Expert: Joe Parkin, BlackRock iShares
Facilitator: Tasha Vashisht
Following a sustained period of structural change within the retail wealth management industry, attendees agreed that ‘digital’ as a concept encompasses a wide berth of different things for the industry, acting as a tool for further client engagement as well as a force for market disruption.
- In order to fully utilise the resourcefulness of digital innovations, some participants noted the importance of having a champion on the board to drive meaningful change within the firm.
- In the UK market in particular, the difficulty in quantifying the tangible benefits of digital solutions continues to be an important stumbling block in garnering further support for the utilisation of digital technology.
- Collectively, a number of delegates also warned that if digital innovations do drive increased efficiencies overtime, some consumers may expect to see a reciprocal fall in prices, adding further pressure on margins.
- While the value recognition of digital continues to remain quite broad depending on the subject in question, digital innovation continues to be seen as a force of positive change for the industry going forward.
The roundtable discussion began with an intriguing presentation describing the seismic changes revolutionising the retail wealth management industry. From demographic changes in the market, to the growth of independent advisory models; the wealth management industry is grappling with a number of structural forces which are all contributing to a noticeable shift in consumer behaviour.
Interestingly, the general consensus in the room was that the industry has now reached ‘peak-regulation’ in terms of big ticket reforms following the global financial crisis, with market players now shifting from a position of consolidation to a mind-set of actively thinking about how technology could enhance their propositions in the future.
More specifically, digital innovation was earmarked as one of those future technological innovations that could act to impart greater ‘value’ in the products and services distributed by wealth management firms. The rapid growth of robo-advisors was highlighted as a case in point. The combination of an advisory service, offering both human and digital interaction – the hybrid model – was cited as the most successful solution in terms of meeting the demands of consumers and tapping prospective growth going forward.
Nevertheless, in spite of all the discourse surrounding the innovative wonders of technology in the industry and media at present, a number of pragmatic, tangible lessons have to be observed in order for businesses to harvest the rewards of such technology. Firstly, firms need to have a clear and realistic approach when attempting to understand how digital solutions can better enable them to tap into elements of the market and/or drive efficiency savings. Furthermore, the economics has to make sense in order for the proposition to be viable in the long-term.
Attendees were open and vocal in their support for greater digital innovation within the wealth management industry. Moreover, it became apparent very early on in the discussion that many delegates had different priorities in how they wanted to utilise digital solutions for their business. Some noted the benefits of how digital technology could drive greater efficiency on the distribution side of their operations, while others illustrated the importance of how digital technology could help improve client engagement.
Needless to say, a number of participants raised the point that without senior level buy-in at the very top of the organisation, projects centred on fostering digital solutions are unlikely to get off the ground, primarily due to the long lead times involved when investing in digital solutions and reaping the rewards. Fundamentally, the difficulty in quantifying the opportunity cost associated with digital technology was observed as a key stumbling block in garnering further support for the proposition. On the other hand, this hasn’t stopped the facilitation of innovation labs, with one delegate actively promoting the incentives of one such facility in his home market of Norway.
The session came to a close in a similar way to how it began, with delegates keen on discussing and listening to differing opinions on what this could mean for the industry. Interestingly, the advancement of digital technology in wealth management was hailed as a positive force for change amongst all participants, despite the collective realisation that this could add downward pressure on prices in a highly sensitive market. Yet, sentiment continued to lean towards optimism and interest moving forward.
- The US market is continuing to lead the way in terms of digital innovations and market utilisation. The UK, on the other hand, continues to face business and consumer hurdles.
- Digital, as a technological concept, continues to represent different things to different firms depending on their existing business model.
- In order for firms to fully capture the benefits of digital solutions, they must be aware that the benefits associated with such innovations may take a number of years to materialise.