

From 2015 to 2020, financial wealth in India grew by 11% per annum to USD $3.4 trillion, and it is expected to grow 10% per annum to USD $5.5 trillion by 2025, according to the BostonConsulting Group.

The BCG report reveals growth in prosperity and wealth significantly through the current crisis, and the growth is likely to expand in the next five years. Globally, India is expected to lead a percentage growth of fortunes worth $100 million in 2025.5

The number of US dollar millionaires in India, according to projections from the Credit Suisse Research Institute, will grow to 1.3 million by 2025.

When there is 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 inIndia, leading to a greater need for people to manage it,” said Anshu Kapoor, head, at Edelweiss Private Wealth Management.

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.

Such a prolonged upward projection in economic growth should not only translate to moreIndian people lifted out of poverty, but also more Indians in a position to seek investment management services for years, if not decades, to come.

Attracting Clients

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 prospect first encounters the firm. Furthermore, as more people remain at home during COVID-19, digital outreach must be highly considered.

And at each step in the conversion from prospect to client, and then from new client to longtime client, a technological component will play a role or drive the entire process.

Delivering the Right Client Experience Will Be Determined by the Target Market

Indian Investment Management Client Prospects:Who and Where They Are

It may not be a surprise that Mumbai andDelhi have the highest number of wealthy residents, or that Kolkata, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Gurugram have their share as well.

These cities have been and will remain centers of affluence, but they’re not the only places to find new, high-net worth clients...

Look Beyond the First-Tier Cities

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,” saidCentrum Broking CEO Sandeep Nayak.

The awareness of financial products in Tier 2 and 3 cities is relatively low, according to CognizantBusiness 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 earning13%.”

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.

The rise in remote work, driven in part by COVID-19, has only accelerated the changes taking place. And young entrepreneurs are creating wealth in new industries that are more likely to be located outside the major city hubs, as reported by Euromoney.

Technology is breaking down geographical barriers that previously may have limited wealth generation to a few concentrated pockets in the country.

With an Internet connection and a growing Internet user base in India that is expected to reach1.134 billion people by 2025, it is increasingly 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

Older Clients

Some investment managers may be open to serving clients of all ages, but before reaching out to anyone, it’s important to recognize just how much age matters.

Age can predict a lot about one’s tolerance for risk, investment strategies, life goals, and demands for technology.

Older clients, by nature of being older, are more risk averse. With relatively fewer years left and not enough time to withstand and recover from another 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 on 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 the recent market volatility resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, it is especially important to think about how time horizons and how it may affect older clients’ portfolios.

Younger Clients

Younger people in India have generally had a different experience from their older counterparts.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, the younger generations have spent most, if not all, of their lives in an India where rapid economic growth has been the rule, not the exception.

They’ve seen their peers become rich through startups and various entrepreneurial endeavors, and considering the success stories and generally positive economic trends, they are more open to entrepreneurialism and risk-taking, feeling confident that a reward will follow.

Compared to the older generations who typically have had fewer opportunities, youngerIndians are increasingly well-educated, well-traveled, and well-connected with the rest of the world.

They are tech-savvy and do just about everything from their mobile devices. When thinking about their client experience, the digital and mobile aspect will be significant.

Having access to their advisors and investment portfolios from their devices won’t be just a nice add-on; it will be expected.

What’s more, by being well-educated and well-connected with the world around them on their devices, they are more aware of different ways to build wealth, and if they aren’t necessarily aware, they are young and impressionable enough to be open to any and every way to become rich. After all, by virtue of being young, time is on their side.

And there’s no need to wait to reach out; this young market is currently investing, especially in cryptocurrency. In fact, Indian you are they key drivers of growth in cryptocurrency investing in the country.

Also, according to data from Computer Age Management Services (Cams)ĕ 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 3.6million new investors.

While COVID-19 adds to market uncertainty, 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 Could Affect 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 38.3, 38.4, and 48.4 respectively.)

What’s more, only 6.5% of the Indian population is above the age of 65, compared to theUnited States at 16.63%, 13.5% for China, and 28.4% for Japan.

With half of India’s population below the age of 28.4 years and 94.5% of the population below the age of 65, the age distribution of the nation’s wealthy will reflect that youthfulness.

