Despite uncertainty and upheaval over the past 18 months, the wealth management industry has remained resilient. Many firms used the pandemic and sudden shift to remote working as a wake-up call to improve both employee and client digital offerings. These firms have upgraded their outdated, manual processes or software with modern, automated solutions to maintain their competitive advantage.

But as the pandemic wanes (thankfully), wealth management CEOs are looking to the future. The road ahead is paved with many unknowns. Perhaps the most important question is which capabilities and offerings will determine the success or failure wealth management enterprises. The Boston Consulting Group’s 20th edition Global Wealth report provides an outlook for the future based on what today’s firms need to be successful tomorrow.

The Landscape of Wealth Management is Changing… Again

The wealth management industry has survived numerous economic crises and digital upheavals over the past 20 years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is the industry’s biggest challenge yet. With unemployment records finally pulling away from all-time highs and many global economies fiercely fighting off recession, financial leaders are concerned for future success.

To ensure wealth management CEOs successfully navigate the myriad of complex choices, BCG has created a Wealth Management CEO Agenda for industry leaders. These recommendations are divided into near-term actions that address immediate demands COVID-19 and provide funds for the future, medium-term actions that increase future competitive advantage, and foundational capability building critical for long-term success. This CEO Agenda centers around three main focuses: Protect the Bottom Line, Win the Future and Build Capabilities.

Protect the Bottom Line

Addressing the immediate demands of COVID-19 starts with keeping revenue on the table. Today’s firms must focus on smart revenue uplift, particularly onboarding, sales, and enablement, and optimizing the front office setup.

Firms that rely on ad-hoc responses to compliance and risk management processes must quickly identify where these tasks can be standardized, streamlined, or fully automated. Wealth management leaders who achieve this not only reduce costs but also improve customer satisfaction and organizational resilience.

Finally, firms must optimize end-to-end processes, streamline management and matrix structures, and embed agile working processes beyond IT teams to improve structural efficiency.

Win the Future

Given the change the industry has seen in the last 20 years, leaders must prepare for additional disruptive industry changes. BCG recommends firms focus on the following areas to remain surefooted in an increasingly crowded and competitive market while delivering exceptional client value:

 

Build Capabilities

To execute the above agenda, firms must refocus efforts on strengthening the foundational capabilities. The following are those BCG deems most important for long-term success:

 

There’s Money in the New Wave of Wealth Management

While the long-term impact of COVID-19 on wealth management firms remains unclear, wealth management firms must rise to the challenge.

Leaders and executives must position themselves and their firms for future success by refocusing and reinventing business and client processes, investing in smarter digital tools, and strengthening foundational capabilities. With this focus, their wealth management firms will be fully prepared to face the future’s unknowns.

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

Wealth management firms are increasingly expected to adopt and expand their digital offerings. But, the pace of innovation and the vast selection of tools and platforms available can be overwhelming, and some RIAs fear picking the wrong tool or missing out on the right one – the industry’s definitely under attack from the FOMO monster.

With the dazzling array of options, how can RIAs be sure they’re giving clients the experience they want, include the services sure to draw in younger investors, and still manage their technology budgets? Here’s how to choose the right technology and deliver the best experience for potential clients: Automation, Integration and Collaboration.

Increase Efficiency with Automation

Every RIA has tasks that are good candidates for automation. Whether it’s new client onboarding, compliance, or reporting, finding the right technology to automate these processes allows RIAs to scale and grow their business, increase their efficiency, and provide a consistent result every time.

Documenting the pain points in your business is the first step to making sure you pick software or technology that will actually solve your biggest problems. A list of features can only get you so far; seeing the benefits of how a platform or solution can function in your specific use cases is worth its weight in gold.

Technologies like robotic process automation (RPA), when deployed in conjunction with a strategic plan, measurable business goals, and buy-in and consensus from stakeholders, can be a way to make big gains in technology quickly.

Build a Better Tech Stack with Integration

One of the biggest challenges for wealth management firms and other financial services industries just getting into expanding their tech footprint is ensuring that the tools they choose integrate with their existing system contribute to their overall picture instead of fracture or piecemeal their reporting and automation. In an InvestmentNews study, 58% of firms reported that a lack of integration between core software applications was one of their biggest pain points or hurdles in technology processes.

