In the dash to digitize, here’s how TD Ameritrade stayed one step ahead

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By Adrienne Tsai

Posted on 09-28-2020

The financial services industry is no stranger to disruptive forces. Digital-first competitors, fast-changing client needs, and pressure to join the digital mainstream have prompted companies to rethink everything from business models to infrastructure. But the industry may be facing its biggest disruptor yet — a worldwide pandemic that has reshaped the client experience, and propelled the move to remote working models. While the current health crisis has upended the business world, one investment firm has shown how careful planning years before has helped make the sudden shift to digital a little easier.

Three years ago, TD Ameritrade set out on their digital transformation journey. One area the company tackled early on was simplifying self-service by digitizing their forms process. After a successful pilot, which allowed clients to submit electronic forms while visiting their local branch, the pandemic hit.

“From COVID, having a jump-start in digitization really showed an impact when our call centers and branches had to go digital,” says Megan Haran, director of digital self-service and content at TD Ameritrade. Key to their success was keeping the needs of the client front and center. That meant allowing clients to use their channel of choice, and providing the best experiences along every leg of the client journey.

“Traditionally the areas that have been modernized and provide exceptional experiences are those that drive revenue like your digital trading path, positions and watchlists, and charting capabilities,” says Haran. “Things often overlooked are areas like servicing, when a client has to do a key maintenance task, or they need to fill out a form. When you’re looking to create end-to-end journeys, you need to focus on the complete experience.”

Like TD Ameritrade, more and more companies are seeing a significant ROI from digitizing their forms. But with so many forms to process, knowing where to start can be daunting. Here’s how you can make the move from static forms to interactive experiences.

Make your case

Investing in self-service and the client experience can help you achieve strong ROI in everything from loyalty and advocacy to client satisfaction and client lifetime value. But if you want to make the case to improve self-service, there are additional KPIs you could consider, says Haran, such as reduced paper costs and decreased call volume. For TD Ameritrade, digitizing their forms helped them achieve far more than a good client experience.

“When a client mails or faxes a form, there’s no immediate indication that we have received it,” says Haran. “It goes out into the world and clients may have to check the status by logging in or making a support call. By digitizing your forms and providing instant feedback, you reduce the number of status calls that come in.”

Haran describes the firm’s successes as a triple win. “With digital forms we’ve also seen our Net Promoter Score (NPS) rise while making the entire forms process more efficient,” she says. “It’s a win for the client, a win for our associates, and definitely a win for our shareholders.”

Filter out friction

TD Ameritrade discovered how much friction paper forms can cause when they set out to digitize one of their first forms. The original beneficiary form was three pages long, with lots of instruction, and required clients to print, fax, or mail.

“One of the issues you have with paper forms is you have to put everything on it for everyone,” says Haran. “The form needs to capture every edge case — not just the most frequent. And that makes it difficult to keep them simple and straightforward.”

To make the form easier to complete, the team at TD Ameritrade whittled it down to only a few mandatory fields, while providing clients with the convenience of completing, signing, and submitting electronically. The results were eye-opening.

“We anticipated there would be pent-up demand from people who saw the friction in that manual experience. But we learned quickly just how much friction a single form can add.”

The number of beneficiary forms submitted increased significantly since the digital forms were introduced.

“If you think about how the digital volume has surpassed the original paper volume, it’s clear that there was friction in our experience that the clients very much appreciated being removed,” she says. “So, when you’re putting together your own business case, you can include not only the cost of processing existing paper, but the future cost you’re avoiding by creating a digital experience.”

Start small, then scale

Whether your organization is a bank, insurance company, or brokerage firm, you likely have hundreds — if not thousands — of forms to process. That’s why scaling these experiences is such a challenge. Haran advises starting with a form that’s simple, yet has a high-enough volume to see a difference. This way you can track the analytics to see the effects on the client journey. She also cautions that not all forms require the same amount or type of customization and investment.

For example, some forms require digital customization from the team. For others, TD Ameritrade relies on automation.

“When you look at many of our forms, the return on investment just isn’t there, either in the amount of resources, or the time it would take to digitize those in a custom way,” says Haran. “That’s where Adobe Experience Manager Forms fits into our strategy.”

Because they already use Adobe Experience Manager as their content management system, adopting the digital forms platform was relatively straightforward. Not only can the team at TD Ameritrade now personalize the forms experience by pre-populating what they know about the client, they also save time by reusing common fields across all their forms.

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The road to resilience

As the pandemic continues to fuel the transition to digital, forms have become an important part of the equation. With strong ROI and boosts in efficiency, investing in these digital experiences can help businesses build the resilience needed to rise above even the biggest challenges that come along.

“Our early experiences with digitization has definitely paid off,” says Haran. “We really didn’t miss a beat, and it made a big difference as we moved to our remote environment.”

Learn more about how you can turn forms into experiences with the power of Adobe Experience Manager Forms.

Topics: Personalization, Digital Transformation, Customer Stories, Insights & Inspiration, Campaign Management, Financial Services, Experience Cloud, Digital Enrollment, COVID-19,

Products: Experience Manager,