Work / Digital Discovery

How Lifetime use digital tools to streamline onboarding and have better conversations with clients about financial goals

Lifetime’s a nationwide advisory firm providing lifelong financial certainty for New Zealanders. Since 2018, they’ve been developing apps to improve their customer experience, solve problems, and grow.

Kat McCorkindale is Lifetime’s General Manager of Technology and Marketing. She recalls, “I joined Lifetime seven years ago. It’s been a rollercoaster adventure because we were a team of around 60 when I started and now there’s over 100 of us. Most shareholders are employees, so it’s a really radical, exciting company to work for and I love what we do.”

“We all live and breathe our purpose of creating greater financial certainty. We help people with their business and personal financial requirements, from accounting and insurance to mortgages and investments. And we support clients at every life stage from buying their first home to planning their legacy. But at the end of the day, our goal is always to achieve your financial goals. How do we get you living your best life?”

“We all live and breathe our purpose of creating greater financial certainty. We help people with their business and personal financial requirements, from accounting and insurance to mortgages and investments. And we support clients at every life stage from buying their first home to planning their legacy. But at the end of the day, our goal is always to achieve your financial goals. How do we get you living your best life?”

As head of marketing, my job is to get the word out about Lifetime and improve our operational efficiency to enable our financial advisors to do what they do best, deliver great client experiences and great financial advice.

From evolving their website to building the My Lifetime app

Kat started working with Voyage in 2018 when we took over management of their website. Kat says, “Voyage took over our site and gave it a revamp. I got to know the team and see just how capable and competent they were. They did a few clever upgrades and feature enhancements and their innovative thinking was refreshing. They suggested ways we could structure data to deliver better client experiences and online user journeys.”

“However, our website is a very small part of the value Voyage have added to Lifetime. Voyage is so much more than web development, they're a full digital development company. As Lifetime grows we have digital transformation needs, so when we looked at building an app for our clients it was natural to have a conversation with Voyage.”

“Together, we built a prototype of the My Lifetime app. It was a very enjoyable process and we were so chuffed with the result. The first things we did was get all our investment clients on the new app. That solved a big pain point. A third party provided our previous investment management platform, and it was so clunky people found it very difficult to use. The new app is clean and simple, and we got a lot of great feedback that gave our wider leadership team and our board confidence to continue to invest in the product.”

Making onboarding fun and engaging

The success of the app led to another digital project designed to improve Lifetime’s internal processes while elevating their customer experience at the same time.

Kat explains, “Our CRM system stores all our client data. It's our backbone, but it isn’t always easy to use, so we wanted to make entering customer data easier for our advisors. At the same time, we were trying to create a competitive advantage and onboarding was an opportunity to stand out. Onboarding with financial advisors is traditionally clunky and painful. So, we talked to Voyage about how we could make it more fun and engaging.”

We built our Digital Discovery platform to help clients through a slick, interactive onboarding experience. We aim to capture all their hopes and desires about money to understand what they want to achieve with Lifetime. We also use it for progress check ins and to capture detailed data for specific services. The platform is fully integrated with our CRM system. Every field is painstakingly mapped to make sure data never has to be duplicated.”

“The first release of the Digital Discovery platform was rolled out in December 2022. Thousands of clients have used the tool. Almost 60% of our client engagements are going through the platform, which one year in is pretty good. And the feedback we've had is really cool. Improving our client experience was our number one goal. But a huge driver was also user experience. It's a competitive market out there. We have to recruit and retain the best financial advisors we can. These days advisors are asking during the recruitment process, what tools we use, so we want to make sure we've something compelling and enjoyable.”

Solving onboarding pain points

Lifetime built their new client onboarding module first because they wanted to be sure that module was delivering value before building the whole Digital Discovery suite. Kat says, “The onboarding module is the only form that gets sent to clients for them to complete in their own home. So, it was a real test of good user interface design. Would clients not only start it, but actually finish it, and what quality data would they put in?”

The onboarding module was also solving a big pain point. Kat says, “In the financial advice industry, many firms’ onboarding processes ask clients to fill out 20-page documents. As you’d expect, most people don’t do this. We smashed our target with that first module. Clients are completing the new onboarding form with really high quality data, which means our meetings with them are better because we’re straight into the good stuff. That leads to us being more efficient. Those gains are coming through in our client satisfaction survey.”

“The big thing for me is we're having better client conversations and getting better results for us and our clients. We're an advice business. Our logo is a speech mark. Having wider conversations and understanding our clients better means we’re uncovering more ways to add value and introducing clients to more areas of the business, a key metric for us.”

“Also, by putting a structure around onboarding, we support our team and our clients through the process. Some of the stuff we talk about isn’t easy. We discuss things that can make couples argue and people cry. It's pretty challenging sometimes. But the questions have to be asked for us to do our job. Having the questions there on the screen in the Digital Discovery platform helps our advisers not shy away from those difficult topics.”

“One thing our clients like about us is we're a one-stop shop. Lifetime can handle your accounting, your loans and insurance, and your investments, but different people within Lifetime need to coordinate with each other to make this work. The Discovery platform gives all our specialists the data they need to collaborate and deliver good outcomes faster.”

