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How to Win the Attention of HNW Clients

High-net-worth clients' attention to financial advice is less predictable than it once was and there's more competition for it

Businessman Shouting from Cliff to Cliff Communicating AudienceHigh-net-worth (HNW) financial services customers may have more in the bank than most but are still cautious about their financial future.

Data gathered midway through 2014 bear this out (see chart 1), as do conversations with wealth managers since then.

And, at the same time as they worry about the future, HNW customers are also consulting more and more sources of financial guidance, including social media and so-called robo-advisors (software that provides savvy investment advice). Indeed, only 38% of HNW clients reported using one financial provider in 2013, compared to 55% in 2011, evidence that firms face a challenge in getting customers to listen to them.

Percentage of HNW individuals who feel positive about their personal finances

Chart 1: Maintaining a cautious outlook  Percentage of HNW individuals who feel positive about their personal finances; global data, Q1 2011–Q1 2014; n=714  Source: CEB Consumer Financial Monitor

Funnels, Tunnels, and Spindles

But not only are there more sources of investment advice competing for HNW time, wealth management firms should also worry about changes to the HNW clients’ decision-making processes.

Over a third of clients say they follow an erratic “spindle” type decision path (see chart 2) and, more worryingly, this rises to almost one-half of generation X and millennial clients (49%), compared to only 23% of baby boomers and retirees.

This non-linear process makes it imperative for wealth management providers to capture the attention of clients and prospects early, and often.

Three purchasing paths

Chart 2: Three purchasing paths  Percentage of individuals who purchased a banking product in the past two years, 2013; n=804  Source: CEB 2013 Customer Experience Survey

Three Ways to Get Their Attention

To win the attention of increasingly unpredictable clients among a growing welter of competitors who are vying for it, firms should implement three tactics.

  1. Use social media to provide a more credible voice where clients are listening: Tracking data show that many HNW clients are willing to speak about their bank on social media, or use the platform to understand what others think of particular provider. Clients look for information in this way because they see it as more authentic and credible than traditional marketing.

    Many HNW clients, including over one-half of spindle purchasers, use social media to investigate a potential purchase. But they don’t only use it as a research tool: 70% of investors have reallocated investments or altered relationships with investment providers or other financial firms based on findings from social media.

    Firms should build awareness of the firm by delivering relevant, filtered communications related to clients’ concerns and interests on popular social media platforms. They should give clients the chance to interact with each other and provide their own advice and research, and also allow clients to leave feedback on the firm’s products and services.

  2. Prevent client straying through access to interactive financial tools: A significant proportion of HNW individuals want immediate access to their finances via the web. CEB data show that HNW clients who frequently visit their firm’s website are more likely to use one or two firms for financial advice, but they also are significantly more likely to leave firms that do not offer an integrated channel experience.

    Leading firms have found success in providing clients with any-time access to their finances and the ability to customize how they view their assets to make them feel in control of their financial situation.

  3. Influence client behavior through tailored and proactive contact: HNW clients place great importance on proactive contact, and those who rate their advisor highly on it are more likely to advocate for their firm.

    Firms within the CEB Wealth Management network have found it beneficial to centrally generate proactive contact ideas to engage clients on relevant topics and influence their financial decisions.


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