Asset management firms can learn from out-of-industry examples of account aggregation to increase client engagement

Account aggregation tools, particularly those that allow users to add external accounts, are an increasingly popular offering across the financial services industry. These aggregation features allow users to gain a holistic picture of their financial wellness. While fund issuers typically allow investors to link external accounts as only a funding source for investments, our recent Asset Management Monitor – Investor External Account Connection report (subscription required) reveals inefficiencies across user experiences, as most firms in our coverage set offer processes that are time consuming and unsecure, leaving the industry standard below that of other sectors.

Though we recognize the differing needs of clients at asset management firms when considering such processes, we suggest that fund issuers look to relevant areas within other financial services sectors—like robo advisories and mobile applications—for inspiration on how to improve their overall account aggregation offering. As such, the following serves as an overview of some best practices covered in our recent report, considering strong suits from asset management leaders as well as those outside of the industry to bridge existing gaps.

Use third-party platforms to streamline the account linking process

While only some asset managers—such as BNY Mellon and Voya—stand out from competitors by allowing investors to connect external accounts via third-party platforms, our matrix (subscription required) shows full adoption across out-of-industry firms. Rather, most fund issuers require investors to input account information manually, overall leading to a lengthier account connection process. By implementing third-party platforms—like Plaid or Finicity—firms can help their clients directly connect relevant institutions via a lightbox or its login portal, input their credentials and quickly add new accounts without a higher likelihood for confusion and errors that stem from finding routing and account numbers via manual linkage.

In the digital advice space, Empower, for example, extends an instant and secure account linking process using Yodlee. By selecting the firm’s Link Another Account button, a lightbox appears with common financial institutions and a search bar for finding others. Upon selection, a new screen displays the firm’s privacy and data-sharing agreement, highlighting how it protects and uses clients’ personal information. Continuing the process leads to a separate page, connecting to the institution’s login page to allow investors to use their credentials to securely sign in and finish linking their account without needing additional information that manual linkage would require.

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Empower Secure Site Link Your Account Lightbox

Look to out-of-industry leaders for strong account aggregation capabilities

While asset management firms may not see reason to establish account aggregation capabilities due to the availability of financial advisors who can keep shareholders up to date on their full financial picture, doing so can establish a firm’s website as its clients’ primary financial hub and, as a result, instill frequent visits upon a more loyal client base. In contrast to counterparts in the broader financial services industry, most fund issuers, however, do not offer such features likely due to differences in client needs. Despite this, offering even basic account aggregation features may allow firms to better position themselves as more than just fund issuers, using such capabilities to further support clients’ needs, such as progress toward long-term savings goals, that are less frequently accounted for across the industry.

Betterment—another robo advisor—offers a simple example of account aggregation to illustrate high-level allocation of any linked investment accounts as well as a combined portfolio allocation that considers internal and external holdings. In doing so, the firm considers not only the mutual fund and ETF holdings at the firm, but also those outside of its offerings, to help investors monitor their goals more accurately and know when to adjust risk and reward settings.

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Betterment Secure Site Individual Goal Page Portfolio Analysis Tab

 

Refer to out-of-industry leaders for basic personal financial management capabilities

When out-of-industry firms implement account aggregation features, they generally offer personal financial management (PFM) capabilities as well. In doing so, clients can track spending habits and changes in income using data from all linked accounts to gain a better idea of their financial wellbeing. Cash flow, budgeting, spending pattern and saving goal capabilities serve as examples of PFM. While asset managers may not find such capabilities applicable to all clients, by offering PFM capabilities on even a basic level, firms can further assist their clients in staying on track toward their financial goals as well as find opportunities for product promotions that can help decrease savings gaps.

Asset managers with separate brokerage arms typically offer more advanced features among the coverage set due to the differing needs of their clients. Fidelity, for example, stands out for its comprehensive PFM resources that include an overview of investors’ net worth, a spending tracker and a budgeting tool via a secure site Planning Summary page. Once a linked account from the dashboard is selected, the firm connects clients to the page where it houses tabs for Net Worth, Spending, Savings and Debt. While this experience is not typical among its peers, fund issuers may consider looking to the firm for inspiration regarding effective organization that highlights its role in maintaining clients’ financial wellbeing.

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Fidelity Secure Site Full View Page Debt Tab

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Deirdre Kelshaw

Deirdre Kelshaw is an Analyst on CI's asset management team.