Key factors of successful client onboarding projects
It was not so long ago that the Client Onboarding department was established at AssetMetrix. When I started at the company, the integration of new clients was done directly by the operational departments. With an increasing number of incoming clients, it became clear that there was a need for a dedicated team which would handle the onboarding of new clients. We essentially started from scratch by setting up processes and developing strategies which would lead to more efficiency and ensure a seamless hand-over to the day-to-day business. This, in fact, was and still is a learning process due to the heterogeneity of our clients and further developments of our own service platform.
During the last two years, we have onboarded various clients including insurance companies, pension funds, fund managers and family offices. Even though we generally follow a standard onboarding approach, each client is unique in terms of its portfolio as well as its organizational set-up. Based on those experiences, I consider the following 5 aspects as key for successful onboarding projects:
The PE industry is a diverse field and so are its players. Our service offering attracts customers, who each having differing needs and requirements. The project can only be successful if we manage to meet our client’s needs and understand how to create value for them.
First, we need to understand who we are dealing with and develop a client profile. As already mentioned, we have a broad client spectrum in our service portfolio and each one is different in terms of its organizational structure, stakeholders, and operational business.
The second step is to look at the service offering and how to ensure that we create value for our client. Based on the characteristics determined in the first step, we can already derive certain focus points for the provision of our services.
The heterogeneity of clients becomes specifically visible from their respective portfolio structure. Even though we have already had several onboarding projects, each new mandate needs to be treated as unique. Our goal is to mirror the portfolio as precisely as possible and provide this in each product we deliver.
Managing a project also means interacting with people. This implies collaborating with different stakeholders, external and internal, which have their own objectives and ideas. During an onboarding period, we build up a relationship to those stakeholders and as in every relationship — communication is key.
Our clients trust that we are managing their project well and ensure a smooth hand-over to our services. Therefore, it is indispensable that we maintain this trust at all times. A key pillar for me to achieve this is transparency. It does not help to keep your partners in the dark when something goes wrong. I have experienced quite the contrary. Being open and admitting that something is not working as expected, regardless of who was at fault, strengthens the relationship and sometimes even leads to your partner contributing to solve the issue.
When defining processes and setting up the system we always think about the long run. Our goal is to build long lasting relationships with satisfied clients. Based on a good understanding of the client’s needs, you can advise and suggest workflows and set-ups which provide such a long-term satisfaction by facilitating their daily work, increasing efficiency or providing additional value, even though it may mean that in the short run it is more work to set up those solutions. It can be tempting to implement ‘quick’ workarounds, which work in the short run, rather than putting in more effort and resources to install permanent solutions. It is important that we are challenging ourselves to really think through our implementations and, if needed, adapt existing ones.
For us an onboarding project usually takes between three and six months. This may seem like a long period, but taking into account the diversity of our products and tailormade solutions it is actually a quite ambitious timeline. As outsourcing partner, it is important to us, that our clients see quick results and that a transition is not taking too long. At the same time, we have to deal with a certain amount of complexity during the set-up. Only by following certain procedures and following a structured approach we can avoid time consuming iterations and mistakes during the set-up. We are using different project management tools within the onboarding of our client from classical waterfall methods by PMI/PMBOK up to more agile methods as Scrum for the set-up of the web-portal.
Taking over the management of a project also means taking over responsibility. Responsibility which encapsulates coordinating people and tasks, holding deadlines, ensuring that agreements are fulfilled and that the desired output is delivered. Managing all those various tasks might be challenging and stressful, but you can only be successful if you commit yourself to the project. You need to be engaged and present to give them the awareness that you have it under control and that they can rely on you.
In the end I would like to mention, that the most important part are the people we are working with. As part of an organization, especially in the onboarding department, we are at the interface between Sales and our operational colleagues, we rely on our support from our IT department and keeping up a vivid communication channel with our product development team which are responsible for new product releases. We exchange with our colleagues from the Analytical department to ensure they get all relevant information for their calculations. Not forgetting about our administration department, which is making our life easier without being noticed sometimes. It is still a business relying on people and its work, that is why to me keeping good relations is the most crucial part of each project.