Long before COVID-19 put further pressure on wealth managers to digitise their business, both clients and advisors were seeking a range of digital tools and capabilities to improve their experience. Post-COVID-19, these expectations will only continue to rise, further intensifying a digital arms race among companies. Times are changing faster than ever before and disruptive tech startups are redefining the role of a wealth manager. As wealth management firms are entering a new phase of digital transformation, this article will explore best practices and how digital strategy can make or break a business.
In the current environment, firms must be ready to take bold action. From taking a hard look at account opening process (hundreds of pages, dozens of signatures, weeks in delays – sound familiar?) to cutting the cord with over-reliance on Excel for portfolio management process. These are the issues that stop companies from scaling, create operational risk and risk driving clients away to competitors. Firms that remain complacent and are not ready to take decisive action may already have one foot in the grave. Creating a culture of continuous improvement is the key to changing status quo and this must be driven from the top of the organisation.
What can be done?
- Understand your users. CEO’s know their business but it is critical to conduct research among advisors and clients to understand what they really need. This helps to avoid risk of spending IT budget on items with little impact.
- Break down barriers across compliance, advisors and IT to integrate diverse perspectives from day 1. Innovation and compliance must be in-sync.
- Design new processes and requirements to help deepen client-advisor relationship, rather than just save time.
Build, Buy or Both?
The inevitable question that managers have to deal with is whether to 1) buy a solution from vendor (or multiple of); 2) build one in-house; or 3) come up with a blended strategy that includes both. For most firms the answer lies in options 1 or 3 and largely depends on size, complexity and available budget of the organisation.
Buying from vendor
- Can be most cost-effective solution suitable for small-to-medium sized firms.
- Provides fastest go-to-market timing.
- Can take away control of the UX and become a disjointed experience if more than one solution is implemented.
- It is absolutely critical to understand your needs and identify the right partner to deliver a solution.
- Provides highest level of control for the organisation.
- Prohibitively expensive for smaller firms.
- Usually involves deployment delays as IT staff have multiple priorities and often lack expertise needed to create best-in-class experience the firm is looking for.
- Easy to underestimate huge resources needed to deliver an in-house platform on time and on budget.
Buy & Build
- Hybrid model suitable for larger organisations that need to capture unique complexities of their business.
- Allows the firm to accelerate deployment by using foundations built by vendors and focus internal resources on creating a differentiating features for their firm.
- The strategy is widely used by global private banks however it requires significant resources for maintenance and continuous development of the systems.
Selecting Digital Partner
For small and medium sized wealth managers buying a vendor solution is the fastest and most effective way to digitise their business. However, many firms have resisted doing this for three valid reasons: functionality, cost and (lack of) flexibility.
Traditionally, IT firms offering platforms for wealth managers were focusing on unique needs of their existing customers therefore creating a strong solution in one respect and a weak one in others. Other firms built solutions that tried to capture most of the market needs however you can only buy the entire package which may not be necessary for your business. Imagine an iPhone pre-installed with every app available and you had to pay for it? The key lies in finding a partner that has created a modular end-to-end solution that you can plug and play according to your needs. A cutting edge, end-to-end solution needs to have a CRM, client onboarding, order management, portfolio management, risk and compliance, digital signature, consolidated reporting, client communication and reporting functionality all accessible across devices. However if your business doesn’t need all of it, ensure vendor is flexible enough to offer these functions across separate modules.
The market for wealth management platforms has been dominated by global IT organisations that traditionally cater to global banks. Local wealth managers or family offices are not their target market and therefore costs associated with using such solutions remained prohibitive. The rise of SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions and emergence of innovative solutions built specifically for wealth managers and family offices creates an opportunity for such firms to effectively digitise their business. Conducting research and understanding real price is imperative but with the right partner, the digital solution no longer needs to cost the entire annual revenue of the business.
The final yet critical point in choosing a vendor is their flexibility. While the front-end of the solution can often look appealing this is only the tip of the iceberg. Custodian integrations, new custom features, white-labelling and tweaking the solution towards your needs can be become issues that some firms discovered all too late. Make sure these points are discussed upfront and you have understanding on how these issues will be dealt with. Not doing this upfront can create sub-optimal experience further down the line.
Wealth management firms have entered a new era of digital transformation. Achieving digital excellence is a process and culture of continuous improvement. It is a complex field and picking the right strategy and partner is critical for any wealth management organisation. Visit Britech to find out how we can help differentiate your business by delivering personalised, high-touch client-advisor platform through flexible and cost-effective technology.