The wealth industry recognises that client demand for better digital capabilities is increasing, yet is cautious in adopting these technologies. Delegates acknowledge that suitable digital solutions can act as “enablers” and add value to the client relationship. However, for a successful transition a change of business model, as well as industry mind-set and culture, will be needed.
- Client demand for better digital technologies is not driven exclusively by younger clients; older clients and discretionary clients have similar expectations.
- Clients want better financial planning tools, an understanding of their risk profile and access to relevant products that includes offerings from third party providers.
- Digital technologies will not only require a change in the business model, but also a change in culture and mind-set.
Key issues and challenges:
- The discussion opened with the statement that “the fitness industry managed to convert data such as number of steps and hours of sleep into insights that millions of clients want to check every day”. This demonstrates that digital technology can transform seemingly unimportant information into insights that engage clients. This example contrasts with the wealth industry that has been historically slow in harnessing customer insight and is missing the opportunity to interact and engage with clients in new ways.
- Recent research conducted by Factset and Scorpio Partnership supports this view and shows that high net worth investors (HNWIs) expect better digital capabilities from their wealth managers. The most desired features are better financial planning tools, an understanding of their risk profile and access to relevant products including offering from third party providers.
- Furthermore, clients want tools such as real time portfolio analysis and access to relevant and personalised insights.
- Despite the common belief that these capabilities are appealing only to younger clients, this research shows that older clients as well as discretionary clients have similar expectations.
- Most delegates agreed that there is a high client demand for digital tools, but it remains a challenge to identify what clients really want. One attendee noted that: “most clients hire us to do the job for them and do not want to be annoyed by real time updates”. Yet, he agreed that digital tools can be used as a relationship builder and to remind clients of: “what we are doing and why we are doing it”.
- Another delegate added that their clients voice concerns about lack of proactivity and are not fully aware of all the services provided. This could be addressed by using technology, but delivery needs to be done in the right way.
- A careful balance needs to be achieved between the frequency, relevancy and quality of insights so that clients find it desirable and: “not yet another message or content that is immediately dismissed”.
- The industry has been historically afraid of marketing to clients and little difference has been seen “between intrusion and marketing”. The right solution is unlikely to be a “one size fits all” model as clients expect a multichannel approach that gives them the flexibility to access the information they consider as relevant and in a form they find convenient.
- Delegates agreed that while the industry has been historically slow in embracing new technology, change is inevitable. However, company culture remains a significant barrier. There is a “fear factor” in the industry that technology will affect personal relationships and “take control”.
- Attendees agreed that senior management leadership is important to successfully facilitate this change. One delegate mentioned that a good solution is to identify “early technology adopters” within the firm. These “innovators” are faster in adapting technology and when they deliver results, other advisors are very likely to follow their example.
- One attendee warned about “all or nothing” approach to digital solutions. He advised to start with smaller milestones and approach digitalisation step by step. Such a strategy is more agile and adaptable to client feedback. Large projects, in contrast, run the risk of being outdated by the time they reach the target audience.
Conclusions and solutions:
- The majority of delegates believed that no player in the industry is willing to take the lead in introducing new technology because the risk of “getting it wrong” is too high. Unless there is a clear business need it is easier to continue as “business as usual”.
- Delegates acknowledged that “technology solutions are enablers” as they provide relationship advisers with the opportunity to focus on value adding tasks and have more meaningful conversations with their clients.
Expert: Greg King, Director Wealth Management Strategy, Factset