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Financial Services

Case Study: A Human-Centered Solution for A Fortune 500 Wealth Management Firm

WillowTree Staff

Door-to-Door to Digital: Preserving Personal Connection

For financial advisors and wealth managers, client experience is the cornerstone of their business. And with $25 trillion of new wealth estimated to be generated in North America by 2025—and 80% of millennials seeking a new financial advisor upon inheriting wealth(1)—competitive advantage in client acquisition is paramount.

Our partner, a leading investment management firm with tens of thousands of advisors and over $1 trillion assets under their care, had a rich legacy of attracting investors through personal connection. Throughout the firm’s 100+ year history, financial advisors traveled door-to-door to meet new clients, sitting with them over a cup of coffee and discussing their financial goals. This personal connection is what determined and solidified a great match.

Even as competitors shifted to a fully online model, our client maintained its door-to-door approach as a key differentiator. But competitive threats from robo-advisors, advisor attrition, and the onset of COVID-19 further upended this strategy. So the firm came to WillowTree and asked us to envision a new, humanized digital solution with two interconnected goals:

  1. Gain new clients by increasing digital acquisition
  2. Reduce financial advisor turnover by enhancing their client attraction tools

What Makes a Great Match Between Advisor and Client?

Accomplishing the firm’s goals first required understanding the factors that typically determine a well-matched client-advisor pair.

Through nearly 100 user interviews with prospects, clients, and advisors, WillowTree pinpointed unmet needs for both advisors and potential investors. Investors want to feel that their advisor understands their long-term goals and how this impacts their financial decision-making. Advisors have their own robust set of preferences for ideal clients: portfolio diversification, life stage, ESG goals, and beyond.

Once we uncovered unmet needs, the challenge was to translate the same personal touch of an in-person meeting to a digital tool.

From Post-It Note to Production in 34 Days

Among the many client objectives, one was particularly important to the firm: velocity. They needed to get this tool into the marketplace quickly.

In a high-velocity, iterative approach, WillowTree moved through concept design with increasing stages of fidelity, incorporating feedback along the way.

Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, WillowTree evaluated concepts with users on both sides of the experience, including financial advisors and potential clients, as well as the firm’s executive stakeholders.

In just 34 days, the team went from idea to launch with a user-validated digital product in two of the program’s pilot markets.

Data Science: The Engine of Our Match Algorithm

The resulting digital product is a web-based, questionnaire-style tool that pairs prospective investors with advisors based on mutual preference matching. In concept and ease-of-use, it has similarities to modern dating apps, determining compatibility to foster long-term relationships. The key difference: our product’s underlying technology is powered by an advanced algorithm, backed by data science and A/B testing, taking prospect and advisor preferences into account equally across multiple dimensions.

For instance, a prospective client may be located in the preferred geography and have the target investable assets desired by a particular financial advisor, but their life stage and longterm goals may not be aligned with the advisor’s expertise. On the backend, the algorithm takes this criteria, alongside 40 additional “match dimensions,” and scores them between a prospective client and available financial advisors, assigning points to areas of alignment. The frontend output is a list of advisors identified as the best match for the client, and an email alert to the matched advisor indicating a new lead.

In a world that increasingly demands streamlined user experience, the ability to only pair prospects and advisors who meet one another's criteria ensures meaningful matches are made sooner, fast-tracking the conversion process from prospect to client.

Digitizing (Without Sacrificing) a Human-Centric Experience

The final product was piloted in two markets and saw quick adoption from financial advisors as well as high completion rates from users.

Since launch, WillowTree has scaled the experience nationwide and provides ongoing refinement via product analytics and continuous deployment.

And (if we do say so ourselves) the collaboration between WillowTree and our client-partner has been a perfect match…

Satisfying Advisor Needs:

“I didn’t have knowledge of this potential client previously through any other channel – the system worked perfectly for the client and my branch. As someone who is in the trenches, I am tremendously appreciative.”
- Participating Financial Advisor

While Creating a Seamless Experience for Prospective Clients:

“It’s easy, and I don’t mean simple or simplistic in that sense; ease of use, the flow of questions, and the amount of questions.”
- Surveyed Investor

And Driving Business Results.

“I can’t think of a more powerful first impression that a prospective client could experience.”
- Partner, Wealth Management Firm
  • 700+ new clients created to date
  • $3.5 million projected savings from decreased advisor attrition
  • 230% projected return on investment in 5 years
“We did things on a timeline that others at the firm said were not possible. I’m incredibly grateful for the passion, heart and soul the team put forward.”
- Partner, Wealth and Investment Management Firm

WillowTree Staff

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