From the rise of robos to the implementation of the DOL’s fiduciary standard, the wealth management industry faces pressure to provide clients with a better user experience, more investment options, greater transparency and reduced fees. Corporate Insight recently attended the 2017 In|Vest conference, exploring these and other current and future market trends. Held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, this gathering of executives, advisors and thought leaders in the wealth management industry, including banks, brokerages and robo advisors, spoke to the need to leverage both technology and the human touch to serve clients more efficiently. Artificial intelligence and the “Amazoning” of financial services were two major topics covered as well. For those who couldn’t make it to this year’s In|Vest, we present takeaways and highlights from the conference along with three firms to watch.
Conference Takeaways and Highlights:
1. In a keynote presentation—The Indispensable Advisor—United Capital’s founder and CEO Joe Duran discussed why advice firms must be both human and digital. He reiterated that the planning process can be completely digitized while advisors must do what machines cannot: understand human behavior, provide empathy, build trust and provide knowledge and reasoning to assist with complicated financial decisions. He emphasized that digital consumers feel more powerful than ever, and as a result, they expect to receive an individualized experience on their own terms. Additionally, he encouraged advisors to take on the role of a coach rather than a teacher to their clients.
2. Timothy Heier, EVP and chief technology officer at Charles Schwab, pointed out that “people spend twice as much time shopping for a car than for their 401(k).” He attributed this to the “tedious, intimidating, mystifying and inconvenient” client experience in the financial services industry. He also spoke about the current shift to artificial intelligence and how clients want information to be pushed and not pulled. As a result of this shift to more engaging, convenient content, he announced Schwab’s plans to release a Facebook Messenger chatbot and Alexa Skill app in the fall.
3. Throughout the conference, several speakers talked about Amazon. They applauded Amazon for its trust and rapport with millions of Americans and identified it as a clear leader in overall customer experience and personalization. Speakers also touched on how, with Alexa, Amazon can deliver on-demand answers to financial questions, which appeals especially to younger investors. In addition to the speed of delivery, Amazon uses data to predict what the consumer wants and needs. The speakers emphasized the need to reach clients with the same accuracy, speed and personalization to remain relevant in the industry.
4. In a keynote panel—The Empires Strike Back—executives from J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citi and UBS Wealth Management Americas spoke to the need for the original players in the financial services industry to innovate in order to keep pace with the purely digital startups like Betterment and SigFig. The panel brought up wealth management’s shift from a product business to a relationship business, noting the difficulty in earning a client’s trust. Venu Krishnamurthy, head of Citigold and Citi Priority at Citi Personal Wealth Management said, “When people think of money, it creates anxiety. We want people to feel joy and optimism when they think of money.” Additionally, there was a discussion about how firms should reward clients for their business. The panelists agreed that they must make sure that clients feel as though they are constantly being looked after. Aron Levine, head of consumer banking and Merrill Edge, mentioned the firm’s Preferred Rewards Program as a way to reward clients for saving and investing rather than spending.
Firms to Watch:
1. Onist – Provides a “virtual family office” platform that serves as a portal for clients and their families to connect with financial advisors, estate planners, tax professionals, insurance advisors and accountants to create a holistic approach to wealth management.
2. Riskalyze – A platform that enables advisors to identify an investor’s “risk number” and build a portfolio that contains the right amount of risk. Advisors can also put an account on autopilot, execute trades and keep everything on target with the firm’s “one-click fiduciary” technology.
3. United Income – Provides software for people transitioning into retirement. It simulates potential life event outcomes, builds to-do lists and helps to project clients’ spending in retirement. A separate investment strategy is provided for each goal. The firm announced that this software will be available to clients in the fall.