Today’s wealth managers are facing an unprecedented level of change in the industry, which can simultaneously present golden opportunities and daunting challenges. As with many other industries, technology is advancing at a rapid pace and creating new upstart rivals while also raising the expectations of wealth management clients to soaring heights. Assets are in motion and with so much money on the move, retaining clients calls for new wealth management techniques that prove value and demonstrate innovation. Acquiring new clients and assets is as much of a priority as ever, but competition is steep. So, how can wealth managers thrive in such a volatile environment? We’ll answer that question by first looking at trends in the industry and then breaking down tactics and tools wealth managers can use to adapt and stay ahead of the curve.
Trends in Wealth Management
A few primary factors are trending in wealth management and causing shifts in the industry’s landscape:
Rise of the robots – Some wealth management clients are now choosing virtual robo-advisors. This “automation of advice” includes portfolios with rule-based allocation recommendations, programmatic rebalancing, etc. Clients who choose this type of wealth management typically report the reason as being trust – portfolio management decisions are based purely on algorithms with no subjective biases at play. There is no questioning of motivations or whose interests are being prioritized. Clients also tend to like the simplicity of the relationship and ease of use of the platforms.
Some of the top robo-advisors include Betterment, Personal Capital, and Wealthfront. While robo-advisors are still very small players in the grand scheme of the industry, they are expected to grow and are at the forefront of inventive new customer service approaches. It will be important to watch their progress and potentially adopt some wealth management techniques from these automated advisors. Robo-advisors will continually improve, so wealth managers must continue to differentiate and exhibit value.
Demand for personalization & innovation – In recent years, there’s been a sharp increase in expectations from wealth management clients for personalization and innovation. This is a ripple effect that can be somewhat attributed to robo-advisors but mostly to technological advancements as a whole, across all industries. Clients have a low tolerance for complicated processes or opaque reasoning – they experience easy usability and transparency in other industries and expect it in wealth management as well. Clients are also doing more of their own research online and won’t just blindly trust that their wealth managers are experts.
Clients want both complete control over their portfolio and unlimited support from their wealth manager. There is an expectation that the advice they receive will be tailored to their needs, yet standardized to remove any hint of subjectivity. Meeting these sometimes conflicting expectations is what clients believe their fees are paying for. Wealth managers now have a continual onus to prove their expertise and that their interests are aligned with that of their clients. This is challenging for wealth managers, but the result is that true professionals who are very good at what they do rise to the top.
Increase in regulatory scrutiny – The sharp looks of regulatory bodies first homed in on banks, then insurers, and are now eyeballing wealth managers. On a macro level, regulators are looking for activities that might pose a systematic risk – balance sheets must have enough capital on hand to shore up the market and operations in times of financial instability. On a micro level, they are trying to ensure that the financial interests of clients and advisors are in lockstep.
So, the increased demand for transparency from clients is also becoming compulsory by regulators. And the projections from many wealth management companies show that regulatory scrutiny will only increase in the years to come, necessitating a new level of preparation for these inquiries. How are companies adapting to this trend in the industry? A widespread, collective effort has begun to formalize wealth management techniques and best practices, creating frameworks for wealth managers around the appropriate level of risk and how to prepare for a potential regulatory inquiry.
Transfer from baby boomers – Representing approximately 20% of Americans, the baby boom generation is a huge portion of the population. Most baby boomers are at the age of retirement or older and the financial industry is currently preparing for a massive transfer in wealth from this generation to the younger one. As reported by CNBC, “Over the next 30 to 40 years, $30 trillion in financial and non-financial assets is expected to pass from the baby boomers — the wealthiest and one-time largest generation in U.S. history — to their heirs.”
The “Great Wealth Transfer” is on the minds of anyone in the financial industry and companies are starting to create specific onboarding plans for baby boom inheritors. Wealth managers themselves are facing another situation where they will need to reinforce their value as money changes hands from parents to children, and the like. As stated in the 2016 Wealth Management Trends article from PwC Strategy&, “…a recent PwC survey showed asset attrition rates of more than 50 percent in intergenerational transfers of wealth.” While this may technically fall under the category of retaining clients, the heirs of baby boomers are essentially brand-new clients and must be resold on the approaches, tactics, and results a wealth manager has previously used.
More going mobile – As mentioned in the previous section about the demand for innovation, technology has increased expectations across the board. For wealth management clients, having an easy and modern digital experience is an important factor in their level of satisfaction with a financial advisory company. If the online experience is confusing, clunky, or limiting, clients will attribute those negative elements to their wealth managers. Accordingly, the mobile experience, either through an app or a mobile-optimized website, must be a positive one for clients.
