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What tools will upend the wealth management industry in one to three years? The answer can be summed up in one word: mobile. In a recent survey by Financial Planning, 40 percent of respondents identified mobile apps as the number one game changer in the industry.
Yet, I think respondents still underestimate the impact of mobile technology. Let me make a bold prediction: Within three years, advisors — and their clients — will be able to execute all relevant wealth management activities on their smartphone, likely within a single app. This is not to say it will be industry-standard, just that industry leaders are poised to make it happen.
The larger trends in the industry are well known. We’re just now on the cusp of the Amazonization of the wealth management industry, a digital revolution driven by client-centricity and frictionless customer service. A large part of that revolution will involve delivery anytime, anywhere, to any device.
But it’s not only about clients. On-the-go, on-demand productivity is just as important to advisors. Here are the two ways mobile technology will transform the wealth management industry.
1. Human capital.
A recent report by Roubini ThoughtLab, Wealth and Asset Management 2022, makes a compelling business case for digital transformation. Drawing on surveys and interviews with executives across the industry, they state how digital transformation can boost revenue growth, improve decision-making, drive cost efficiencies, produce new data insights and help firms acquire new business. It’s a familiar story.
One thing the Roubini doesn’t discuss, however, is how new technologies can help firms attract and retain top advisors. Successful broker-dealers know that advisors are the lifeblood of the business. If you can’t bring in talented advisors, you’re going to struggle.
Talented, top-performing advisors need two things above all: independence and support. Meeting those needs represents a challenge for broker-dealers because support infrastructure tends to constrain advisor independence. The key is to find ways to support advisors without getting in the way.
Mobile technology delivers just that. It can provide tools to boost productivity, while still preserving the entrepreneurial sense of independence top-performing advisors need to thrive.
Mobile accessibility will be similarly decisive as firms work to attract the next generation of advisors, the group for whom it’s more natural to meet in a coffee shop — or even via Zoom — than in a traditional office space. Younger advisors are wireless natives. They thrive in a mobile environment, one built on software that is easy to use, elegant and intuitive.
2. Client engagement.
Mobile technology is also fundamentally reshaping the way advisors and broker-dealers engage clients. Advisors are now far more likely to exchange text messages with their clients. Customized push notifications deliver up-to-the-minute market updates that help keep investors informed. Some firms have even implemented mobile-specific delivery for statements, reports, prospectuses and other relevant investor communications. The typical communication tools smartphone users employ every day are right at home in the wealth management space.
But client engagement isn’t just about more convenient communication. The future of client engagement is client enablement. Investors want tools so they can explore the market, consider alternatives, plan their future and select specific investments.
The role of the advisor is thus changing. Gone are the days where advisors tell investors what they need and how to act. Instead, advisors moving forward will play a much greater support role, with a focus on coaching to promote a healthy financial lifestyle.
At every stage in the client life cycle, mobile technology can help clients do more, faster.
Consider that many broker-dealers are finding ways to expedite client onboarding and account opening by enabling clients to scan and upload documents with only their smartphone. In fact, some firms have already rolled out full mobile-enabled onboarding. It’s a huge boon for broker-dealers who can bring in new clients much faster and more efficiently. And it’s an even bigger boon for investors who can open new accounts at their convenience without a trip to an advisor office. Mobile-enabled onboarding is an especially effective way to attract millennials and Generation Z investors.
The biggest value in mobile-enablement will derive from inter-app connectivity. Micro-investment apps are taking the industry by storm. Millennial investors, in particular, are drawn to apps like Acorn, which tether to credit cards and other bank accounts to help them invest automatically.
These technologies promise enhanced data integration through which advisors and investors can gain new insights. Connected apps can easily sync data from brokerage, retirement, banking and credit card accounts to aggregate an up-to-date and holistic view of the client's overall financial situation.
Soon we will see investment research and portfolio allocation tools that auto-populate all relevant financial information. Investors can then easily amend assumptions and specific variables to identify the most prudent long-term financial plan. All of which will be rendered elegantly on a 4x6 inch display.
Advisors need it and clients want it. Firms that implement full-service mobile accessibility will be positioned to attract and retain top advisors and grow their business faster. The future of the industry is in our hands, literally.