Covid-19 hasn’t put a pause on everything … When it comes to onboarding new clients, advisers say the process is speeding up.

In 2020, the client onboarding process sped up to just five days on median, new research shows. That’s down from seven the prior year. The findings are part of a joint study between Transamerica and InvestmentNews Research surveying advisers about how the pandemic has reshaped their business practices. The latest survey explored how the onboarding process has changed, and how early relationships are nurtured.

What stood out in the latest survey results was how efficient advisory firms have become at onboarding. Forty-five percent of surveyed advisers say the onboarding process shortened in 2020, while only 10% said it got longer. (See chart below)

Onboarding times sped up largely because more advisers were prepared to bring clients on digitally. Only a quarter of surveyed advisers said onboarding is still largely an “in-person” experience. At the other end of the spectrum, 19% of surveyed advisers have made onboarding a fully digital experience, and roughly half of that group made the change in 2020.

The onboarding data further confirms an encouraging trend noted in prior surveys: Despite trying circumstances, advisers are innovating and finding ways to grow the business. In a prior survey, 35% of advisers indicated they had added more new clients from March to September of 2020 than they did over the same period the year before.

Bringing on Clients Has Become Efficient, Not Easy

While the data on new clients and faster onboarding times is encouraging, that doesn’t mean the sales or relationship building process is easy. Advisers can expect to meet with new clients often in the first year of the relationship. Seventy percent of surveyed advisers meet with new clients at least three times in the first year of the relationship.

An interesting finding within those results is that RIAs are taking a stronger hands on approach. Twenty-three percent of RIA and hybrid respondents meet with clients five or more times per year, compared with only 9% of all other respondents.

Pain Points

When it came to getting clients up to the starting line, advisers indicated the biggest pain points to onboarding included economic uncertainty, regulatory/compliance issues and virtual interaction. Those broad, macro- or industry-wide issues proved to be bigger hurdles to gaining business than price or other competitive factors.

Finally, the survey looked at the services new clients were most likely to demand in 2020. Similar to other studies, investment management, retirement income planning and financial planning remain in heaviest demand. But faster onboarding processes are allowing clients to step up and access these services faster.

Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment, legal, medical or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent professionals for answers to your specific questions.