EXCLUSIVE: Asia Is Out Front As HNW Individuals Embrace Mobile Tech, Apps In Wealth Management

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 26 November 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Asia Is Out Front As HNW Individuals Embrace Mobile Tech, Apps In Wealth Management

More than 80 per cent of affluent and high net worth persons around the world use apps or mobile websites for financial affairs, this publication can exclusively report. And Asia leads the way.

If any wealth manager was in any doubt as to the onward march of technology, a survey shows that over 80 per cent of affluent and high net worth persons around the world use apps or mobile websites for financial affairs, this publication can exclusively report. And Asia leads this trend.

A report by MyPrivateBanking Research, a Switzerland-based organisation tracking such issues in wealth management, said the Chinese are the most advanced users of mobile technology when it comes to their financial affairs. For instance, 96 per cent of Chinese respondents are using mobile apps for financial transactions and information, whereas this proportion is only 74 per cent in the US and 71 per cent in Germany.

The findings are in a report called Global Survey of Mobile Disruption In Wealth Management 2014. The organisation has already shed light on the current buzzword in wealth management – the “robo-advisor”. (For a report on that issue, see here.) For the latest study, MyPrivateBanking Research interviewed 1,000 affluent and high-net-worth individuals in the US, UK, Germany, France and China.

In the report the five countries were ranked for a selection of questions that best indicate technological/mobile adoption, with points out of a maximum possible score of 100. In first place came China at 61; UK at 54, France at 53, Germany at 43 and the US – perhaps surprisingly given that country’s presumed tech prowess – at 36.

“While China is clearly the market where wealthy individuals are in general the technology-friendliest group of affluent and high-net-worth individuals, other key countries will catch up soon,” Steffen Binder, head of research at MyPrivateBanking, said.

“Wealth managers who adopt mobile touch points the fastest will gain a real competitive advantage and therefore place additional pressure on their more conservative peers in each country and globally,” Binder said. The digital development of wealth management in the US is held back by US banks’ very cautious attitude towards new digital capabilities. The fear of violating compliance rules is, according to MyPrivateBanking, widespread.

Other findings include the point that HNW users with the largest amount of investable assets are the most active users of mobile and other technologies. The report differentiates among emerging affluent (up to $500,000 investable assets), affluent (between $500,000 and $1 million) and high-net-worth individuals (HNWI, above $1 million). In many instances the HNW individual segment shows the strongest usage of digital channels. For example, 62 per cent use their mobile devices for financial matters at the workplace and 46 per cent in meetings with financial advisors, ahead of the less wealthy segments by 5-10 percentage points.


E-mails beat personal meetings when it comes to communicating with financial advisors. Messengers like WhatsApp and WeChat are already used by 32 per cent, and 27 per cent have used video chat. Moreover, 36.1 per cent of respondents use their mobile devices during meetings with their financial advisors.

The survey found that smartphone use exceeds that of personal computers, laptops, netbooks, and other such channels. Some 89 per cent of the surveyed affluent and wealthy said that they use a “smartphone” regularly and only 87.9 per cent chose “desktop computer”. Tablet devices are the third most regularly used electronic devices with 69.7 per cent.

Banks’ mobile apps are standard financial tools for affluent and HNW individuals, beating other financial apps. The overwhelming majority of the surveyed individuals who use their mobile devices for financial matters prefer the mobile apps (83.5 per cent) and mobile websites (84.6 per cent) offered by their banks, clearly beating apps from financial newspapers/magazines or other online information services.

Payment services, highest security standards and communication functions are the three most important mobile banking app features for wealthy users. But even more advanced features like live chat and financial gaming are required by a significant minority.

“If banks and wealth managers want to maintain access to the wealthy they need to accelerate their technology investments,” Binder said. “There is a significant group of ‘super-users’ among the wealthy who crave the latest technology. Messenger services, social media and video communication are examples. It is important for banks to be perceived as technology leaders and leverage the latest generation of available digital technology,” he said.

Among recommendations, firms must devise region- and country-specific mobile and technology strategies.

“Asian users are significantly different from European and North American users. For instance, as the wealthy in China are more advanced than the Germans when it comes to adopting technology, they need different app features and expect different communication patterns than their peers across the globe,” it said.

Businesses should also realise that growing number of wealthy clients demand easy and uncomplicated channels by which to contact their financial advisors. MyPrivateBanking said it sees a need for client advisors to be trained, especially with regard to compliance and regulatory issues, in setting up an effective social media and digital communication strategy.

Meanwhile, firms must realize, the organization said, that smartphone usage has already overtaken desktop computers like PCs, laptops and netbooks. “Many banks and wealth managers, however, still lag far behind and are failing to respond to changing client needs arising from this trend,” it said.


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