We’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about preparing for our busiest time time of the year (RRSP season), as well about some longer term thinking about staff development. Part of this is looking at our business processes and determining how they can be made more efficient, including who is involved in the process, and whether we can easily add resources (i.e. people) to handle increased volumes.
What’s really struck me is how critical the client on-boarding process is to our business. On-boarding is the process of enrolling a new client into our business, both systems and processes.
Client on-boarding is important for a number of reasons:
Most importantly, either through discussion with the client, or with the information we provide on our site, we determine and implement the appropriate strategic asset mix for the client, which is realized with the correct selection of our funds in the correct account types (i.e. income generating assets are in registered accounts to defer taxes)
We lay the basis for a positive relationship with the client by setting the client up quickly and accurately, and not dropping any balls… we don’t necessarily build a lot of trust in this stage, but we can sure lose it quickly
Our systems and processes are set up to properly service the client either when they initiate action or when we schedule our next call or interaction with them. A large part of this is correctly linking the client as a person to their accounts and/or other contacts in the system, and tracking the roles they play across their roles.
We keep our regulators happy by ensuring that all client accounts are in compliance with various regulations
The scope of this process is large and crosses most areas of our business. In rough order:
assisting the prospect with completing account application forms
checking the forms to ensure they are properly completed, and contacting the client if not (in the case of forms that have been mailed in without us meeting the client)
for clients whom we don’t meet in person, federal anti-money laundering provisions require that we run an ID check via a credit bureau and clear a cheque on a Canadian financial institution
create the contact in our wealth management platform (a combination of CRM and client financial data) if not there already
scan the paper documents and upload to our wealth management platform, linked to the contact
creating the account(s) in our backoffice systems
sending out transfer instructions as required to other institutions
checking that the client’s investment instructions are appropriate and consistent with their financial situation
entering trades, deposit cheques
linking accounts to portfolios, establishing relationship between contacts and other clients in the wealth management platform
setting up clients for reporting and access to the client portal
sending out welcome letter or trade confirmations
unfortunately there are many opportunities for errors or missing information from the client, and we often have to contact them for clarification
Throughout this process there are a myriad of business rules related to account types (RRSP, TFSA, RIF plans, etc.) as well as understanding how the systems interact. In order to on-board the client properly, we decided it’s best to have a single person do most of the tasks for a client as they will have a better grasp of the client’s entire situation. If the tasks in this process get too broken up, it’s easy to make mistakes.
So, rather than hiring for specialization (i.e. someone to just enter trades), we’ll build our team up around individuals who first and foremost understand our clients and our business, and can work across a multitude of tasks and environments. This makes hiring and training more difficult, but I feel it is worth it.
As a quick aside, there are definitely areas where we can improve our process through technology (notably on-line account signup and other self-service tasks); however, given our scale, and some of the requirements we have for ID verification and regulators’ rules around electronic signatures mean that this isn’t practical for us at this time.