Onboarding Best Practices 101: How to Improve Client and Member Onboarding

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Client onboarding is the first opportunity for financial advisory firms, private banks, broker-dealers, asset managers, multi-family offices, retail banks, credit unions to win over new customers. It really is the first step to building a long-term relationship with your new clients—which means that your onboarding experience must be fast and seamless so customers can immediately start to benefit from products and services that will help them reach their goals for their life and finances.

When done well, it can mark the beginning of a productive and profitable partnership. Done poorly, however, and you may see unwanted churn.

Well-thought-out and personalized client onboarding helps financial services firms improve customer experience, increase revenue, and enhance process efficiency.

So how can you create a smooth client onboarding process? Alternatively, improve the one you already have? Before diving into best practices around onboarding, let’s discuss why this process is crucial to your overall business success and client satisfaction.

The benefits of having a smooth onboarding process

Client onboarding isn’t just a nice add-on—it is a crucial business strategy. When done effectively, it leads to:

  • Less churn: Did you know that clients are three times more likely to churn during the first 90 days? Advisors should aim to build relationships and demonstrate value early on in the client’s journey to help them stick.
  • More efficiency: Onboarding helps you just as much as it helps your clients. It provides you with need-to-know information at your fingertips, leaving you in the best possible position to begin working for a client. As a result, this helps you increase efficiency and avoid bottlenecks further down the line.
  • Happier clients: Clients want to work with advisors who know what they’re doing, have a clear plan of action, and build strong relationships. When you demonstrate this, not only will your customers be happier, but it’ll also positively impact your reputation, which brings us to… 
  • More clients: By ensuring your customer’s satisfaction early on, you’re far more likely to build strong relationships, upsell existing customers in the future, and gain referrals based on your excellent work and customer relationships.
  • Ensures compliance: Having a well-thought-out, highly repeatable onboarding process helps to ensure that compliance is already built into everything you do instead of simply becoming an afterthought, including document retention and demonstrating that onboarding documents were delivered to clients.

Remember—not all onboarding processes are created equal. To reap these benefits, you must build a system and optimize your onboarding process so that you’re fully enabled to do efficient work and build effective long-term relationships.

Onboarding best practices to building great relationships from the start

1.   Make paperwork easy… for everyone

Streamlining the paperwork process shows new clients you are trustworthy and reliable, and it helps establish clear lines of communication.

Make sure all required agreements are ready to go and easy for clients to understand and sign. We highly recommend leveraging a Digital Vault platform like FutureVault for secure document exchanges to take place to house all onboarding documents in one location.

Using a digital signature tool like DocuSign, among many others, for your signature workflows significantly reduces unnecessary back-and-forth communications and makes it easy for clients to sign and return documents instantaneously.

FutureVault’s DocuSign integration, is a game-changer that enables you to automate several key workflows often involved with new client onboarding. By leveraging this integrated workflow, advisors can automatically create new Vault accounts for clients, automatically depositing eSigned documents directly into the correct folder within a Vault account. This alone shaves several hours off the manual administrative work involved with new client processing in addition to automatically meeting document retention policy requirements.

2.   Don’t just offer ongoing services… provide ongoing value

Advisors shouldn’t assume that they only need to win over new clients once. The truth of the matter is this; your job as a financial service professional is to provide value to your clients over and over again.

Offering ongoing services or resources—such as continuous training, quick troubleshooting checklists, or a monthly consultation to review other challenges they face—shows true professionalism and proves your commitment to providing long-term value, in turn encouraging clients to stay on. Don’t forget to notify clients about all these services during the onboarding process.

3.   Establish preferred methods of communication

Misunderstandings and clashing communication styles can cause conflict, which is the last thing you want with any client, in particular new ones. By establishing the best methods and regularity of communication from the start, you start your relationship on the right foot.

We recommend conversing with new clients regarding how they prefer to be contacted and how often they expect you to reach out. By doing so, you can help clients feel secure about this new relationship while showing that you value their business enough to make sure they’re comfortable. Some clients may want to have one call at the beginning of their working relationship and then continue with minimal contact. Others may prefer to connect once a week or month.

The point is, you won’t know unless you ask and establish this.

4.   Determine your client’s desired level of involvement

When clients are investing money and resources, security and peace of mind is… top of mind. Establishing a check-in schedule helps them feel safe with you as an advisor while improving overall satisfaction and reducing client churn.

