Twenty-five years from now, the financial services industry will still be alive and well, but it won’t look like it does today. Much like the film, music, travel and retail industries have transformed, so too must wealth management. Financial advisors will still be in demand, but the skills required, role they play and tools they use will change dramatically.
Technology will not displace the advisor but instead will empower them to deliver, at scale, the concierge-like services currently available to only the wealthiest of clients. Perhaps they’ll be employed by (or clear and custody with) a traditional wealth firm, or perhaps they’ll be tied to a telecom, social media, retail, fintech or other platform provider that has decided to throw their hat into the financial services ring.
In the near future, wealth managers must catch up to and surpass the digital capabilities of other industries. Digital optimization is not groundbreaking. Sending an email instead of writing a letter is a form of digital optimization. As consumers, we text our plumbers, screen share with our cable providers and open our hotel room doors with our smartphones, but some of us are still checking our mailbox for paper statements from our advisor. Wealth firms need to accelerate optimization so that advisors can provide the integrated, automated and digital experience that clients in all wealth bands have come to expect. Future clients will still want white glove service, but they’ll also want to interact with a virtual agent, at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, while sitting in their driverless car.
This is the area where most firms will struggle. Digital transformation means looking for new business opportunities, new revenue streams, new partner models and taking an entirely new approach to where your offering fits in a broader digital world. Rather than being the reactive center of your client’s financial life, your firm becomes a proactive and empathic part of an interconnected digital world. By sharing your data into a broader ecosystem and receiving data back from multiple financial and nonfinancial sources, your firm will be able to proactively reach out to clients, anticipating their needs and offering solutions that are customized and tailored to solve issues they hadn’t even realized had arisen.
Data and Platforms
In the coming years, the digital ecosystem will consist of multiple platform providers. Wealth firms will either control a digital platform, partner with other providers, or feed data to and from them. In order to take advantage of emerging digital platforms and technologies, including robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, internet of things, advanced analytics, virtual reality and whatever is coming down the road, firms must have a strong approach to data. As LOB leaders echo information technology and take an agile approach to how they run their firms, they will also take a microservices approach, monetizing data and sharing it in a broader digital world to create entirely new offerings.
As physical and digital worlds combine, firms will need to win the battle to be at the center of their clients’ personal ecosystems. One doesn’t need to look 25 years down the road to see how urgent this need has become. At a hypothetical kitchen table somewhere, a potential client who just inherited $20 million looks at their digital assistant in the corner and says aloud, “Hey (Google, Alexa, Siri, insert another name here), find me a financial advisor.” Did your firm name just get suggested? If not, you’ve got far fewer than 25 years to figure out why.
Darrin Courtney is a vice president and analyst at Gartner, specializing in wealth management.