“Another big win for me as a marketer is better client data. It’s accurate, up to date, and stored in the right place in the right format. We can anticipate client needs better, run better campaigns, create better apps and digital tools. Better data allows us to deliver more value.”

Digitising your client engagement tools and systems

Every organisation hits that point in their growth curve where their digital systems need an overhaul. Whether that’s updating a clunky app or overhauling an inefficient, manual process like Lifetime’s old onboarding form, digital transformation isn’t always easy. Here’s a few words of advice from us and from Kat.

Start small

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Come up with a simple first iteration of your solution that you can build to validate your return on investment. Don’t throw lots of cash at something complicated that won’t get you what you need.

Have the right project partners

Solid project management and partnership is key to delivering good results. The relationship we have with Lifetime is a two-way street. We’re always looking for the best way to solve their problems. We propose ideas and think big picture. The important thing for us is to build long-term partnerships with all our clients where we push each other to be better.

Bring your team with you on the journey

Kat’s biggest challenge with the Digital Discovery platform wasn’t technical. It was getting the Lifetime team to use the tool. She explains, “It took time for our team to embrace the platform, even though it seemed like a no-brainer. But we’ve a team of experienced people who’d learned our old systems and gotten really good at doing things one way. When you change the way you do things, it’s an obstacle to overcome. So even getting our team to adopt the onboarding module took persuading. But once they saw our clients enjoying the process and started to see the value, we started to see a positive trend.”

“It's hard to get your team on board. There’s a balance between letting them know they’ve been heard and making it clear that making a suggestion doesn't mean their idea will be used. The best tools aren't designed by committee. It comes back to the tried and tested principles of agile project management. Keep each step as simple as possible. And always communicate your why to your team, so they understand why you're doing this and what's in it for them. It’s not just about why something’s good for your shareholders and clients.”

A loyal long-term partnership

Our goal is to be Lifetime’s technical partner for their digital marketing and product development needs, coming up with thought starters and helping drive solutions. Kat agrees. “Voyage understand our business so well. When Lifetime has a strategy discussion, I have that same conversation with my Voyage team, sharing what we’re hoping to achieve. I trust Voyage to know us and our needs because they’ve proven they deliver.”

“Obviously, their technical competency is excellent, but who they are as people matters too. They’re honest … sometimes almost to a commercial fault because they’re about the long-term relationship. If I've a strong view or I'm not happy about something, I feel so comfortable raising it. When you've got trust, you can have healthy conflict. If you don't have trust, you pull back from those tough conversations. We've got that fundamental strength in the relationship. We’re one team and that makes me very loyal to them.”

“I also trust Voyage to operate efficiently. They pitch ideas to match our budget and company size and build to anticipate our growth and future needs. One of my favourite things is they’re pragmatic with their design. Sometimes you come across development teams who want to use the latest, cutting-edge tech stack. That might be exciting for them, but it might require more learning for us, or come with more risk because it's not an established platform with full support. Voyage understand we're all about stable, mature tech because we're financial advisers.”

I can tell you how much I trust Voyage and how successful the projects we've done together have been. You don't work with a company for five years and increase your budget with them every year if you're not getting results.

The test of any relationship is when things go wrong. We asked Kat if she’s happy with how things are handled when the wheels fall off. Kat explains, “There will always be tricky bits in any technical project. There are going to be times where we fail to scope adequately or something isn't tested properly. The key thing is it's not about blame. With Voyage, we share each other's problems and pitfalls and it's never about finger pointing. It's very much a partnership. We're one team that shares failures and successes.”

“The good news is for the most part, we haven't had anything major go wrong. Sure, we've had bugs. That happens in software dev. Even Microsoft and Apple have bugs. So, we expect things to go wrong. It’s about how you respond when they do and Voyage is good at triaging high priority bugs fast. Also, we take responsibility on our end not to cry wolf. If we call something a priority one fix, it had better be urgent. And Voyage don't ever compromise on quality or safety. We’re pleased about that because we store people's important personal data, and the safety of our clients is paramount.”

“As much as I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned working with Voyage, I can't tell you to trust them. Trust has to be earned. But I can tell you how much I trust Voyage and how successful the projects we've done together have been. You don't work with a company for five years and increase your budget with them every year if you're not getting results. So, start small and give Voyage a crack on something simple. They'll prove themselves fast.”

Elevate your customer engagement with polished digital tools

If you’ve old-school onboarding or client management processes, we can digitise them to save you time, improve accuracy, and enhance your client experience. We bring full-service digital expertise and growth-focused ideas proven in digital collaborations with organisations like Lifetime, the Department of Internal Affairs, the New Zealand Defence Force, Jucy, and Education New Zealand.

Talk to us about your vision. We’ll tell you what we can do to help.

If you’ve old-school onboarding or client management processes, we can digitise them to save you time, improve accuracy, and enhance your client experience. We bring full-service digital expertise and growth-focused ideas proven in digital collaborations with organisations like Lifetime, the Department of Internal Affairs, the New Zealand Defence Force, Jucy, and Education New Zealand.

Talk to us about your vision. We’ll tell you what we can do to help.

(Client)

Lifetime