“We might have expected to see digital progress and investment stall in this year’s survey, against the backdrop of the pandemic, geopolitical instability and a cost-of-living crisis. However, what we have witnessed is a digital change agenda that is not only very resilient but is in actual fact growing.” said Kenn Taylor, Alpha FMC’s Head of Wealth Management.
The fifth annual Alpha FMC Wealth Management Digital Readiness survey has collated findings from a broad range of Wealth Managers, and shows a positive reaction from the industry. Senior leadership is prioritising digital, Relationship Manager (RM) uptake been strong, budgets are continuing to increase, and the resulting maturity in offerings has led to increased client satisfaction. Wealth Managers are rising to the challenge, and those not focused on this critical area risk being left behind.
A Priority, Not a ‘Nice-to-Have’
This year’s survey results demonstrate that quality digital capabilities are now critical to any Wealth Managers’ offering. 86% of firms state that digital is a top or high priority, every single firm surveyed is currently implementing a digital initiative and 50% of firms are now investing over 10% of Operating Expenditure in digital.
40% of firms now declare themselves as ‘Fast Followers’ or better, in comparison to 18% last year. One of the biggest historic headwinds to success, internal adoption, is being overcome with over 60% of RMs showing a very high uptake, and where trading is available, more than half of firms see very high activity. This focus and investment has driven a rebound in client satisfaction, with 33% of respondents now meeting or exceeding client expectations versus just 8% in 2021.
Still Work to Do
Against this positive backdrop, there remain a number of common challenges Wealth Managers are facing:
- Legacy Technology – With the ongoing need to enhance Digital capabilities to align to client demand many organisations need to consider whether upgrades are necessary to support their value proposition.
- Fragmented Operating Models – More than half the Wealth Mangers surveyed are using multiple operating models and technology capabilities. With consistency of service and holistic reporting being critical to good client outcomes, integration projects will be critical to ensure firms have the required foundations in place.
- Data – Any digital solution can only be as good as the data that ‘fuels’ it; taken with legacy technology and disparate models, this will become more and more apparent as the desire to expand functionality increases. Incomplete and unreliable data has increased in the ranking of challenges to digital delivery from 5th to 2nd over the last 3 years.
- Functionality – Whilst digital maturity has grown, the primary use case remains information provision. The survey shows an increase in availability and take up of portals, but their limited functionality is unlikely to satisfy an increasingly educated audience for long. The number one case for change cited was “responding to client demand”, and our respondents expect greater access to functions and services to be critical in the next 18 to 24 months.
Kenn Taylor concludes, “as clients’ digital expectations continue to grow, we are seeing an ever-increasing focus of Wealth Management firms on their underlying technology and data capabilities; and with even their RM’s becoming advocates, the need to create a robust and scalable digital platform has never been greater.“
Key Priorities: What are Wealth Managers Doing Today?
Building on the increased internal investment, we are seeing Digital Investments and Strategies focused on driving improved interactions with clients, and therefore targeting AUM growth and retention, as well as delivering improved efficiency across the firm through automation; as follows:
|1||Improving the Digital Client Experience||Digital strategy priority number 1 is ‘how firms interact with clients’, and as a result “customer-centricity” is the primary focus for firms as a driver to attract, retain and grow client relationships|
|2||Surfacing Data Through Digital Channels||“Access to client specific data” generates high usage at 80% of the firms, with investment focused on both addressing the underlying quality, and delivering through web, third party platforms and secure apps/portals|
|3||Shifting to a Digital First Model & New Ways of Working||We have seen a jump in ranking from 6th to 3rd for Wealth Managers “seeking to embed a lasting change to ways of working” and evolve how they service their clients, when considered for digital investment focus|
|4||Revenue Growth through Sales Enablement||Whilst improving client experience is a clear direct lever to drive growth; the use of digital as a sales enablement tool is recognised as “Highly Ranked”, with firms investing in expectation of increased AUM|
|5||Efficiency through Automation||The most common forms of automation at present include API & Workflow tools, with R&D investment focussed on repeatable, scalable tasks e.g. Client Reporting, Onboarding and producing Sales Materials|
We have seen a step change in the focus of Wealth Managers on the digital agenda, and with it, a significant increase in the number of clients whose expectations are being met. However, provision of information remains the primary capability, and many organisations will have to overcome challenges of legacy technology and data in order to satisfy demands for increased functionality, and to bring all the elements together into a seamless multi-channel client journey. This being the case, the next steps will take skilled planning and execution, but with beneficial outcomes including client growth, retention, and increased efficiency, the rewards are high.
To find out more about the contents of the Wealth Manager Digital Readiness Survey, please get in touch.