The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated digital, social, economic, and demographic shifts across the world and across industries. Within the wealth and asset management industry, investor attitudes, needs, and expectations are undergoing lasting changes, and the playing field for investment providers is shifting. Investment providers will need to act quickly to compete in the next era of wealth management.
To investigate these developments and how digital, social, and economic shifts will transform the industry, ESI ThoughtLab is conducting a multi-client research program titled Wealth and Asset Management 4.0. We asked industry experts and sponsors of the study to offer their perspectives on how the pandemic has affected investor behaviors and preferences, trends in the industry, and the implications for their businesses.
The Impact of Disruption: The megatrends transforming the industry
What are the biggest disruptions affecting the wealth and asset management industry today? To what extent will these megatrends transform the industry? Do you see the rise of a new normal?
Mike Park, CEO, TCC Group: The shift towards organizations being purpose-led with a focus on creating social value and benefiting society rather than just generating profit has the potential to transform the wealth and asset management industry and signals a major culture change. The significance of organizational culture to business success has been well documented over the years, yet the global pandemic highlighted its critical importance. Where traditional objective-driven operations struggled to adjust during challenging times, firms with a focus on their culture—promoting collaboration, innovation, and empathetic leadership—showed a better ability to adapt and perform during the crisis. With employees, consumers, and investors increasingly demanding that firms step up regarding social and environmental responsibility and proactive management of diversity and inclusion, firms who do not take their culture seriously will soon get left behind. A healthy culture is a must have, not a ‘nice to have.’
Chiara Gelmini, Solutions Marketing Lead, Appway: In the past years, the financial services industry has been hit by multi-dimensional, dynamic disaggregation with impacts across the value chain, channels, data and systems, and the regulatory landscape. Now, the industry is challenged on a whole new degree of disruption, impacting primarily client engagement, productivity, and business composability. As in every crisis, 2020 was a catalyst for true change, and we’ll see its impacts over the next five years.
Joe Norburn, CEO, Recordsure: The pandemic-driven disruption to traditional face-to-face interactions between clients and agents has led to fundamental changes in the wealth and asset management industry. Faced with business continuity challenges, firms introduced new alternative methods of communication. While such decisions were made of necessity, the new client-agent communication channels are quickly becoming the new norm due to their convenience and flexibility. Similarly, monitoring and analysing customer interactions across all channels to ensure fair treatment and compliance is quickly growing into a significant operational requirement.
How has the pandemic accelerated the transformation of the industry? What lasting changes in wealth and asset management should we expect from the pandemic?
Sabrina Bailey, Global Head of Wealth Management, Refinitiv: Digitalization has been a megatrend for quite some time; the pandemic exponentially accelerated this as a focus for many firms. The lack of face-to-face interaction encouraged firms who may have previously been reluctant to transform or adopt digital tools to do so, or risk losing out to competitors and falling behind. The way in which the wealth advisors interact with clients, and the way in which clients define “white glove” service, have changed at a fundamental level. The constant challenge with digitalization is the continued increase in hyper-personalization expectations. Communicating with clients and providing investment advice digitally is one thing; the real differentiator is the ability to personalize these interactions in order to build strong, sustainable, and trusted relationships. This is especially true in an environment of fee compression, robo-advisors, and new forward-thinking start-ups. Providing sound investment advice, personalized to the specific needs of investors by truly understanding their situation, needs, wants, values and desires, will be the real differentiator in wealth management.
Mike Park, CEO, TCC Group: The rapid operational adjustments that wealth and asset management organizations endured in response to the pandemic emphasised regulatory compliance issues. As we are entering the post-pandemic world and the emerging hybrid model of home- and office-working, firms continue to be exposed to client mismanagement and compliance issues. Firms will need to carefully consider how to drive a healthy culture in the new working environment to mitigate these potential conduct risks. Healthy company culture plays an integral role in linking compliance and commercial success for wealth and asset management organizations.
Chiara Gelmini, Solutions Marketing Lead, Appway: In the past decade, innovation dominated strategic priorities, though with “arbitrary” and shifting emphasis. Although more hybrid models of interaction were emerging, the high-touch physical interplay was seen as the “Plan A” in wealth management, while digital engagement was the “Plan B”. Today wealth managers are forced to not only innovate but to transform by revising digital strategies—along with the corresponding tools and technology—in order to adapt to the shift in circumstances. Digitally empowered human interaction is now the default “Plan A”. Being innovative via digital means, doesn’t equal less human touch. WM customers are typically complex in their nature, they have large households and center of interests, with many cross-jurisdictional nuances and impacts. Hybrid models are going to be crucial to be able to deliver that high touch service that’s core to the WM industry, across whatever type of channel and journey customers are going to choose.