In PwC’s report, “Sink or swim: Why wealth management can’t afford to miss the digital wave,” the wealth management industry is “dangerously behind the curve” when it comes to digital technology. The report finds that “just a quarter (25%) of wealth managers offer digital channels beyond email…This is in stark contrast to the fact that two-thirds (69%) of [high net worth individuals] use online/mobile banking, more than 40% use online means to review their portfolio or investment markets and over one in three are already using online services for portfolio management.”
Currently, the mobile adoption rate of clients managing their portfolios is low, but if we take PwC’s report at face value, that rate is more due to the lack of technological sophistication and ease of use offered by wealth management platforms than it is client resistance. Regardless, mobile usage is growing rapidly across almost every industry and it is expected that will track consistently for wealth management clients as well, which ensures this is a trend that should not be ignored.
Client Acquisition and Retention Tactics to Stay Ahead of the Trends
Trends will come and go, some reshaping the industry entirely and others fading quickly. It’s critical for companies to stay ahead of these trends, but it can be daunting when trying to develop strategies that accomplish such a feat without getting bogged down in minutiae. Ultimately, your success depends on one important thing that is encompassed by all the trends: staying connected to clients. If your relationships are strong, the industry shifts and challenges won’t leave you on shaky ground.
Emails and phone calls will always be a part of the day-to-day relationship building, but wealth managers frequently report that they don’t have the time or resources to stay completely up to date on their top clients, much less all of their clients and prospects. Getting external, independent data about these individuals is also critical to maintaining connections. It would be incredibly time consuming to gather information on clients from various sources on a weekly or even monthly basis that could help wealth managers be “in the know.” Information such as:
- Employment changes
- Stock sales
- New acquisitions
- Miscellaneous activities of people and companies tangentially connected to a client
The good news is there’s technology ideally suited to helping wealth managers stay current with clients and open doors to new prospects, in an efficient and easy manner. RelSci’s relationship capital platform helps financial institutions get deeper insights on individuals and uncover who knows who, which results in stronger connections to clients and new pathways to influencers. It’s a very practical and efficient approach to business development efforts. Here are some of RelSci’s top features that are game changers for wealth management companies:
- Detailed insights and updates on wealth management clients with 360° Alerts – What if you could get a report on every move a client (or prospect) made delivered to your inbox daily? You can and it’s called 360° Alerts. This customizable report contains much more than just links to the latest articles published online. It includes news and updates on items of interest to wealth managers like stock sales, transactions, job changes, donations, and other key professional developments not typically covered by the media. You can set up a 360° Alert for a specific person (and all the entities that person is affiliated with) or company. The updates you get will keep you tightly connected to your current clients and will also give you intelligent opening lines if you’re reaching out to prospects.
- Research-based information about clients and prospects with in-depth profiles – You may know about a client’s business and maybe even a bit about some hobbies, but what about their education history? Political causes? Relationships with other industry players? RelSci offers wealth managers access to its proprietary database of 6+ million influential decision makers in 2+ million organizations. In-depth profiles exist for individuals and companies, the details of which are populated using thousands of independently verifiable public sources. In other words, the profiles are factual and research based; they are not convoluted with social network data. Wealth managers have more detailed information about existing clients to help with retention, as well as access to comprehensive profiles of prospects to propel acquisition.
- Clear access points to new clients with Path Finder – Part of RelSci’s holistic method of mapping relationship capital, Path Finder shows you the connections between different people in an organization, industry, or even city. You can filter by your first-degree connections or view the connections of your company’s extended network, uncovering pathways to prospects you might never have known existed. You get immediate insights on how you can reach a specific person or organization. This tool is your map to new clients, helping wealth managers maximize their relationship capital.
- Smart target lists with Power Search – With a continual expectation to find and acquire new clients, wealth managers typically use a combination of in-person networking, word-of-mouth referrals, and online research to create target lists. The Power Search tool in RelSci’s platform is an easier and more robust way to create these lists, in a lot less time. Use Power Search to query RelSci’s proprietary database of millions – you can search by name, industry, role, educational institution, political cause, donation, and more. Results will show you a custom map of connections from you to the target. The stronger the connections, the more viable a prospect and the more targeted and valuable your target list will become.
As the financial industry evolves, it will be crucial for advisors to adapt their wealth management techniques to new and emerging trends so they can focus on acquiring and retaining clients. The overarching goal with any new strategies or approaches will be to stay connected with clients. Operating in an industry that has traditionally been behind with its technological offerings, wealth managers can leverage RelSci’s sophisticated online platform to strengthen and stay current on existing relationships, while also uncovering pathways to new clients that will keep their business thriving.
Learn more about RelSci’s offerings for financial institutions.