Despite the fact that the industry has made great strides in this area in the past few years, the majority of wealth managers’ websites are still failing to win them clients due to serious shortcomings, according to a new study by MyPrivateBanking, the private client forum and research firm.
Having examined the websites of 40 leading wealth managers and private banks worldwide MyPrivateBanking found that most are still lacking crucial information and social media integration.
There were, however, some firms which have taken note of previous research along these lines carried out by MyPrivateBanking and others. Based on ratings against 52 criteria like user-friendliness, content quality and interactivity, ABN AMRO Private Banking, UBS Wealth Management and RBC Wealth Management emerged as having the world’s top three websites.
ABN AMRO must be particularly pleased with having secured the top spot, having jumped from 23rd place in last year’s rankings and scoring 86 out of a possible 100 points. MyPrivateBanking praised the firm’s provision of comprehensive information on costs and fees, as well as performance data for products and services. “Such transparency is not available on any other private banking website,” the authors of Wealth Management Website That Win Clients said. Meanwhile, RBC also made a big leap, from ninth to third place, with 77 points.
UBS, last year’s winner, slipped to second place with 79 points but still impressed with its range of interactive features and an especially accurate search function.
Looking at the top ten cohort, this year it was much more “internationally diverse” than last year since it included firms from nine countries, while only six featured in 2011. The rest of the 2012 top ten runs: Societe Generale (74), Standard Chartered ( 73), UniCredit (72), ING (71), Morgan Stanley (71), Nordea (71), Barclays (69), Julius Baer (69) and Merrill Lynch (69).
More international diversity and some big climbers aside, the industry was chided by MyPrivateBanking for not improving as a whole over the year: the average score for firms’ websites was 61 out of 100, unchanged from 2011.
“ABN AMRO, UBS and RBC demonstrate that private banking websites can be far more than online brochures,” said Steffen Binder, head of research of MyPrivateBanking. “However, the average bank’s performance is not even close to that of the top performers, failing often in even meeting basic requirements in navigation, content and interactivity.”
Looking more closely at the weaknesses of wealth managers’ websites, MyPrivateBanking found an alarming proportion of sites don’t meet that sites don’t meet the basic requirements of navigation and structure and for over half their search function is a “major problem.”
They were also taken to task for a “highly problematic” lack of transparency. Less than 20 per cent of the websites assessed provided comprehensive information on the performance or costs of the products and services offered. Language accessibility was also a problem, with a quarter of wealth managers’ websites being available only in one language. “International and global players must offer their content in the major languages worldwide to attract wealthy individuals from around the world,” the research firm said.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lack of social media integration was widespread, with 70 per cent of sites having no links to social media channels. Followers of the industry will know that in general it is seriously lagging other sectors in terms of social media provision, although there are moves underway at many firms to amend this situation. Some, like Morgan Stanley, are even encouraging advisors to tweet and post on Facebook.
Ironically, many commentators have noted that retail banking clients are currently often provided with much better and more informative websites than their private banking counterparts.
In setting out its recommendations for firms, MyPrivateBanking said that a standalone wealth management platform is a critical requirement and absolute must-haves are search tools that deliver relevant hits, easy, simple navigation and a broad array of contact names and contact options, including social media links. Wealth managers were also advised to up their disclosure of hard data and to provide critical figures, such as assets under management, fees, and past performance for discretionary mandates to ensure credibility.
The firms analysed were: ABN Amro, ANZ, Banco Bilbao VA, Bank of NY Mellon, Barclays, BB&T, BNP Paribas, Bradesco, CIBC, Citibank, Coutts & Co, Crédit Agricolé, Credit Suisse, DBS Bank, Deutsche Bank, Erste Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, ICICI, ING Group, Intesa Sanpaolo, Itau Private Bank, JP Morgan, Julius Baer, Lloyds Banking Group, Macquarie, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Nordea, Northern Trust, Royal Bank of Canada, Santander, SEB, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered, UBS Trust, UBS, Union Bancaire Privée, Unicredit and Wells Fargo.