The air is thick with talk of "digital", but just how far has wealth management as an industry come in its use of modern technology?
The following commentary on how digital technology is – or possibly is not – affecting wealth management comes from John Wise. He is the co-founder, chief executive and chairman of InvestCloud, a fintech company operating in the US and London. This publication is pleased to share these views; it invites responses from readers. They can email the editor at email@example.com.
The move towards the use of digital channels within wealth management can no longer be denied. Studies, reports and managers’ day-to-day experiences all confirm the reality of this trend.
Our daily lives are now driven by digital. This has changed the rules of engagement, with immediate, simple and rewarding applications becoming the norm, and face-to-face becoming less prevalent.
Clients have raised their expectations as a result. The days of paper-based, quarterly reporting are now obsolete. Instead, clients assume that digital communications are the new normal.
Providing an effective digital experience is now key to retaining and obtaining clients. True digitalisation starts with the upheaval of traditional communications, and goes on to radically transform the core practices and the fundamental processes of wealth management. But in order to take the first steps to true digitalisation, every wealth management organisation needs to first understand its own level of digital maturity.
Applications such as Uber, Amazon and Airbnb are popular because they are simple. Everything you need is in one place, and it is easy to use. You can order a ride, knowing when and where it will pick you up and how much it will cost in advance. The technology does all the hard work and gives the user instant gratification.
The latest generation of consumers are now hard-wired to this approach and assume it is normal. In order to remain relevant, wealth managers need to adapt to the digital environment.
Wealth management is not simple. There are many intricacies to what advisers do, and it is dependent on expertise, not form filling. But the processes around it should be simple for both the client and the advisor.
Take reporting. If done manually, it’s a task that is repetitive, takes a lot of time to complete and has to be delivered in a limited time period, which makes it inflexible. It’s hardly the best use of an advisor’s time.
Through digitalisation, the whole reporting process is automated and instant, allowing a client to get the information they want when and how they need it. Along with the client benefits, the advisor is freed up to take on more worthwhile tasks.
Digital advice (aka “robo-advice”) is another form of automated communication that is key to completing the digital puzzle. Already in use by many organisations outside of the industry - think customer service tools on many websites - this helps to free up an advisor from answering basic enquiries. Importantly, it does this at the client’s behest, ensuring they get the right information at the right time.
These are just two examples of how digital can directly benefit
an organisation’s processes. Digitalisation can be easy if the
organisation understands where it is on the journey and takes
disciplined steps to continue along this path.