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Why a Crisis is the Right Time to Upgrade Your Account Opening System


The coronavirus pandemic will make lasting changes to how we do business. While business leaders are thinking about how that could look, clients are already taking action. It’s forcing them to reevaluate their future and their finances and many are searching for guidance.

Before the crisis, large broker-dealers (>$1 billion AUM) had been opening more than 200 new accounts every week. Advisors are seeing an influx of new clients who are former DIY’ers, who are no longer comfortable going it alone. Additionally, existing clients want to consolidate under advisors that handled the crisis in stride.

How can enterprises manage this increased activity when quarantine makes in-person meetings impossible? How can advisors transition accounts without a face-to-face meeting to get “the paperwork done”? When new clients are onboarded, what will their first experience with your firm look like?

Every firm’s top priority should be to improve key virtual customer experiences. An agnostic new account opening (NAO) process is of vital importance, especially in these times. It must not only be accessible digitally to all participants, but also be able to support multiple account types opened simultaneously with just one eSignature. A single unencumbered digital process will prepare advisors to take on more clients while maintaining high-levels of client service. But how much time can be saved by multi-account opening technology?

According to a Fidelity survey, the average time to complete a paper-based account opening process is more than 16 hours, while digitally only 7 hours. The time savings from going digital means that large broker-dealers could free up over 1,400 hours of advisors and staff every week.

How Agnostic NAO Drives Advisor Adoption

The most successful wealth management firms are constantly looking for ways to increase growth and drive down costs. One method of accomplishing both is to improve the efficiency of the onboarding process. A process which has been made cumbersome by the wide variety of investment products and account types that are available.

Products such as direct mutual funds and annuities usually have their own account opening processes with their own requirements and time demands. Even if these processes are digitized, they still require advisors to switch to a different system that they may not be as familiar with. Now multiply this by several accounts across many clients and tasks that should take a few hours can stretch into days or longer.

Since this has been business-as-usual since the beginning of time, many advisors just accept the idea that having multiple NAO processes is unchangeable. Their firms have higher costs for training and support but no one complains. It’s an inelegant reality that forces costly inefficiency on advisors and their clients.

An agnostic NAO process, however, that is designed to handle multiple account types simultaneously, is an efficiency game-changer. It supports many types of accounts including brokerage, advisory, annuity, Mutual Fund Direct, taxable and non-taxable accounts, and entity-based accounts, all with the same user experience. It ensures that advisors won’t be bogged down by new products when they’re added in the future. It’s a time-savings boon that reduces errors by eliminating much of the human intervention previously necessary in collecting client information and filing forms.

Not only is it important to build trust, an agnostic NAO process is also the first step in the client-advisor relationship. It must inspire client confidence based on speed, accuracy, and a seamless experience. Success at this stage in the relationship can reduce client abandonment, and encourage existing clients to consolidate their separate accounts under one advisor.

Reducing NIGOs

NIGOs are a perennial problem that plagues most NAO workflows across industries. Consider the insurance industry which sees NIGO rates of upwards of 75%. Where do these problems come from? NIGOs represent mistakes in the process, either forms are incomplete or have inaccurate information or additional documentation is required.

It’s unfortunate that advisors and operations staff have grown accustomed to high rejection rates, on average 20-30%. A NIGO means the operations team cannot complete the account opening process and must follow up to correct the error(s), converting the NIGO into an IGO (in-good-order). At worst, if the delays are extensive, the client might walk, and even if they stay, it could mean a rocky start to the relationship.

The result of a high NIGO rate is increased administrative costs. Having to fix NIGOs can be up to 3-4 times the cost of an error-free digital process. There are outsourced services that can assist operations by collecting missing or correcting inaccurate information. However, the fee is sometimes $5 for each call to a client, so even with moderate rejection rates can add up to huge annual costs! There is also evidence that high NIGOs lead to higher prospect abandonment rates.

At larger organizations, these losses can multiply dramatically. Royal Bank of Canada’s wealth management division reported losses of over 80,000 hours annually due to NIGO corrections, some errors as obvious as missing signatures. After deploying an e-signature process, the bank saved over $8 million annually in administrative costs.

Despite the ubiquity of technology and universal internet access, wealth management firms continue to accept business-as-usual when it comes to NIGOs, when in fact there are software solutions to reduce NIGO rates and save time and money.

Better Advisor & Client Experience

In a world with shrinking fees and market saturation, firms must differentiate themselves to attract new clients and convince existing ones against switching. The advice to advisors, build brand loyalty through a high-quality client experience (C/X). The NAO experience is the first tangible hurdle a prospect encounters on the client-advisor journey. A bad experience can mean the end of the road. An elegant experience, however, one that is seamless, fast and transparent, can turn a prospect into a client, and clients into referrals.

What is an elegant client experience? One that does not require multiple phone calls or emails to gather the same information. One that provides clients the ability to view and edit their own data. And one that requires a single digital signature for the entire package. Not one for every form.

An elegant client experience naturally translates into a great advisor experience (A/X). The advisor side of the coin allows a single NAO process instead of one for each account type or product type. This reduces their learning curve as well as the time required for administration and operations.


The coronavirus crisis is reshaping the world and every business along with it. Clients are caught up in it and are taking action—so should advisors by improving their client-facing experiences to serve their client’s new financial needs.

Wealth Management firms can get ahead of the curve by implementing an agnostic NAO process. One that supports the range of products clients with the flexibility to integrate into their existing infrastructure. A single digital process where clients and advisors can engage at a distance, exchange accurate information quickly, while eliminating NIGOs and the costly redundancies caused by filing paperwork. Afterall, a better client experience and advisor experiences just adds up to better business.

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