The author of this article argues that technology and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way we work, but people are vital. He wrestles with the "wealth ops" side of the industry, and what new technologies mean for it.
With technology and other elements of work changing rapidly, wealth managers must naturally wonder what the working environment in their sector will look like. So much has changed already. To try to make sense of this is Matt Short, business manager at Simplify Consulting. The editorial team is pleased to share this content with readers. The usual editorial disclaimers apply. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to respond.
Over the last few weeks, Simplify Consulting has published its white paper, Making Waves: Exploring the future of Wealth Operations and launched its inaugural event – Wealth Ops: Live – which centred around the changes expected to happen within wealth ops in the coming years.
During the event, a panel discussed “The future of the workforce” to try to understand what a future career might look like in ops, what the future demand for skills could be, and the impact this might have on recruitment.
There will always be a need for people
Despite the understandable hype around the introduction of AI and advanced technology in ops, one thing remains clear – there will always be a need for people. It might just mean that people will have to adapt to a slightly different role/skillset.
Although it is expected that AI will complete many of the more basic tasks, there will still be a customer demand for human interaction in some instances, whether in-person, video or phone call, messaging, or emails. Human interaction will still be essential for certain life events such as retirement, death, claims or where instructions are of a more technical nature.
Over time, wealth businesses may need fewer people as more basic tasks are automated. A possible solution could be the amalgamation of front, middle and back office with staff being multi-skilled across the three areas with fewer handoffs, thus providing a more efficient service and first-contact resolution.
Skillsets will need to evolve alongside
Wealth ops has always been a great place to start a career, with some soft skills and full training provided by wealth businesses.
This has helped businesses recruit at scale as demand grows. Added to which, historically, it has had a high turnover of staff. More technical roles are typically filled by more experienced people. This may mean a bit of a shift change if the basic entry level threshold increases and businesses are looking for people to start from a more advanced position, with greater technical capability and broader soft skills.
The audience at Simplify’s event said the types of skills staff may need in the future were empathy, adaptability, emotional intelligence, analytical and problem solving.
“Soft skills are hard, how do firms train/get the right staff when traditionally ops staff are call centre, high turnover but need a high level of soft skills,” Neil Bage said in his closing speech. This means that firms may need to adapt their recruitment and training strategy and revise their pay and reward structure to ensure that they are competitive and able to attract the right talent.
With the introduction of [the UK] Consumer Duty and a greater emphasis on vulnerable customers, ops functions within wealth providers must ensure that the customer is at the heart of everything they do.
Given that more and more customers will go through an automated process with no human interaction, it will be imperative that processes are suitably designed, and staff trained to look out for signs of vulnerability. Having a more multi-skilled workforce which sees more of the end-to-end customer journey may help with this challenge.
Hybrid working could be here to stay
Exacerbated by Covid, there has been a seismic shift in the use of tech within wealth ops, enabling people to work from home in areas that have traditionally been office based. We have already started to see a shift towards hybrid working.
There are benefits on both sides to allowing some home working.
From a business perspective, it will lower their cost base if they reduce the number or size of their offices. It also allows firms to attract talent from a wider geographical pool. Staff may be more engaged as it allows for a better balance between work and home responsibilities.
From an employee perspective, most have come to expect an element of flexibility with home working and might be put off by firms insisting on full-time office working. Less travel saves time, money, and stress.
There are some downsides as many companies will struggle to impart their culture. It may be more difficult to spot personal problems employees are having, and building relationships with colleagues and stakeholders becomes more demanding. This is another reason why hybrid working feels like a sensible balance between the two.
Benefits of tech advances
If used in the right way, AI could make employees' lives easier by doing a lot of the heavy lifting that previously would have been done manually. Due to their repetitive nature, those tasks could be at risk from human error. AI can be complementary to human tasks rather than a threat.
In general, the feeling during the event was that staff recognise the benefits humans bring to the party and AI is just another part of the evolution of financial services.
In summary, tech advances will change the world of wealth ops. Tech and AI will revolutionise the way we work, but people are vital.
Wealth firms may need fewer people and skill sets will change – forcing businesses to adapt to a different strategy – but if firms embrace this, it could lead to more efficiency, fewer errors, and an engaged multi-skilled workforce which is able to create a better customer experience. It is an exciting time to be in wealth management.
About the author
Matt Short previously worked at HSBC for 19 years in Wealth Operations, projects and primarily in a contact centre, running the centre for the last seven years, where he serviced HSBC’s Life, Pensions and Investments customers.