By Garry Hamilton, Chief Growth Officer and Founder, Equator
Are you more concerned with what your customers want or how you deliver it?
This vital question sits at the heart of modern wealth management business models. Driven by digital transformation, the landscape is shifting from one where tried and tested methods of service are being reshaped around real customer requirements. And finding the right balance between better experience for them and greater efficiency for your business is tricky.
There’s no doubt a huge opportunity is on the table for wealth managers today. According to a report from Boston Consulting Group nearly $80tn of wealth will be created in just the next five years. But to take this chance the industry needs to embrace digital technology – and be confident in using it.
Does your digital service go far enough?
McKinsey states that wealth managers are “unlikely to be able to serve modern clients effectively without a digitised operating model… to support activities and service ever-changing investment preferences”.
Following the pandemic, which undoubtedly accelerated digital transformation across industries as it did consumers’ daily lives, many wealth management businesses are already making the switch. But they are doing so with varying degrees of certainty and success.
In fact, research from financial services company Refinitiv found that nearly half of respondents (46%) were only partly satisfied or even not at all satisfied with the current state of their digital offering.
This stumbling start to digitisation is partly the product of different definitions of what the term means in the first place. For some businesses, investing in and deploying platforms such as Addepar, InvestCloud or Moneybox constitutes full-blown digital transformation.
While these tools and others like them certainly can deliver functionality that enables firms to operate more agile models, far more work is needed if they’re to become truly digital – and for customers to recognise that they are. Think of it like buying a sturdy pair of football boots, but knowing you need to put in years of practice to reach the top of your game.
Customer success – giving people the service they expect in return for buying your expertise – also means using the features available to stand out from the crowd, creating a distinct offering via your chosen digital platforms.
Reaping greater rewards from technology
With the investment in technology and the shift to increasingly remote and virtual communications, you could be forgiven for thinking that the annual review meeting in a wood-panelled office is a thing of the past.
Yet the trajectory of pure digital wealth managers tells a different tale. Boston’s report notes that while most digital wealth managers originally offered digital-only models, many have subsequently introduced human advisers who can interact with customers over remote and virtual channels.
Most of these remote advisers counsel customers on how to use their company’s digital products and customise solutions. But this remit is likely to expand considerably, and over time Boston expects hybrid digital-human service to become the new normal in wealth management delivery.
All of this suggests that while technology can augment existing staff – and provide critical support when more than a third of the workforce expects to retire within the next decade – firms should focus on delivering a convergence of personal and digital advice. In other words, a hybrid digital-human service.
Because people are the baseline of success in digital transformation. The only way to ensure success is by knowing what users need, and how they need it. Intelligence must be gained and enhanced using systems that continually develop a deeper understanding. That way, the product or service keeps pace with changing expectations and meets needs on an ongoing basis.
Balancing people, process and platforms
The continual process of knowing what users require from your wealth management business not only informs the transformation’s eventual outcomes but also helps to tackle concerns, change preconceptions and clear up misunderstandings.
No matter the target audience, this is not a simple exercise. It invariably involves a significant change in the way an organisation operates, led from the top down. The C-suite and other senior leaders in your business must be aligned on the strategy and vociferous in their support.
Once this progresses to implementation, change management training, collaboration and future support are all critical work streams alongside the service design itself. If teams are involved and allowed to develop the skills needed to successfully make change happen, your chances of delivering a project increase.
Putting in place the right digital processes and technology to create an agile business structure is fundamental. To be valuable, this must be combined with an ability to listen to, learn from, and react rapidly and effectively to audience requirements.
When that happens, you can strike a balance between customer experience and operational efficiency, helping to keep you ahead of the competition.