I’ve spent my career helping wealth managers from the leading institutions across the globe differentiate themselves in an effort to grow their assets under management. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for “your father’s wealth manager” and my advocacy for embracing technology to better serve client demands.
Over the past year, it’s become clear to me that a new opportunity has arisen to set oneself apart from others in the wealth management industry. Bitcoin has rapidly emerged as an asset class that can’t be ignored, yet today it is little understood by 95 percent of the wealth management community. Most clients are - at a minimum - curious, while some are eager to find a way to capture the opportunity presenting itself before it passes them by.
Statistics show that the top five percent of wealth managers differentiate themselves through knowledge and conveying that knowledge to one’s clients when relevant to their interests. Whether and how Bitcoin fits within a client portfolio is between that client and his or her advisor. But an understanding of the digital currency asset class – which includes allocations to Bitcoin itself, allocations to or trading in alternative digital currencies, regulated investment vehicles with exposure to Bitcoin, and investments into companies (whether directly or through a venture fund) in the digital currency economy – is today an excellent way to differentiate oneself from other advisors.
I recall when I first spoke with a wealth management platform about Twitter. I was almost laughed out of the room. My early conversations with wealth managers about Bitcoin yielded a similar response. Today, those wealth managers that aren’t on Twitter are missing a significant market opportunity and are most likely not appealing to the NextGen wealth holder – a scary thought for many wealth managers given that 98 percent of inheritors will choose a different advisor than their parents. Those that are using Twitter effectively – many of whom are clients of the Rudin Group - are seeing assets walk in the proverbial door.
So why should you care about Bitcoin? Do you want to be in the top five percent of performers? Do you want to be relevant in five years?
1. The NextGen is holding it and it reflects who they are
Is your firm targeting the NextGen with amorphous outreach and empty slogans? If you understand Bitcoin, you will understand the NextGen: efficient, connected, and tech enabled. The NextGen were early adopters of Bitcoin – which skyrocketed from pennies to near $1200 in 2013, then slumping in 2014. The number of HNWIs that have been minted is significant. These folks are your NextGen. Stop making empty overtures to them and learn about the currency that is poised to dominate their generation. They are seeking wealth managers who understand the asset class that represents the efficiency, connectedness and technologies that is central to their lives.
2. Your current client base is interested in it and want their kids to think they understand it
Wealth holders – even those who made their money in traditional industries – are curious about Bitcoin. It’s the subject of many golf outing and cocktail party conversations, even those in the retirement communities in south Florida. Families are talking about it, as much as strangers. The NextGen (see point 1 above) is telling their parents about it and their parents want to keep up. And who are these parents turning to? Their existing wealth managers. It may turn out to be a good fit for their portfolios or not, but these clients are starting to ask their advisors about it and, over the coming year, they will demand more than a shoulder shrug.
3. 95 percent of your peers don’t get it, which means you could be in the top five percent
Imagine if you were the first wealth manager on Twitter? You set up a profile and tweeted about wealth management and the people who were interested in the topic had no other options but to listen to you. That’s your opportunity right now. Be one of the only wealth managers who understand Bitcoin and people will listen.
4. You could be negligent if you don’t
RIAs and others with a fiduciary duty to their clients have an obligation to “act prudently” and conduct “diligence” on potential investment opportunities before recommending – or not recommending – particular opportunities to their clients. However you come out on the opportunity – whether it’s a fit for your clients’ portfolios or not – you have a duty to give it consideration.
5. You will be irrelevant in five years if you don’t
Rotary dial? Cassette? Floppy disk? If you still use these technologies than you can ignore this paragraph. You’re already irrelevant so might as well go home and bake cookies for the rest of your life. If you want to stay relevant, you need to understand Bitcoin, and the underlying technology known as the block chain, that is poised to dramatically change our lives over the coming five years. It will turn banking relationships on their head. Don’t believe me? I’ll beep you when it happens.
Today there are new platforms – like the Digital Currency Council – that are supporting wealth managers who want to get up to speed efficiently and even add an important certification in digital currencies that will be a central differentiating credential over the coming years. I predict that those advisors that get smart on digital currencies will see a significant impact on their AUM in the coming years – not because they recommend or don’t recommend an allocation to their clients – but because they’ll have differentiated themselves from the masses of other wealth management professionals, particularly those that advised their clients’ “fathers”.
April J. Rudin, Founder and President of The Rudin Group, is a financial services marketing strategist.