Financial Advisors

Developing an Intelligent Email and News Service for Wealth Managers

Today's connected world requires constant visibility and steady ongoing reinforcement. For advisors, this can lead to reinforcing their presence and expertise, and ensuring they are top of mind when important financial topics are weighing heavy on people’s minds. Visibility in front of clients and prospects drives the perception of value and satisfaction, and it can lead to referrals.

The challenge is the substantial amount of time, money and effort needed to manually design and implement this outreach process by yourself. The good news, as we have been covering here at the Institute, is that there has been a quantum leap in the development of client/prospect engagement tools and systems. Many new marketing and client nurturing tools are using advanced data analytics, AI, social media tools, and email/social marketing automation technologies. 

To explore this further, we reached out to Institute member Brendan Kenalty, partner and CMO of Reachstack, an innovative enterprise with intelligent email and communication service for advisors and wealth management firms. We asked questions to better understand how an advisor can accelerate revenue growth by being visible in client's newsfeed every week and knowing how to engage with each client on the right topics.

Hortz: What was your motivation in creating Reachstack? What important topic area for advisors does it address?

Kenalty: My partners and I are serial tech entrepreneurs always looking for emerging and compelling market opportunities to build products and solutions around. Working in the email marketing, data collection and sales acceleration arena for 20 years, we saw a big opportunity to use digital channels to help advisors and firms grow their business, simply by adopting proven best practices and tech from other industries. Historically there have been clear gaps in current tools and services being used in financial services firms, mostly driven by a comfortable culture not seeing a need to change what is working.

Well, times have changed. Client expectations have evolved rapidly and firms are scrambling to combat competitive pressures from early adopters of technology and digital services. Digital is increasingly seen as a legit channel to build relationships and new business, with clients now proactively choosing firms and advisors who effectively use them to connect and provide service. Advisors are starting to ask for more help and pushing a lot of ideas and solutions from their perspective, as well as starting to see leaders at some firms driving change. When senior people get involved, they want to see bigger solutions with enterprise scale, integration to other systems, efficiency, and most importantly, measurable business impact.

So, we worked to solve the challenges: Deliver clear, measurable and compelling impact for firms against their objectives, make it easier for advisors and marketers to get impact, make the technology integrate with all existing systems, and make it lower risk for compliance.

Hortz: How did you go about developing your digital communication service?

Kenalty:  Our most successful products always come by listening to problems people are having and then figuring out how to use our technology to solve them. In the last few years, we heard a lot from wealth management and financial services firm. As the financial services business environment is changing, margins are getting squeezed and new competitors are entering. Advisors voiced the need to be more visible and proactive to be competitive.

Client expectation around advisor information sharing has drastically changed. Clients today are bombarded by financial advice all day from everywhere. There is a growing need to communicate more directly with clients to be relevant and competitive. We saw how advisors who understand what their clients are interested in have the opportunity to be more proactively strategic with communications and conversations. 

Our goal was to help advisors share targeted (personalized) information with each of their clients, easily, on a regular basis. But the key to personalization is understanding each client’s unique interests and needs, an area that has been missing from the marketer’s data set on each client. Because email data is captured at the individual level, we saw the opportunity to use a client’s content consumption to build that interest data set for marketers and advisors to use on 1-1 basis.

Hortz: How does your proprietary client interest tracking & content matching technology actually work?

Kenalty: There are three key parts of the process. First, as we ingest content into our library, we add a layer of meta data, which provides rich details on what each article of content is and why someone would read it, including format, author, length, topic and product affiliation. Second, as advisors send content to their clients, all interactions are tracked, allowing us to build rich data profiles on each client’s individual activity and interests. Third, leveraging data analytics and AI, we match client interest profiles with tagged content, then filter around a firm’s compliance and commercialization objectives. We curate personalized content for each advisor’s clients that deliver higher engagement, satisfaction and demand generation.

Hortz: How does ReachStack work with content partners & other providers?

