The robots might be coming… but they’d better be ready for a fight

Technology and robo-advisors beware - word on the ground in wealth management is that the human touch has plenty of mileage in it yet.

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The robots might be coming… but they’d better be ready for a fight

Over a year on from the initial lockdown, many of us are casting our minds back to the shock of the pandemic’s earliest days and the many steps we have made to adjust to life over the last year. But as we tried to come to terms with the unpredictable in Spring 2020, it was impossible to imagine how the future could look on a personal, professional and social level.

The personal repercussions of the pandemic were tragically widespread, but a year on, there’s a renewed sense of optimism in the air as the vaccine rollout continues apace. Shops and offices are slowly reopening and as businesses size up their version of post-restriction normality, many are making sense of the surprising consequences of lockdown. Look at the wealth management sector, for example. An industry that’s engrained in tradition, clients have had little choice but to embrace more remote ways of doing business and the sector has been catapulted into the future in the process.

Yet while this light-speed progression has been well documented, little has been said about the impact on relationship managers themselves. Many firms have invested heavily in technology to enable seamless remote communication with clients and intermediaries, and they and their clients have adjusted well. But now businesses are working out their new terms of engagement, can we expect technology to take the lead as relationship managers battle with low returns, high margins and increased client ratios?

We partnered with independent advice firm, Compeer, to look under the bonnet of the wealth management industry and get the relationship manager’s view on the opportunities and challenges facing the sector. We spoke to Investment Managers, Portfolio Managers and Wealth Managers from a cross section of UK firms who shared valuable insight into their priorities and the real dynamics of client relationship management.

The research uncovered some interesting perspectives, namely that in spite of the pandemic-enforced hiatus in travel time and lengthy client meetings, relationship managers thrive on client engagement – and want more of it. Yet as the mood music amongst many clients changed over lockdown, so too did their priorities of focus, making relationship managers busier than ever in the process. Our survey looks at whether business expectations, from targets to reporting requirements, have shifted in tandem with this.

The survey showed that admin remains a blocker for many, and as businesses adjust to an expected increase in client demand for multi-channel engagement as restrictions ease, we ask whether technology really is alleviating the pressure on relationship managers themselves.

We will discuss the findings at a webinar on Tuesday 25 May at 10:00 BST/11:00 CEST/17:00 SGT, and will share the report with attendees immediately after the event – a week earlier than we launch this to our wider network.

The webinar will be hosted by Gary Linieres, CEO at Wealth Dynamix and James Brown, Compeer’s Head of Client Services. They will explore two common themes that relationship managers focused on through the interviews:

Client engagement

What do relationship managers really think of this aspect of their role? What stands in the way of good client lifecycle management, and how are they and their clients adjusting to the easing of lockdown restrictions?

Staying ahead in the new landscape

What opportunities have relationship managers identified as they look to the future? How are they managing new business, and staying close to prospects as well as clients? How is the front office embracing technology, and what difference can it make to client lifecycle management?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last year, it’s that you can’t predict the future. So those robots had better beware: the word on the ground in this complex industry is that the human touch has plenty of mileage in it yet.

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