To illustrate, 73% of India’s high net worth individuals are under the age of 50, compared to the United States at 26%.

As the demographic distribution by age group shows, the majority (73%) of HNWI Indians are under the age of 50, and given that these younger people have grown up and entered the workforce at a time when the economy has expanded so rapidly, one can infer similar age distributions at all levels along the wealthier end of the economic spectrum.

Furthermore, the sheer number of young people and the money they're generating and investing underscores 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?

Women Investors

Just as the nation overall has seen growth in demand for investment services, a traditionally overlooked segment of the market has also shown growth: women.

As more and more women in India have become financially independent and are participating more frequently in money-related decisions, they require wealth and asset management services alongside men.

Of the new mutual fund investors previously mentioned in the data from Cams, 24% of those new investors were women.

“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.

And since the start of the pandemic, more women than ever before are participating in equity markets, many of whom are first time investors and housewives.

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.

Language Considerations

In the first-tier cities, Hindi and English may be acceptable means of communication with clients and prospects, but 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.

English is less widely spoken farther away from the big cities, and in South India, proficiency in Hindi is less of a guarantee.

If existing staff members cannot provide services in the local language, then they must hire 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.

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.

Thus, 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.

How Technology and COVID-19 Will Shape the Client Experience

The coronavirus pandemic has made technology improvements and digital communication atop priority. As clients and prospects stay at home more, investment firms must find effective ways to engage with their audience.

While many Indian companies have been slower to adopt technological change, previous campaigns and policies sponsored by the Indian government have helped the population transition to and grow accustomed to an increasingly digital world.

Those reluctant to the change will increasingly adopt digital solutions as stay-at-home advisories persist. Even after the advisories have been lifted, the digital infrastructure put in place will serve investment firms’ long-term needs.

The 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.

These developments would expand adoption of mobile and wireless technology, as well as expand coverage of high-speed Internet access nationwide, with an emphasis on rural areas.

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.

The desired results of this campaign would result in:

  • Increased profitability
  • Higher productivity
  • Greater ease of doing business• Faster time to market
  • Increased investments

Already 6 years since the launch of Digital India, the results show, taking a largely offline nation online. The spread of COVID-19 has only sped up the process.

Should the Digital India campaign continue its 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 is to help move the country to a more digital future, another government move has helped accelerate digital adoption: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.

Total digital transactions in terms of volume showed a growth rate of 58.8% during 2018-19, on top of 50.4% growth during 2017-2018. In the financial year 2021, 44 billion digital payments were recorded across India.

“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 GlobalData, a business intelligence firm.

Sharma also stated, “Mobile wallet adoption was boosted by the government’s demonetization move in November2016, which led to a massive cash crunch in the country."

To put in perspective, the adoption of mobile-based payment methods in India has been notably higher than in mature markets like the United States and the United Kingdom, where cash and cards are more prevalent.

Since COVID-19, however, mobile wallet adoption across the board is higher, but India has been ahead of the trend for some time.

As seen prior in a survey from GlobalData, 83.6% of respondents from India have and use a mobile wallet, second only to China at 87%. Mobile wallet adoption in the United States andUnited Kingdom came in at 31.5% and 24.6%, respectively.

The stats clearly showed that India has not only been going digital, but has already been a global leader in the switch to digital.

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 canIndian 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. In a pre-COVID-19 world, it might have been OK to have the clients come into the office to see their reports, but as the coronavirus remains present, you should prepare to meet with clients digitally and have reports ready instantly.

How Indian Investment Management Firms Improve the Client Experience

While a significant portion of improving the client experience is technology-driven, nontechnical factors are equally important.

The art of 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.

At the same time, technology can aid 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 put Indian investment management firms in a better position to serve clients.

And for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, the client experience will certainly need to allow for more digital means of communication (messaging apps, video conferencing, etc.).

The relationship between client experience and technical/non-technical factors will be explored in further detail below.

Listening

The more the client speaks, the more opportunities to understand the client. Take a personal interest in what they have to say.

Put the client in position to speak his or her mind by asking open-ended and relevant follow-up questions. Create a comfortable, relaxed environment in which the client feels safe to share their inner, personal thoughts.