Kenalty: We are not a content producer, but as a content distribution channel, we need lots of high quality content to make the system work. As such, we need to be able to help our customers source the content they want for their programs. We break content into five buckets, and we have developed numerous partnerships in each area:

  1. A firm’s branded content – links to a customer’s blog or websites
  2. General web content – services that search and provide articles on third party or industry websites (e.g., Upcontent)
  3. Custom content libraries - third party libraries of custom written content including evergreen and seasonal articles (e.g., FMEX / CentsAI)
  4. Paywall content – ability to syndicate and provide access to articles from behind paywalls (e.g., Wall Street Journal, Marketwatch, Barron’s)
  5. We have an option to add FInRA / IIROC compliance filters like Proofpoint to any content feeds to streamline and reduce the time for the review and approval process

Hortz: How complex is the work of combining all the individual tools of modern data analytics, AI & email marketing automation technologies, in just the right way, to increase the impact of your client communications?

Kenalty: Well, it is very complicated, but we have taken an organized, phased approach over a number of years. Our data warehouse is at the core of everything we do. It holds all the behavioral information we have collected over time about what each client wants from their advisors based on communication activity. In some cases, the more information we have pulled in from a customer’s CRM and other systems, the more we enable other types of targeting like demographic or life stage. The data base allows us to build our other “next best action” components on top of it. Examples are applications like content performance analysis, prediction and automated content matching, and providing advisors with client interest and opportunity lists.

Hortz: What kind of statistics and results can you report for this kind of communication automation cycle?

Kenalty: Leads - Demand for new products and service (cross sell opportunities); Advisor Adoption - participation in program (do they find it worthwhile and helpful); Visibility - interactions between Client and Advisor; Net Promoter Score - referralsROI and investment increases.

Hortz: How are advisors and financial firms specifically using your service in creative ways?

Kenalty: Customers are using the platform to do two things:

  1. Client satisfaction and referrals: The program helps advisors increase client satisfaction and referrals by easily increasing the level of data driven communication and information sharing with their clients
  2. Demand generation: The platform helps build new “owned” digital channel that they can use to generate demand for each advisor’s services and firm’s other products.

One example is the Wealth Management group at one of Canada’s famous “big 6” banks that delivers compelling ROI on the program from several areas: 16x increase in advisor communication leads to higher visibility, credibility, satisfaction and advocacy with result of 44% higher Net Promoter Score; over 70% participation rate vs 15% of other digital tools; higher efficiency for advisors by providing data driven hot lists focusing time on best revenue opportunities; stronger content ROI with more reach and impact of firm’s content investments.

Hortz: Any other thoughts or recommendations you would want to share with advisors and wealth management firms?

Kenalty: In an environment of hyper-competition and accelerating change, be bold and start trying things. There are many ways you can dip your toe in the water and test things before going full on. And remember that you do not have to do everything yourself. There are lots of partners are out there to help. Take advantage of outsourcing the use of marketing tools, turning them into services for yourself and your advisors. Look for opportunities to drive impact at scale by doing something for ALL the advisors across the organization. Make every program advisor-centric that adds value to them.

Now is time for modern, high-impact, efficient, enterprise-level solutions that focus on driving meaningful metrics in key areas of client visibility, satisfaction, referrals and demand generation vs. simple clicks and likes. 

Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial advisors and financial services firms determined to lead their businesses in an operating environment of accelerating business and cultural change. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and best practices to drive and facilitate their next-generation growth, differentiation, and unique client/community engagement strategies. The institute was launched with the support and foresight of our founding sponsors - Ultimus Fund Solutions, NASDAQ, Pershing, Fidelity, Voya Financial, and Charter Financial Publishing (publisher of Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines).

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Bill Hortz

Bill Hortz is an independent business consultant and Founder/Dean of the Institute for Innovation Development- a financial services business innovation platform and network. With over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry including expertise in sales/marketing/branding of asset management firms, as well as, creatively restructuring and developing internal/external sales and strategic account departments for 5 major financial firms, including OppenheimerFunds, Neuberger&Berman and Templeton Funds Distributors. His wide ranging experiences have led Bill to a strong belief, passion and advocation for strategic thinking, innovation creation and strategic account management as the nexus of business skills needed to address a business environment challenged by an accelerating rate of change.

Read Bill's Bio