SEI and Drexel University Partner to Explore Investors’ Visual Interaction With Their Wealth

  • By Lisa Litzinger-Drayton
Rajneesh Suri, PhD demonstates research findings

Drexel LeBow and SEI 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 Lab in LeBow’s Gerri C. LeBow Hall 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 LeBow 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, PhD, 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.”

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.

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.

Read the full case study: SEI and Drexel University Partner for Solution Development

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.

About the SEI Wealth PlatformSM

The SEI Wealth Platform (the Platform) is an outsourcing solution for wealth managers encompassing wealth processing services and wealth management programs, combined with business process expertise. With the Platform, SEI provides wealth management organizations with the infrastructure, operations, and administrative support necessary to capitalize on their strategic objectives in a constantly shifting market. The SEI Wealth Platform supports trading and transactions on 140 stock exchanges in 53 countries and 41 currencies, through the use of straight-through processing and a single operating infrastructure environment. For more information, visit:

Read’s coverage of this Drexel LeBow/SEI project.

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