The notion that wealthy clients (with more than $2.5 million in investable assets) want a primarily human-led wealth management relationship was under review long before the pandemic. Since the onset of COVID-19, this idea has essentially been rejected as more evidence emerges showcasing a positive relationship between a well-delivered digital proposition and overall client satisfaction.
Most firms understand the importance of delivering a quality experience to clients across their wealth management journey. Research also shows that satisfied clients tend to hold more investable assets with their wealth management firm. A digital mindset is therefore no longer a “nice to have” but a genuine differentiator—and revenue generator for firms.
Our latest study, in collaboration with Aon, uncovers the specifics behind what makes a digital service stand out, and the impact on financial confidence and attitude to risk taking. In particular, it highlights actionable steps wealth management firms can take to make digital propositions more targeted and relevant to wealthy clients and their advisors.
The Digital Divide
Over the last decade, wealth management has been undergoing a protracted digital transformation, unsure to what extent it should let technology play a role in its relationship-driven business model. But the pandemic has shown how closely intertwined the two aspects are.
The quality of the online wealth management experience, particularly during uncertain times, can visibly impact a client’s financial confidence and willingness to ramp up or wind down risk. For example, our study finds that investors who give wealth managers top marks for their digital capabilities, tend to feel more confident about their financial futures than their counterparts (48% vs. 26%).
Technology offers greater control and oversight over investment portfolios. Consequently, it may be the reason why a higher proportion of wealthy clients say they have “adventurous” attitudes to growth of capital strategies, than those whose digital experiences are merely average (12% vs. 5%).
Over a third (35%) of HNW investors give their wealth management firm top scores for its digital capabilities (vs. 18% of mass affluent). Like other segments, they feel one critical advantage of digital wealth management is better use of their time [Figure 1]. To them, a multi-channel experience offers enhanced portfolio management, including greater visibility over performance of their investments and clarity on products and countries to which they’re exposed.
And while many genuinely feel they are receiving a good experience so far, there are some emerging concerns for wealth managers to address. For example, 23% say it is harder to maintain a personal connection with their advisor, while others point to worries over platform security and even identify theft. These concerns are unlikely to abate, so it’s important for firms to find solutions.
Think Big, But Start Small
Too much technology can seem like a blocker, rather than an enabler to deepening client relationships. And perhaps this is to be expected if new tools, channels, or technology require cumbersome changes to longstanding behaviors.
If wealth managers want to make the digital transformation of 2020 a permanent behavioral shift, firms need to make changes simple and easy to embrace. We see this thinking evidenced in our data. Wealthy clients are open to completing nearly half (45%) of their wealth management activities digitally—a noticeable increase from pre-pandemic levels (37%); however, some elements are missing.
To make the proposition more meaningful, nearly three in five (58%) HNW investors highlight improvements, like the need to make customization easier (21%) and greater focus on collaboration tools (17%) [Figure 2]. These improvements could help alleviate the frictions that make it difficult to have a personal client-advisor relationship.
The Missing Link
It continues to surprise some in the wealth management industry that wealthy clients want to engage more meaningfully with the investment process. According to our research, the ideal digital wealth proposition combines advisor accessibility with high-quality market data and customized reporting. The missing link, however, is understanding the relevance of tools available and confidence in using them.
In terms of service, the most important features for wealthy clients are ease of access to their investments (important to 84%), alongside tasks being completed efficiently by their advisors.
Wealthy clients feel a range of tools can have a powerful enabling value in the management of their wealth, particularly executing trades independently (57%) and the ability to access, export, and interrogate high-quality market data (54%).
On content, they value up-to-date information on their portfolios, access to market data, and reporting that is tailored to their understanding.
Given that many investors are increasingly open to completing the end-to-end investment process virtually (rather than in person), advisors should be more actively using some of their firm’s online tools together with their clients. A move towards a hybrid model would allow wealth managers to incorporate clients’ digital appetites and willingness to embrace online tools to elevate the overall experience, financial confidence, and improve their productivity.
Behavioral change and digital transformation are heating up across wealth management—particularly among those that service the lucrative high net worth segment.
Firms that dedicated energy and resources pre-pandemic on developing a strong digital experience and innovative tools have since reaped the rewards with elevated engagement and higher client satisfaction scores. Those that did not have the benefit of hindsight and the option to use other firms’ roadmaps to advance their digital propositions.
Far from seeking a return to the white glove service, high net worth clients want their wealth managers to focus on improving the multi-channel experience and bridging the gap between in-person and virtual relationship management.