March 2, 2017

After a client decides to invest with your firm, onboarding is the first major task you perform for them, so it’s important to set the right tone. Getting it right makes the client feel good about their decision to invest with you. Getting it wrong can make them question whether investing with you was a good idea after all.

Onboarding often involves many staff members on multiple teams, and ownership of each task isn’t always clearly defined. Communication, workflow, and hand-offs between teams is sometimes fragmented. And with no technology solutions designed specifically for onboarding clients in the investment management industry, each firm must use generic tools to design their own approach, which can vary widely by firm size, client types, and product complexity.

We have observed some trends in onboarding being applied across the industry, and the model below can help you determine the maturity of onboarding at your firm, and what you can do to evolve your client onboarding processes.


When a firm is just getting started or is launching a new investment vehicle, onboarding processes tend toward the manual and ad hoc (see above). As onboarding matures, it is managed like a project, with a project team, a timeline, and a checklist that keep the process moving forward.

With more maturity, onboarding becomes a regular end-to-end process, with clearly defined practices for communications, hand-offs, and management of data and documentation. When the firm or product line reaches a critical mass of clients, firms begin to dedicate resources to onboarding with experience managing everyday tasks as well as complex onboarding situations.

Finally, when client volumes grow larger and processes become consistent for each client type and asset class, firms begin to employ technology solutions. The first is typically a workflow solution to facilitate entering, using, and storing the related data, and to enable status reporting throughout the onboarding process to the teams involved. The next step is often automating the propagation of account setup data to key downstream systems such as accounting, trading, and performance.

In a recent webcast, we asked our Cutter Associates members where they placed their firms along the maturity curve, and the figure below depicts their responses. Do you recognize where your firm stands?


With 40% of firms reporting that their onboarding processes are relatively immature, there are opportunities for firms to improve the onboarding function. By doing so, they would not only better define onboarding tasks internally, but also position the firm to be able to better handle increased inflows, and ultimately improve the process for new clients.

Want to upgrade your client onboarding process to ensure that your new clients always feel good about investing with you? Click the Contact button below see how Cutter Associates can help you take the next steps.

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