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What Do Wealth Clients Want from a Digital Proposition?

This is a sponsored article from FactSet.

By Greg King

The notion that wealthy clients with more than $2.5 million USD 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 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, the impact on financial confidence, and attitudes towards risk-taking. In particular, it highlights actionable steps that 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, while being unsure to what extent it should let technology play a role in its relationship-driven business model. As a result of the pandemic, it has shown how closely intertwined the two aspects are.

The quality of the online wealth management experience, particularly during uncertain times, can visibly affect 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 the 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). Similar to other segments, they feel one critical advantage of digital wealth management is a better use of their time [Figure 1]. To them, a multi-channel experience offers enhanced portfolio management, including greater visibility over the performance of their investments and clarity on products and countries to which they are exposed.

Q: On balance, what are the clear advantages to conducting more of your wealth management activities online?

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 identity 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. This is perhaps to be expected if new tools, channels, or technology require cumbersome changes to longstanding behaviours.

If wealth managers want to make the digital transformation of 2020 a permanent behavioural 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, such as the need to make customisation easier (21%) and a 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.

Q: Thinking about your wealth relationship holistically, is there anything missing from the digital experience offered to you today?

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 customised 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, alongside tasks being completed efficiently by their advisors.

Wealthy clients feel that having a range of tools can have powerful value in the management of their wealth, particularly in executing trades independently (57%) and in the ability to access, export, and interrogate high-quality market data (54%).

For content, they value up-to-date information on their portfolios, access to market data, and reporting that is tailored to their understanding.

Since many investors are increasingly open to completing the end-to-end investment process virtually, advisors should be more proactive in using some of their firm’s online tools with their clients. A move towards a hybrid model would allow wealth managers to incorporate their clients’ digital appetites and increase their willingness to embrace online tools that elevate the overall experience, financial confidence, and improve productivity.

Conclusion

Behavioural change and digital transformation are heating up across wealth management particularly among those that serve the lucrative high net worth segment.

Firms which dedicated energy and resources on developing a strong digital experience and innovative tools before the pandemic have since reaped the rewards of elevated engagement and higher client satisfaction scores.

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.

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This is a sponsored article from FactSet.

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