Before coronavirus first struck, I asked the Wealth Dynamix leadership team to pick one piece of advice they would offer to a wealth manager looking to achieve differentiation, we had no idea that our world would be turned upside down by a pandemic as voracious as COVID-19.
In hindsight, the quote I referenced at that time from Jim Marous, Editor of FinancialBrand.com, could not have been more apt: “The pace of change will never be this slow again,” he said. We have certainly seen unprecedented pace of change recently.
The client has always been at the heart of wealth management, and still is. What COVID-19 has added into the mix is the complexities surrounding remote working, and an even greater need for personalised service. In the past, when evaluating technology deployments, wealth managers have asked “will we reduce cost?” and “will we be able to increase AuM?” Now they are also asking: “how can we do our jobs, wherever we are, and reassure our clients, whenever we need to?”
During lockdown and beyond, those who strengthen their position (rather than simply surviving with business intact) will be those with the agility to adapt quickly to rapidly changing working environments and client requirements.
It seems as though technology providers and industry pundits have been explaining to wealth managers that automation is the key, forever. Those who have acted upon that advice are faring much better than those who have been slow to act. However, technology deployments have tended to focus on back office digitisation, while the front office – which is still riddled with manual, paper-based processes – has been largely overlooked.
This is proving problematic given that every advisor’s performance is now being harshly judged according to the quality and frequency of client communications, their ability to minimise portfolio losses and their ability to act upon recommendations in a fast and frictionless way.
What COVID-19 has confirmed is that it is the combination of process automation and intelligent automation that enables wealth managers to optimise client service.
Robust process automation is needed to ensure business continuity, enable remote working and free up time to spend on value-added analysis and client-facing work. By connecting all of the systems and processes that span the client lifecycle – from sales and marketing to onboarding and ongoing client service – every department can easily access information and meet compliance obligations, whether in the office or working remotely. Process automation is needed to save both time and cost, but it is the way that advisors use this time that creates differentiation.
Intelligent automation, using artificial intelligence to automatically tag and analyse conversations or assess client sentiment for example, empowers advisors to use time saved through process automation to give more proactive, relevant and appealing advice. Whereas process automation is about saving time and cost, intelligent automation provides advisors with actionable insights to generate more AuM.
By providing highly personalised product recommendations, communicating according to clients’ evolving requirements and maximising portfolio valuations, wealth managers can play a vital role in giving clients a reason to smile in the face of adversity.