News And Trends--Building Internet-Based Practices:The Internet is seen as the key catalyst for change in the industry.

Wealth management professionals are increasingly recognizing and utilizing the power of the Internet to improve their practices, so says the recently-released North American Private Banking/Wealth Management Survey, conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. CEOs at many of the nations leading wealth management firms largely see establishing an online presence as essential to growing their businesses. Forty-four

Wealth management professionals are increasingly recognizing and utilizing the power of the Internet to improve their practices, so says the recently-released North American Private Banking/Wealth Management Survey, conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

CEOs at many of the nation’s leading wealth management firms largely see establishing an online presence as essential to growing their businesses. Forty-four percent of respondents said that establishing an online presence would be a key enabler for achieving current growth goals, while more than four-fifths of respondents said that Internet access for clients will influence competition three years from now.

The Internet trend is rapidly sweeping through the industry. Ninety-one percent of surveyed firms have conducted within the last 12 months – or still have underway – reviews of their Internet strategies.

Firms’ current and potential client bases are driving this trend. Currently, one third of clients have Internet access. That figure is expected to balloon to 75 percent within the next three years. Now, only 10 percent of respondents communicate with their clients via e-mail; however, within three years, half expect to.

Beyond direct client communication, wealth management firms are using the Internet in a variety of ways. Business marketing is the most popular current use. However, more "robust" offerings are being considered by firms, largely pending client demands and/or response to offerings. However, there is a general feeling in the industry that high-net-worth individuals do not like "low touch" (little direct in-person contact) services, so firms are seeking other ways to exploit the Internet. Only about one-third of survey respondents offer their clients real-time transaction capabilities.

Considerations likely to come to fruition in the next three years include linking firm offices and aggregating data, online research dissemination, and client data recordkeeping. Firms that employ multiple practitioners are also planning to use the Internet to help them be more efficient with such tools as PDA/ mobile telephone access to Internet data and communication, and also collaborative Web sites, where multiple practitioners can work together on the same project.

NATACP Changes Name

The National Association of Trust Audit and Compliance Professionals (NATACP) is now The Fiduciary & Investment Risk Management Association (FIRMA). The name was changed, according to the organization, to be more reflective of the organizations broader focus and to be inclusive of its comprehensive training program. FIRMA has a membership of all CTAs and CTCPs and extends membership benefits to non-certified trust audit and compliance professionals as well.

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