It’s one thing to ask the client for straightforward information like age, current income, and sources of wealth, but it’s another to ask questions that help the advisor understand the client on a deeper level:

  • 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 letting the client speak, the advisor has a clearer picture in determining the right financial planning and investment strategy that will help the client achieve their goals and dreams.

Of course, keep the nature of client conversations confidential.

Frequent Communication

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 of650 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.

Thoughtful Communication

Communicating frequently is one aspect of a good client experience, but the nature and timing of that communication is also important.

Firms should not decide to reach out to clients only when there is a product or service to sell. While there is a time and place to sell, investment firms should think about ways to communicate in which the client finds meaningful.

For example, clients might want to know about financial topics outside their own portfolio, and advisors can share with them relevant content.

According to the aforementioned YChartsreport, 66% of respondent 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 for making the client feel special, consider sending them a thoughtful message or a gift when it is their birthday. Such a gesture lets the client know they are acknowledged and makes them feel special.

Keeping track of birthdays isn’t just about sending well wishes; it’s also important for keeping track of client milestones.

For example, when the client turns 60 (the retirement age in India), investment advisors should know when the birthday takes place and be ready to communicate with the client on how this milestone could affect their overall financial situation (income, spending, taxes, distributions, insurance, etc.).

To keep track of client details, Indian investment management firms should keep a CRM (customer relationship management) system that alerts the firm when milestones occur and reminders to reach out to the client.

Being Available

Clients might not reach out every day, but when they do, they should know someone is there for them, especially during the uncertainty around COVID-19.

When clients call, take their call. When they email, respond timely.

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 when in-person communication is not possible, like during a COVID-19 outbreak.

Whatever methods they prefer, make those channels available and be quick to reply.

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.

Pre-Client Considerations

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 MoreClients

Prospective clients are more likely to become actual clients when existing clients vouch on the investment firm’s behalf.

Serve clients well, and they are likely to share their positive experiences, which in turn can lead to new business.

According to a survey 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 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”, said 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

Indian investment management firms can stand out from their competitors by making use of video marketing and social media.

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, and videos 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 are using of social media, and the data shows the importance of when, where, and the type of content being posted.

At a minimum, firms should have a presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any platforms where clients and prospects spend their time, and by posting relevant and thoughtful content, investment organizations can expand its 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 Tasks

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 withSMAs (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 new 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?

And during a COVID-19 outbreak, as businesses across India require their employees to work from home, how will investment firms adapt to changing workplace dynamics? Check out our blog post on how RIAs can avoid risks associated with technology during a COVID-19 shutdown.

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 other 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 with 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 anew 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 used to the fullest extent.

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 a software, or programmed bots, perform mundane and repetitive tasks in place of humans.According to research and advisory firm Gartner, 85% of large and very large organizations will have deployed some form of RPA by 2022.

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 a 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.

Outsource

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.

After all, the nation is home to a very 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 inIndia 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 possible areas for outsourcing:

  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Compliance
  • 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

A TAMP (turnkey asset management platform) 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 $7.4trillion) 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 asa 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.

Leadership Considerations

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 amore positive client experience?
  • What measures will be taken to ensure resources are used efficiently to ultimately serve the clients’ interests?
  • How can technology be properly utilized to not only create greater organizational efficiency, but also to 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 good performance and positive client feedback, and they should acknowledge staff for their success.

Be Passionate

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 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 don’t 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.

Conclusion

Despite challenges posed by COVID-19, the future is certainly bright for the investment management industry in India.

As the economy recovers, more Indian people will be lifted out of poverty, enter the middle class, as well as rise to upper-class, high-net-worth status.

As the numbers grow, so will there be grow thin demand for wealth and asset management services throughout India.

Understanding the personas of whom to target and how to attract them will require one’s due diligence.

And as India goes digital, a trend that has only accelerated since the pandemic started, 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, shouldn’t be viewed solely through the lens of the client experience.

Investment firms themselves should look at how upgrades or improvements to their own technology can drive internal efficiencies, which ultimately helps the client because internal resources are now freed up to devote more attention to clients.

At the same time, technology alone isn't the only solution.

Technology has to 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 to the clients’ unique needs go a long way.

How Indian investment firms incorporate all these factors will ultimately determine their success, in 2022 and beyond.

Indian Investment Management Firms: Client Experience & Tech Guide
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