Anyone who’s worked with multiple banks, financial advisors, or trust firms knows that not all financial services companies are created equally. On the contrary, a veritable chasm separates the leaders from the laggards.
For financial services consumers — in other words, most of us — the good news is that no expertise is needed to evaluate the relative merits of financial firms. Taken together, these 10 measures provide a reasonably complete — and, crucially, non-technical — picture of firms’ acumen. If your current providers live up to these standards, be assured you’re in good hands.
- They’re Relentlessly Focused on Client Service
Financial services providers know they can’t afford to neglect their clients. And yet some do.
Well-run financial services firms tend not to make this avoidable mistake. They hire aggressively as they grow to ensure high staff-to-client ratios. They use cutting-edge technologies and efficiency-enhancing processes to improve the client experience. They cultivate reputations for above-and-beyond service, even when their actual work is commoditized. They write exceptional client service into their organizational DNA (culture, if you prefer) — and they’re not shy about managing out staffers who don’t live up to the bargain.
In short, well-run financial services providers make client-staff interactions pleasurable and fruitful.
- They Invest in Customer-Facing Staff
Making exceptional client service a cultural touchstone is a crucial first step, but it doesn’t by itself guarantee exceptional service; training and education do.
Well-run financial services companies understand this, and they invest their money to prove it. As part of your due diligence process, look to employer review websites and other sources of public-record information to learn as much as you can about candidate service providers’ employee training and continuing education protocols.
- Their Networks Are Deep and Broad
No matter how large or diversified financial services providers grow, in-house expertise only gets them so far. Truly excellent providers compensate for inherent limitations on their internal resources by cultivating deep, broad networks across the financial services industry and related fields. Companies that operate on a global playing field maintain continent-spanning networks, ensuring that high net worth families and growing businesses can trust them for referrals and connections when they’re needed most.
- They Stick to Their Specialties
The same inherent limitations on internal resources compel savvy financial services firms to specialize. Even transnational firms with multiple business lines pick and choose their focus areas, reassuring their clients that they actually know what they’re doing. Concentrating all your business under the same roof might seem like a sensible decision, but you may be better served in the long run by choosing partners that concentrate on one or two service domains.
- They Leverage Technologies as Appropriate, But Avoid the Latest Fads
Fintech is all the rage these days. While fad-chasing firms get out over their skis and invest in costly, gimmicky technologies that don’t meaningfully improve security, efficiency, or the customer experience, sober-minded companies carefully select technologies that have proven themselves in test environments and seem likely to succeed in the real world. Moreover, they select these technologies with an eye to those who matter most: their clients.
- They’re Committed to Their Communities (and Others)
Effectively managed financial services firms are committed to the communities they serve — and, in some cases, to communities far beyond their trade areas. Singapore-based trust and corporate services provider Asiaciti Trust invests substantial resources into its core philanthropy program, a highly regarded Latin American artist residency. If nothing else, the fact that philanthropic financial services firms tend to be well-run is a boon for prospective clients seeking competent representatives with shared values.
- They’re Available When It Matters Most
“Emergency” is a relative term, but the bar is pretty high in the world of finance.
All the same, our increasingly interconnected economy places a premium on availability. You have every right to expect that your financial services provider will answer whenever you call — whether you’re burning the midnight oil at home or stuck halfway around the world. Well-run financial services providers know this, and they’re happy to accommodate.
- They Remain True to Clear Mission and Values Statements
A culture of excellent client service is just one facet of what (for well-rounded firms, at least) should be a multifaceted mission. Indeed, cross-referencing public records with printed mission and value statements is one way to determine how a financial services provider truly operates. Firms that hold to their stated values, and deliver, have steadier hands at the wheel.
- They Use Time-Tested Internal Systems and Procedures (Even If Clients Don’t See Them at Work)
Speaking of steady hands: one crucial measure of internal stability is a set of scalable systems and procedures that govern corporate processes and hold employees accountable. Clients might never see direct evidence of these systems at work, but their outward effects should be plain, and their presence should be discernible in employee reviews, media reports, and other public resources.
- They Attract and Retain Top Talent
You can discern a great deal about the quality of the coaching staff from the level of play on the field. Well-run financial companies invariably have robust recruiting operations capable of attracting and retaining top talent. Assuming they live up to their values and provide competitive compensation, well-run firms tend to be looked upon with favor by top-shelf candidates as well. Employee retention is a key indicator of the firm’s culture, and is beneficial for the client as well, as relationships foster over the long-term.
Is Your Financial Services Company Living Up to Its Mission?
We’ve touched on the appropriate minimum expectations for your corporate service provider. However, there’s quite a bit more to consider, particularly on the technical front. More than anything, mind that your core needs are being met and that the service you receive exceeds your standards. If this isn’t the case, you owe it to your legacy to find a provider committed to refocusing on the unique needs of its clients.