The coronavirus pandemic has forced the wealth management industry to push ahead with digital engagement and accelerated companies adoption of ‘omnichannel’ communications, research has found.

Dunstan Thomas’ Changing World of Wealth Management report revealed half of all respondents believed digital client engagement would be strengthened as a result of Covid-19 and its resulting national lockdown.

It added omnichannel communications – where consumers are given unified messaging across each method of communication or device – would also become more prevalent.

Enhanced digital communication was a high priority for 69% of discretionary fund managers (DFM) surveyed, the report added.

Dunstan Thomas’ chief innovation officer Andrew Martin said: “Covid-19 will accelerate an existing trend to move more client contact online – demanding improved digital customer experience as well as more process automation and straight-through processing behind the scenes.”

Martin said the adoption of digital dashboards as the first point of contact for clients was a good starting point. He explained dashboards are a way to get information to clients quickly and clearly and help avoid reassure clients during periods of market volatility.

He added any messaging needed to be clear, concise and not overly complicated.

“Digital channels which are already in place, are now set for significant improvement and augmentation. And many are putting in platforms and new communication channels for the first time over the next year.

“The focus must remain on customer experience so that customers get a consistently positive experience regardless of which channel they use to make contact with their adviser. The other focus is on user experience as portals with key information and indicators are deployed to support both advisers and their clients,” he added.

Elsewhere the research, which contacted 1,000 senior executives at wealth managers, private banks, DFMs and asset managers in June, found some 48% of investment advisory firms are either running projects to migrate to digital-only delivery, storage and downloading of documents or improving existing capabilities in the next 12 months.

Of this group, which are highly focused on ‘going digital’ with their formal client communications, 31% are improving systems to enable digital-only document handling and a further 17% have projects running to complete this work over the next 12 months.

Going digital with formal communications is an even higher priority for wealth managers – 58% said they were are either starting migration to digital-only document delivery, storage and downloading or improving existing digital content management systems.

A further 17% of firms are focusing on adding more multimedia content including ‘explainer’ videos to enhance financial education and engagement associated with more formal, often statutorily-required client communications and reporting which otherwise leaves many clients cold.

However, the research said paper documentation is not entirely dead – one in five (19%) firms have projects ongoing this year or improving the clarity and simplicity of paper-based documents that they are still posting to clients.

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