Joe Norburn, CEO, Recordsure: The global pandemic accelerated the deployment of new technology-led solutions that enabled financial services organizations to ensure business continuity and remote-working management. Despite the swift introduction of these solutions, innovative technology tools, such as client interactions monitoring and regulatory compliance management, are proving to drive operational efficiencies and excellence—thus are here to stay. The next challenge for organizations is to carefully assess their new technology portfolio and ensure true alignment with long-term technology and business strategy.
Manish Moorjani, Senior Director Product Management, Publicis Sapient: The pandemic made digital the only mechanism for advisors and their clients to engage; it accelerated digital tool adoption by advisors who felt their HNW/UHNW clients only wanted an in-person white glove service. As we go back to a new normal world post-vaccination, we expect that the engagement model will continue to be a hybrid of in-person and digital engagement as both clients and advisors saw significant value at limited to no degradation of service. In fact, it provided an opportunity to share much richer insights for them to discuss and led to engaging conversations.
The Next Generation Investor: Meeting changing investor needs and expectations
What key shifts are you seeing in investor expectations, behaviors, and priorities? How are these playing out by wealth, age, education, gender, and other investor demographics?
Sabrina Bailey, Global Head of Wealth Management, Refinitiv: Investors expect to be known. Companies like Netflix and Amazon are leading the way in terms of personalization and understanding what their customers want by leveraging the data available and providing personalized recommendations through a simple, intuitive digital interface. Expectation for daily, personalized, and tailored interactions are moving into the financial services arena at a faster pace than ever before. Investors expect that the advisors know them and can recommend solutions to meet their needs based on understanding “clients like them”. Breaking these expectations down by wealth, age, education, or gender is a precarious game given that expectations are also driven by stage in life, income, place of residence, engagement preference, risk level, etc. For example, my high school two daughters have been exposed to investing their entire lives because of my career. Our oldest daughter (persona: The Protector) is conservative by nature, would prefer to meet in person, and would invest no more aggressively than a moderate risk portfolio. She cares more about protecting her money than making the most she can. Our younger daughter (persona: The Thrill Seeker) would invest straight off Instagram, never talk to an advisor and invest in the highest risk single stock she could find because she loves the thrill of the chase even if it means losing everything. Given the move to personalization, wealth firms would be well served to understand their investor personas and adapt both sales and customer service techniques to meet their personas.
Olivia Fahy, Head of Culture, TCC Group: Socially responsible investing is an increasing priority for investors. For firms, this means investing with purpose. Younger investors are particularly concerned about investing responsibly, and so this new trend is set to influence wealth and asset management firms’ culture and their approach to investment—especially as wealth begins to transfer from baby boomers to millennials through inheritance. It should be noted that this shift has been growing in importance over the last few years, but it has been brought into sharper focus more recently by topics like climate change, the BLM movement, and the pandemic, highlighting how firms are part of a much broader infrastructure. Progressive and purpose-led organizations have been shown to be best placed to respond to this pivotal shift in the market and steal a march on their competitors.
Manish Moorjani, Senior Director Product Management, Publicis Sapient: For millennials across wealth, education, gender and demographics, omni-channel engagement is an expectation, not just a “nice to have” anymore. Priorities now include doing more sustainable investing (ESG) to ensure that there is a broader picture in mind besides making returns. They also have a shared control behavior in terms of making investment decisions as they are exposed to lot more information and insights and are looking for a partner not just an advisor.
How is your organization adapting its products and services to meet evolving investor needs? How will value propositions, investor experiences, and market approaches need to change?
Sabrina Bailey, Global Head of Wealth Management, Refinitiv: We are focusing on developing and using digital tools and solutions to address changing investor expectations by delivering the data, insights, and capabilities that can be delivered in a personalized way to a broad range of personas to enhance the overall experience.
Joe Norburn, CEO, Recordsure: The new way of interacting with clients via multiple communication channels requires more transparency than ever before. The fast changes to business operational models have emphasised the need to fast-track the deployment of analytics tools to monitor, analyse and review all client-agent interactions at scale. This requirement is critical as firms are faced with the responsibility to ensure fair treatment of clients, be vigilant to vulnerability, and to always maintain supervisory oversight and regulatory compliance across all communication channels.
Anna Szterenfeld is Director of Editorial Operations for ESI ThoughtLab. She is a multilingual writer and editor with 30 years of experience assessing and forecasting global political and economic risk, policy trends and business operating conditions, with a particular focus on the Americas. For many years she served as Regional Manager and Latin America Editor with The Economist Group, where she supervised analysts and editorial teams in Mexico, Brazil, London, and Gurgaon (India), as well as a contributor network in more than 20 countries.