Integrated systems ensure that information can be entered once and automatically update and flow into other systems and applications. Updates to CRMs are automatically populated in customer portals and reporting, allowing both the client and the advisor to have the most up-to-date information at all times.

Removing the manual efforts of syncing and reconciling fractured systems frees up advisors to work on the client-facing activities that matter to their business. In a report from Envestnet, they note that these technologies not only save time, they also bring in new markets, “Advisors leveraging these technologies have been able to lower their account minimums to open the market to work with emerging investors (while maintaining profitability) due to efficiencies gained from an integrated platform.”

As RIAs clientele continues to shift, meeting their expectations with digital tools will be essential.

Reaching a New, More Diverse Market

Younger, more diverse investors are looking for advisors that can provide the type of high-quality, personalized experience they’ve come to expect from their B2C transactions. Digital tools that offer investment education, robust on-demand reporting, and easy communication tools allow these investors to feel bought in to their wealth management plan. It also builds trust and provides a unique, collaborative experience.

For many RIAs, building a technology stack from scratch isn’t feasible. Choosing the right technology partners and vendors is a critical decision that can make or break prospecting, client retention, and efficiency in a wealth management firm. To meet these challenges, RIAs should seek out integrated, tested, and proven tools that work with their specific businesses and needs. Incorporating digital tools and digital transformation is a journey, not a one-and-done step. With the right partners and expertise to guide technology decisions, RIAs can continue to provide the value and experience their clients expect for years to come.

 

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

Wealth management firms and the financial services industry as a whole are investing heavily in technology that enhances the client experience and streamlines advisors’ day-to-day work. However, despite spending a record 3.69% of revenue on technology, not all firms are seeing the returns they expected.

While fintech and larger firms continue to innovate and drive technology in wealth management forward, many laggard and smaller firms are devoting their technology spend to legacy systems that make up their core IT stack. As these systems continue to age, some firms have found it difficult to keep up with the pace of disruption in the wealth management space. As they add new tools and technologies to their systems, they continue to fracture and silo their processes, making it more difficult for advisors to do their jobs.

Top-performing firms are laser-focused on the client experience and streamlining processes. They devote their technology resources toward tools and processes that integrate with their existing systems and build on a strong foundation that will be scalable and flexible far into the future.

Creating a Technology-Enhanced Client Experience

Even with record spending on technology, firms still need to prioritize projects and choose investments that will pay off. Top firms create strategic plans that map tools and technology to customer experience initiatives.

For top-performing firms, technology is key to creating a better client experience. InvestmentNews Research’s 2020 Adviser Technology study found that nearly all top-performing firms “believe that the digital client experience is at least somewhat important to firm success.”

Firms have a tremendous opportunity to enhance their client experience and include digital tools in their offerings. A PwC survey found that “69% of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) are now using online/mobile banking, but only a quarter of wealth managers currently offer digital channels beyond email.” To keep pace with rapidly growing fintech solutions and the fierce competition for clients, firms need to demonstrate value and meet customers in the digital spaces they use.

Some of the client-facing technologies most firms use include digital signing tools, client portals, videoconferencing, online booking, and appointment management. But, enhanced client experiences look like fully digital onboarding, dashboards that allow 24/7 reports, and recommendations based on client behavior and profile.

The point of these tools and investments is to streamline communication, allow clients to self-service and research, and deepen the relationship between clients and advisors. PwC’s survey also found that only one-third of wealth management clients are very satisfied with their financial advisors, leaving lots of room for improvement and opportunities to deliver the type of digital experience their clients expect.

Streamlining Regulatory Compliance with Technology

Regulatory requirements and compliance are an ongoing reality for wealth management firms. Governments across the globe have increased regulations and stepped-up oversight. The challenge for many firms is adopting processes and integrated solutions. Many firms created piecemeal systems that left individual processes isolated from the rest of the business. Now, many are investing in rebuilding holistic systems that streamline the compliance process.

