The wealth management sector is sometimes – understandably perhaps – shy of putting its case forward to a wider public. This news organisation has no such inhibitions. Here are thoughts from the news service's editor as given at this year's annual European awards programme.
On 30 March this news service held the tenth WealthBriefing European Awards, with a gala evening held in central London (full details here). I thought it might be useful to give an edited version of my keynote speech at that event outlining how I think the wealth industry has evolved, where it stands now, and adding some thoughts for the future.
I would like to share with you all how proud I am to have been the editor of this news service, to have supported this programme and publicised the important role Clearview has played in promoting the world and advantages of sound wealth management.
It would be trite to point out that we’re seeing an extended period of change, upheaval and dislocation. Is the wealth management industry well placed to be a genuine counterbalance to the new dystopia in the lives of the clients it serves? My answer to that question is a resounding yes – and here’s why.
When I joined Reuters in 2000, I found myself writing more and more about wealth management. This was all a bit niche. Had I annoyed my line manager? The cool hands at Reuters were off in war zones, or covering politics. Yours truly was getting his head around…credit default swaps, final salary pensions and what on earth was the US Federal Reserve and the other central banks were up to.
But I should have realised that this was where it was at. Things started to change, even before the financial car crash of 2008 hit and every taxi driver and pub bore was an expert on sub-prime mortgages. I realised that wealth management – understood at its broadest – covered so many aspects of the human experience that were interesting and important. Covering this beat gave me a front row seat at one of the most interesting games in town – and one that’s never ceased to surprise and engage even a cynical journo like me.
Since I started covering it, wealth management has escalated as a topic within finance. No longer is it the semi-retirement option for investment bankers moving away from a life in the fast lane. It is now front and centre.
The sector has become more self-aware and self-confident, better organised, better served by dedicated organisations, media, conferences and, of course, awards programmes such as this one.
Much of it is competition for us – but welcome competition because it’s a bellwether of a vibrant and dynamic industry that Clearview is very proud to be a part of.
I’ve seen also increasing diversity of structure – single-famly offices, multi-family offices, robo-advisors, various platforms, external asset managers, and the like. And add into the mix more interest from the big global banks using economies of scale and globalisation.
The industry is embracing technology – perhaps only just in time – particularly the digitisation of the client experience. AI and blockchain are terms that all of us now have at least a passing acquaintance with and, for many, they are an integral part of their working day.
For wealth managers to stand apart, embracing these technologies will be crucial – that’s my impression as a journalist. But what is not going to change is the human touch. Recent painful experiences surely prove this. The relationship between the manager and the client isn’t something that can be replicated. From where I see it, technology augments people’s abilities, it doesn’t remove them.
And I’m also delighted to see that the push towards more inclusion and wider diversity within firms is so much more than a tick-box activity in the majority of firms I come across. It would be so easy for us as a group to fall into a virtual signalling rabbit hole. I can see a bit of that in some of the press material sent me, but overwhelmingly, the industry appears to be genuinely on board with making things better. It wants to improve workplaces and help clients make more ethical and sustainable investment choices.
And perhaps that leads me in saying that one point I want to urge you to absorb is to be proud of what you do for a living. That’s right – proud.
By protecting and growing the wealth of wealth creators, they’re more likely to keep on creating [wealth], and that means jobs, products and services. At a time like this, much focus is on rebuilding – in every sense of the word – and that needs capital. Lots of it. And much of that capital comes from your clients.
And you should also be proud of how the industry is also about guiding people into handing on their wealth responsibly and wisely. I am afraid that sometimes our sector, for understandable reasons, doesn’t put its face forward in public debate enough. I want to keep changing that and pushing conversations along.
Thanks, wealth managers, for all that you do.