I am of a generation who can remember the time before you could take your smart phone from your pocket, access an app and immediately see your bank account balances, make a payment or access additional services...whilst walking the dog!
Why is this important? Because, as a wealth manager, if you do not offer me similar, immediate access to information and services to those I am now familiar with, it is unlikely that I will become one of your customers.
And if I, as a late baby boomer, am not going to become one of your customers, it is unlikely that any other Gen X, or Millennials, or Z will become your customer either!
If you are not recruiting the next generation of wealth generators, or those who stand to inherit the wealth of the Baby Boomers, your business will decline with the demise of your present customer base. Because, wealth is a fairly sticky industry, being a late adopter is also not an option; while you are playing catching up with the tech, your prospective customers will already be developing a loyal (ish) relationship, albeit digital, with your early adopter competitors.
Never has it been more apparent that firms need to invest in the service demanded by their next generation of customers, not merely continuing to service the known needs of their aging existing customers.
So why is the mantra of “good, personalised service” now not enough? Well actually, it is! Good, personalised service is still the ultimate aspiration, it is just that the demanded delivery channel has changed.
The genie escaped the lamp with the advent of the first true smart phone in 2007. It has unwittingly changed everything, surreptitiously creating a default that relentlessly moves more and more of our lives into the digital realm, which is not going to stop. For those who have embraced this, or simply been willing passengers, the reward has been instant access to communication, information, and services, in short, the connected world to which most of us are now addicted.
My wife (Gen X) might query why the television has disappeared if I removed it (and she noticed that it was missing), but would be reduced to panic at just the thought of losing her phone and the constant access to the social media which weaves her life and those of her friends together. The genie is not going back into the lamp… nobody wants it to!
New entrants and disruptors have been quick to recognise this and have based their business models on exploiting the new digital relationship with customers. This in turn has continued to normalise the concept of immediate access, and feeding the momentum by which it is, or perhaps already has become, a prerequisite to winning over new, younger customers.
Even the regulators have had a hand in this. Open Banking was an attempt to encourage better services, easier customer mobility to those services and new, innovative products by breaking the incumbent banks’ monopoly on the customer relationship and data.
Whilst the promise of new products has been largely unrealised, banks have been forced to embrace digital to stay ahead of the disruptors, and arguably are providing a better service as a consequence. The regulators have also been trying to encourage transparency and customer mobility to better service within wealth management with little success to date… with the success of Open Banking, Open Wealth will follow!
And if the analogy is true, we can expect a rapid acceleration of digitisation in wealth management. But this should be viewed as an opportunity. Before Open Banking, I interacted with bank accounts approximately once a month when I received printed statements through the post.
Easier and immediate access to information and transactions has led to me interact with my accounts, and therefore my banks, on average three or more times a week. These interactions are captured digitally, providing volumes of data which can be used to identify services and opportunities specific to my needs; “good, personalised service” dead not dead, it has just become digital.