Once this type of system is in place, automation is possible. Rather than completing repetitive compliance tasks, advisors can rely on robot process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), and other tech solutions that are faster, cheaper, and more accurate. Since many regulatory requirements overlap, building and maintaining an automated system reduces the workload significantly and standardizes compliance programs.

Automation, systemization, and centering the client experience are the priorities for top-performing wealth management firms. Firms should bring technology solutions together, eliminate redundancies, and create integrated ecosystems that streamline and enhance the client and advisor experience. Organized systems keep customers up-to-date on what they need to know about their portfolio and simplify the compliance process. Dashboards and portals provide investors with several options to contact their advisors and allows advisors to see important information about clients at a glance.

Integrating back-office operations and client-facing systems isn’t a simple task, but it’s an essential part of creating and maintaining a client-advisor relationship.

 

Ryan George is the Chief Marketing Officer at Docupace. He is responsible for the company’s brand awareness, early-stage sales pipeline, content strategies, customer and industry insights, internal and external communications, design, and events. George actively engages in leadership roles in both the financial services and marketing communications communities. He a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only, fee-based organization of senior-level communications and public relations executives, the CMO Council and the CMO Club.

The wealth management industry was well on its way to experiencing significant disruption. Fintech startups, cryptocurrency, and innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) began to rock one of the last traditional markets left standing in the wake of digital disruption.

In 2020, that change was accelerated as a tsunami of new retail investors entered the market. Even though the year was marked with turbulent markets, a new generation of investors that were younger, less wealthy, and more racially diverse than past generations entered the market for the first time, according to research from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation). This new group of investors stands poised to push the wealth management market into a new normal of doing business as they bring a host of expectations, standards, and desires to the table.

The Self-Service Investor

A rising tide lifts all boats, and the younger generation of investors has rapidly changed the wealth management landscape for everyone, including older investors. In Deloitte’s report “10 Disruptive Trends in Wealth Management,” they identify this type of investor as a “re-wired investor.”

This group wants a partnership with their investor that puts them in the driver’s seat. They want to understand the investments they’re making as well as the advice they receive from advisors and use their own research and knowledge to supplement expert opinions. The FINRA Foundation’s study found that 48 percent of investors in their sample who had an account prior to 2020 reported relying on financial professionals when making investment decisions. But, only 23 percent of new investors did so, opting instead to rely on family, friends, and colleagues (38 percent) or data from individual companies they wished to invest in (37 percent).

In order to reach this type of investor, wealth management firms should have client/advisor access through multiple channels, an intuitive, self-directed digital experience, and a variety of advice resources available.

Automation with a Human Touch

Many newer investors eschew the one-size-fits-most in wealth management. Even though younger investors have less net worth, they expect to be given the same options and treated with the same level of personalization as high net worth individuals (HNWI). And fintech and BigTech startups have risen to this challenge by offering a low barrier to entry with an array of value-added services fit for their needs and investment personality.

HNWIs have also found the value in hyper-personalization. According to data from Capgemini, only 26% of wealth management firms see BigTech competition among the top disruptors to the industry. But, “74% of HNWIs report a willingness to consider wealth management offerings from BigTechs.” This is driven by the fact that traditional wealth management firms have yet to seize the opportunity to offer the level of service and personalization that BigTech solutions, like Amazon and Netflix, boast for their clients.

Wealth management firms that can harness data analytics, ML and other analytical tools to deliver tailored solutions and on-demand reporting stand to capture a large market share of new and existing investors.

New investors are zealous and eager for investment opportunities. The FINRA Foundation’s study respondents found that the top three reasons new investors opened accounts were (1) the ability to invest with a small amount of money, (2) wanting to invest for retirement, and (3) the dips in the market that made stocks cheaper. These conditions will continue to draw new investors in 2021 and beyond.

However, the challenge for financial advisory firms will be to recognize the top disruptors driven by new investors that have weaved their way into the expectations and desires for experienced investors and HNWIs. Anticipating these demands to deliver personalized, intelligent, and in-depth client solutions will allow top firms to capitalize on the best that this disruption has to offer.