Clients today expect professionals dealing with sensitive information such as taxes, financial documents and other personal data to have a secure, web-based place from which to communicate and where clients can keep abreast of their account activities. The value of such a website is to facilitate better communication between the advisor and the client. The easier the portal is to access and use, the better the client/provider interaction.

So what are the benefits of a client website portal and how should advisors create and maintain one? Read on for some tips. (For further reading, see: 3 Digital Platforms FAs Should Keep on Their Radar.

Client Acquisition and Retention

A well-designed, well-executed client portal gives advisors a means to separate themselves from the competition. An easy-to-access portal labels the advisor as current and forward-thinking and, as with many advisors who have taken the time to learn about and invest in new technology, may boost the perception of the advisor’s value.

Consider the alternative: Would clients be happy dealing with an advisor who uses a clunky, old-school website? Probably not. It’s common sense that a clean web portal will endear you and your organization to your clients. Happier clients generally lead to greater retention and referrals.

How Clients Benefit

A savvy client portal goes beyond a corporate website. You can buy an off-the-shelf model or have one designed custom. Before you build your portal, determine what you and your clients need.

First, determine how and what it will be used for. A portal gives users quick access to all of their accounts in one place. It may link to a variety useful reports such as current holdings, cost basis, internal rate of return, asset allocation and more. By giving clients additional permission to add and manage their own accounts, you can free up time for other important activities.

The sharing feature gives the advisor, client and trusted partners access to all or parts of the portal. This access facilitates better communication between the client and his or her related confidants and advisors.

Account aggregation creates a single portal for the client, advisor and others to see all of the accounts and holdings held at different brokers through one lens. Clients benefit with a bird’s-eye view of all of their fund, stock, bond, and alternative holdings. (For related reading, see: What Advisors Can Learn from Robo-Advisors.)

Off-the-Self or Custom-Built?

Creating your own client portal requires costly back-end programming. An advantage of an off-the shelf product is that you’ll pay lower set up and maintenance fees, but there's much less room and opportunity to personalize it just the way you want. Still, any solution is better than none in this age of tech-savvy investors. Additionally, some boxed solutions allow you to tweak the site somewhat to better meet your firm’s needs.

A from-scratch, developer-created website will be much more expensive upfront. The advantage is that you can design a system that’s just right for your needs. It would include elements that are distinct to your firm, further differentiating your brand from its competitors. This may be a down-the-road option for younger practices with less capital to allocate to technology.

A third alternative you might consider is to partner with an independent broker/dealer network, RIA network or larger firm. By joining with others, the technology investment will likely be shared. But as with any partnership, it’s important to vet the other player and make sure that the advantages outweigh the costs of joining forces. (For other important tech topics, see: How to Prep Your Tech for Fiduciary Rule Compliance and Advisors: How to Make Social Media Work for You.)

The Bottom Line

In today’s competitive marketplace, conversations about technology are of the utmost importance. If you don’t already have an interactive client website portal, you need one in order to compete. If you’re already onboard, make sure that it serves clients’ needs. Complete your due diligence research to find a solution that fits your company budget and what your clients are looking for. (For related reading, see: How Advisors Can Podcast Their Way to More Clients.)

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.