Some clients prefer to work with advisors as a partner, while others want to be hands-off and only hear from you when they’ve hit specific metrics (and everything in between). Clients who wish to be involved might feel sidelined if you fail to include them in the process.

Set expectations for the desired level of involvement from the beginning of the working relationship. What types of changes need approval, and who needs to approve them? Do they expect to brainstorm solutions, and then you implement them? Clear expectations reduce stress and eliminate confusion.

Determine how involved your client wants to be, and then establish regular times to meet and discuss any issues that may arise.

5.   Have a kick-off meeting

An organized kick-off meeting sets a positive tone for your working relationships and ensures everyone is on the same page. This serves as the building block for a strong relationship and helps ensure clients are satisfied with your services.

Once new client agreements have been signed and you are ready to get started, it’s now an appropriate time for you to hold a kickoff meeting to review details and get everyone on the same page. This meeting establishes your future communication cadence and helps clients feel confident they made the right decision to hire you.

During your kickoff meeting, make sure to review:

➜ Overall goals

➜ Metrics for success

➜ Your strategies or approach

➜ Roles and expectations

➜ Information you need from them to get started such as critical documents

➜ Online access and portals where clients can access their portfolios, including accessing their documents and statements

➜ Next steps

This is also an excellent opportunity to schedule a meeting down the line to check in on the progress of the partnership.

6.   Provide them with tools and resources they’ll need

Tracking tools or dashboards help hold your business accountable. Clients can see the benefits you bring to their lives in real-time, which improves trust and shows their investment is paying off.

When customers don’t understand what you’re doing or can’t immediately see the benefits, they’re unlikely to continue working with you. Data showcases how your efforts are improving their lives and prove you’re worth keeping around.

Notably, your clients will want and will need to have access to their documents and information at any given time. By providing them with a secure, personal Digital Vault, you’re providing them with their own access to the information and documents that pertain to the relationship you have with them, but also with a place where they can securely store and organize all of their important documents such as family documents, legal, healthcare, etc.

Ultimately, it is part of your job to provide your clients with the tools and resources that instill confidence in your services and that continue to provide tremendous value in their everyday life.

Create a document checklist to help scale new client onboarding processes

A client onboarding document checklist will help you standardize your onboarding workflow and ensure efficiency in the way you’re collecting information and documents from your clients.

Below are several common documents often required and associated with onboarding a new client. This onboarding checklist is intended to be used as a baseline to help you create your own unique checklist.

➜ Necessary bank statements (including any retirement or investment accounts)

➜ Mortgage paperwork and/or your client’s most recent statement

➜ Statements showing the balance and monthly payment for any auto loans

➜ Credit card statements and current balances

➜ Student loan statements

➜ Paperwork pertaining to a business (should your client own one)

➜ Alimony or child support statements—if applicable

➜ Disability insurance documents

➜ Declaration pages for home or renter’s insurance, automobile insurance, and/or any umbrella policies or commercial insurance policies

➜ Life insurance information or policy statements, including group term life insurance from your client’s employer

➜ Paperwork for any other financial accounts not listed

➜ Government ID, etc.

We know all too well just how cumbersome and time-consuming it can be to collect documents from internal and external counter-parties. FutureVault’s Custom Document Checklists make it easy to build new custom checklist templates to streamline gathering information and documents in a secure environment; a dream for both back and front office teams. Templates can be standardized and shared across your organization to ensure compliance and best practices are maintained.

Take your client and member onboarding to the next level with FutureVault

Onboarding is often the first place for new clients to place their trust in your hands; a difficult thing for most individuals and families. Having a smooth onboarding experience creates immediate value by showing new clients how much you care, that their personal information and documents are safe and secure, that you understand personal needs, and that you’re in it with them, together.

FutureVault can help your organization significantly improve new client onboarding with features and integrations that save back and front office teams significant time while reducing manual intervention involved in legacy processes. Ultimately, this means that you can focus on what you’re best at—providing excellent advice. 

Connect with FutureVault Solution Experts today and see how we can help your back and front offices save significant time and money by automating and improving new client onboarding.

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Learn how we’re successfully improving compliance, driving operational efficiencies, and helping front, middle, and back-office teams scale through secure document exchange and digital vault solutions. 

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