The bullish sentiment captured in the survey, however, reveals that some wealth managers (WMs) have not yet got to grips with the existential threats looming over the industry in the next five years.
Learnings from the front runners
First, the good news. More and more, WMs are finding ways to work with non-bankable and private assets such as real estate, private businesses, fine art, wine, property and even yachts. Traditionally, these illiquid assets could not be monetised by WMs, only coming on to their radars when used as collateral. But technology is changing that.
The survey reveals that forward-thinking WMs are starting to discover methods, such as connecting buyers and sellers, tokenisation and fractional ownership to help their clients leverage their non-bankable and private assets as a means to open up new revenue streams – just at a time when growth within the traditional WM market is stagnating.
When these non-bankable assets are included, the wealth of those served by private banks and WMs grows to a sizable $260 trillion.
But navigating this shift is not easy, particularly as along with it comes the need to adapt to six key megatrends: hyper-personalisation, the rise of ethical investing, the need for greater value generation, utilising personal data effectively whilst maintaining privacy and safety, and the rise of platform ecosystems. Indeed, it’s clear from our survey that many WMs are finding the shift a larger challenge than they originally anticipated. Even more startling is the faith they have in their own ability to succeed: the majority of WMs believe their own growth could outpace that of their peers; clearly, some are overestimating what’s possible in a tougher environment
Understanding the solutions
At the heart of the opportunity lies new technology. WMs need digital platforms to capture and retain a share of the wider growth and client potential. But they are expected to also need new skills and a change in culture from the boardroom down to take advantage of this technology. Without these, they will likely struggle.
The survey shows that just over 20 per cent of WMs are considering wholesale change to their business models in response to the remodelled landscape. But in what we believe is a significant finding, nearly 80 per cent believe they can survive by just tweaking their model. The scale of the opportunity and the speed and magnitude of change suggests success is by no means a given.
For example, responses reveal that WMs expect to see some $1.5 trillion a year on average in assets leave their firms as wealth is inherited between generations. Stemming this outflow will be critical to thriving in the future. Firms need to meet new demands so they can better, and more accurately, tailor services to meet client needs and prevent them from taking their business elsewhere.
Over time, and thanks to data analysis, WMs should even be able to serve the market of one – a level of hyper-personalisation that runs to products as well as services and advice. More interactive and remote dialogue between advisors and clients, the tokenisation of assets and smart use of data would have roles to play in attracting and retaining clients. But so would being the right sort of wealth manager. Clients are expected to increasingly look for responsible wealth firms with robust policies and knowledge of environmental, social and ethical investing that chime with their own. Marketing yourself as sustainability experts but having board members associated with airlines, the oil and gas industry or tobacco could jar.
New skills for a fresh approach
Having the vision and capabilities to deliver requires very different skills from those traditionally found within WMs. It also requires a business model focused on technology and data to be able to provide the level of personalisation that clients expect.
People with the necessary skills are in short supply, making it harder to attract and retain them. Cultivating an environment where innovation – not a word traditionally linked to wealth management – is encouraged should make it easier. Staff training and career paths could be affected too, as would key performance indicators.
The survey also shows that WMs understand how successful transformation programmes could deliver revenue growth and lower costs – with, on average, an anticipated revenue growth of 30 per cent and a reduction in costs of 25 per cent. But again, these programmes are dependent on technology that, applied appropriately, allows for automation and innovation. In itself, the technology doesn’t deliver either – something perhaps overlooked by the 80 per cent mentioned above.
This is the crux of the paradox thrown up by the survey’s participants and their responses. They know they need to adapt but few yet understand the full scope of the transformation required to discover new value opportunities, co-create and innovate with partners and scale sustainably at speed. Although the survey was undertaken before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the trends it deals with – including slow growth, rising costs, the rise of ethical investing, significant intergenerational outflows of wealth and hyper-personalisation – are only likely to be accentuated at a faster pace as a result, making the lessons that can be drawn even more valuable.
The full survey Survive and Thrive to 2025 – Insights from the Wealth Management C-Suite is available for download here