Business and Academia Join Forces to Bolster Online Wealth Management Platform

PHILADELPHIA and OAKS, Pa., April 10, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — SEI (NASDAQ:SEIC) and Drexel University today announced the findings of an interactive usability study conducted to enhance the SEI Wealth PlatformSM (the Platform) end-client experience. Executed in the Behavioral Science Laboratory of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business as a Corporate and Executive Education project, the study employed brain imaging to measure cognitive functions while test subjects used the Platform’s consumer-facing wealth management portal. SEI established the core design tenets and principles, and worked with Drexel professors and research students to validate the design and ensure the experience was truly engaging for consumers.

“This strategic partnership with Drexel University supports SEI’s commitment to continuously improving our solution through cutting-edge technology and direct user experience and engagement testing,” said Joseph P. Ujobai, Executive Vice President of SEI and Head of the company’s Private Banking business. “We are proud to partner with a world-class university to support developmental and innovative learning opportunities that will shape the workforce of the future while also addressing our current market needs.”

Unlike traditional usability testing methods, Drexel implemented a unique approach by combining ergonomics with neuroergonomics using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure brain activity. Developed by Drexel and distributed worldwide by Biopac, the fNIR sensor device was placed around the forehead to monitor oxygenation levels in the prefrontal cortex while participants navigated the Platform. Greater activity in this brain area, which is responsible for complex behaviors like decision making, cognitive expression, and personality development, signals more cognitive effort on a current activity. As a skill is mastered, information processing is redistributed and reinforced throughout the cerebral cortex to brain regions involved in task representations. Researchers also monitored task behaviors, tracked eye movement, and conducted a traditional qualitative survey.

“The methodology used for this study is comprehensive and novel,” said Rajneesh Suri, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean of Research for the LeBow College of Business. “It not only captures self reports but also integrates them with behavioral and neurophysiological measures. This method goes beyond the traditional usability studies and applies tenets of neuroscience to an ergonomics examination of a financial website. This approach to understanding consumers’ behavior leads to rich diagnostic information and greater confidence in actions taken by businesses.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • 90 percent of non-SEI employees would recommend the wealth management portal to others.
  • The new portal experience was almost twice as efficient for consumers versus the previous interface.
  • Showing clients their wealth goals was the most engaging, most efficient, and highest-rated section in the user interface.  Participants stated they would return to the site just to view their goals.

Dr. Suri and a group of Drexel graduate students combined the findings with independent research to complete a case study that includes an overview and analysis of SEI’s history, the financial services industry, and the recent FinTech explosion. Drexel professors will continue to incorporate the case study into their curricula, enabling students to learn from SEI and Drexel’s innovative collaboration. The case will be used in business courses to discuss behavioral finance, as well as in Digital Media Marketing and Market Research courses.

Specific Platform clients will implement the upgraded website.  Pennsylvania Trust, which participated in the usability study, is one of the first clients to begin using the consumer interface. Based in the Philadelphia area, Pennsylvania Trust is a leading wealth management firm providing investment management and trust administration, and tax, estate and financial planning to individuals, families, foundations, endowments, and institutions.

“We are thrilled to be a part of SEI and Drexel’s partnership, meshing academic research with enterprise execution.  As users of the SEI Wealth Platform, we appreciate the opportunity to inform the company’s solution-development process by participating in this study,” said Richardson T. Merriman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pennsylvania Trust. “The resulting enhanced end-client interface will help us differentiate our client offering by providing a more engaging online and mobile experience, while giving our clients an easy-to-navigate, holistic view of their wealth.”

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) recognized the collaboration between Drexel University and SEI as a 2017 “Innovations That Inspire” winner.  From a pool of 315 submissions that spanned 33 countries, the partnership earned the designation in the “Engagement Across Discipline” category. Each innovation selected exemplifies business schools taking a forward-looking approach to education.

SEI & Drexel University Partner for Solution Development – Innovative Testing Enhances User Experience

Executive Summary

The financial services industry experienced significant changes as a result of the financial crisis in 2008. Increased regulations, deteriorating public trust, and bank executive sanctions forced financial institutions to implement much needed cultural and structural changes. Immediately following the financial crisis, nascent technology FinTech exploded in the financial services industry. Taking several years to gain momentum, FinTech met the changing investor demands by providing sought-after tools and services as alternatives to traditional banking, investment, and payment models. This evolution of the financial services space forced legacy brands and dominant players to pay closer attention to these startups. The FinTech startups originating out of Silicon Valley, New York, and London offered new levels of access to financial products and services, as well as streamlined easy-to-use mobile and web experiences. Overall, the financial services industry was in a rapid state of digital transformation.

SEI continued to monitor the evolving digital landscape of the financial services market. Clients, primarily financial intermediaries, once again began looking to the company to provide revolutionary solutions to meet the emerging consumer demands. Based upon its market analysis, SEI focused on the end-client experience, a consumer-facing wealth management portal, which was a critical vehicle through which individuals monitored one’s financial goals and specific investments.

SEI established core design tenets and key principles, engaged in competitive analysis and client research, and tested iterative design concepts to create a new digital portal. In 2015, as part of this design and testing process, SEI partnered with the world-class scientists at Drexel University to conduct a neuro-ergonomics and usability study on its new client interface. Through this study, SEI could determine if its new product delivered the intended state-of-the-art user experience before investing additional capital to further develop the solution.

Financial Services Competitive Landscape

Following the 2008 financial crisis, FinTech and the regulatory crackdown permanently altered the financial services industry’s competitive landscape. The market was no longer dominated by a handful of large traditional competitors, as an untold number of startups globally entrenched themselves as strong players for the long haul. In 2016, $4.6 billion was invested in U.S. FinTech venture capital, making it the second highest FinTech investment year of the decade. FinTech impacted many aspects of the financial services industry, including payment processing, lending, social investing, and digital advice delivered through client-facing portals. Spurred by greatly simplified and engaging client experiences, this rapid growth was also driven by consumers’ expectations for user-friendly web, smartphone, and tablet applications.

The financial services competitive landscape changed forever. SEI’s clients no longer simply competed against other legacy brands; they also faced a new, lesser-known generation of companies that provide financial service technologies. These clients, large and small, reacted to the industry upheaval with a new focus on digital delivery of financial services, offering a faster, more convenient,

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