Wealth management is undergoing continuous change, driven mostly by technology and demographics. One of the biggest changes currently disrupting the business is the advent of wealth management applications, which are being adopted by younger clients, while at the same time that older generations are fading out of the wealth-generation game, drawing down their assets in retirement and following, for the most part, ultra-conservative investment strategies.
While demographics play a major role, the biggest factor in the widespread adoption of wealth management applications is the tremendous utility they offer to clients. Customers can now use a single application to automatically review all of their financial accounts, from stock investments to credit cards and checking or current accounts. These wealth management applications help make personal finance dramatically easier, delivering strong value while making older business models obsolete.
However, apps that are used to make budgeting and saving far easier only scratch the surface of what these new technologies are capable of delivering to customers. In fact, we are on the cusp of what may turn out to be the largest revolution in the history of the financial advisory and wealth management industries, with the role of human advisors shifting briskly towards high-level custom applications created to optimise financial operations.
Fundamental changes are shaking up business in the financial industry
Today, a sea of change is modifying the way people interact with financial institutions, as well as how they approach establishing, and making moves towards, their financial goals.
Since mobile devices are portable and reachable anytime and anywhere, users are not only comfortable with carrying out the majority of their financial dealings through their phones, it turns out that the majority of people actually prefer it.
As just one example, it has been estimated that more than 41% of current wealth management customers in the European Union today prefer exclusively using their mobile devices to access their financial accounts. And, these mobile-savvy users already have raised the bar considerably in terms of what expectations they have as customers.
The demographic shift towards younger, mobile-savvy users is guaranteed to drive major changes across the financial sector, particularly where inefficiencies from the old walk-in or telephone-based service models still linger.
Global consultancy firm Deloitte has identified a number of key changes that will take place as a direct result of customers demanding more when it comes to financial services. These include:
- High demand for self-serve financial portfolio management apps and tools that allow the client to perform the tasks that only wealth advisors could perform previously
- These younger, information-savvy investors, many of whom are immersed in the knowledge economy by trade, will quickly begin moving the needle on how investment services are delivered, causing a shift in how even older investors interact with their financial planners and accounts. The old model will simply no longer be tenable, and the legacy walk-in investment planning model will give way to technology-driven services
- Robo advisors are being deployed at the customer-facing level, once the sole domain of finance professionals, through financial portfolio management apps. This development threatens to radically change the role of financial advisors, shifting them towards high-level strategic planning
- Risk-management technologies that are harnessed by a financial portfolio management app are quickly surpassing the rigour and sophistication that any human advisor could muster
- Somewhat contradictorily, the notable expansion of technology, market complexity and risk mean that, increasingly, clients without a professional finance background struggle to develop a coherent roadmap towards meeting their long-term financial goals. Helping clients carefully form a long-term financial plan that is based on clearly articulated goals, then devising specific strategies to achieve those ends, will become the primary value proposition for financial planners
As the financial services industry transforms into one where its employees will be engaged in purely high-level, value-additive tasks, the demands of financial advisory jobs will shift in step. This is one reason why today’s financial planners and advisors must familiarise themselves with the gamut of financial portfolio management apps, in order to master all of the pieces on the chessboard upon which they will be helping their clients strategically move towards success.
Key features of wealth management software solutions
For some financial advisors who have been in the business for decades, the full capacity of emerging customer-facing apps in the wealth investment management and insurance business may appear ominous. While it may be true that the incredible breadth and scope of these tools is likely to reduce the total demand for financial advisors, it is equally true that those who fully learn to harness the power of these tools, guiding their clients in a direction that will help them reach their financial goals, stand to benefit immensely from their advent.
Just as clients vary in their sophistication, from those who have never read a word of the financial press, all the way up to high-net-worth accredited investors, the apps for wealth investment management and insurance range from simple to highly complex professional trading platforms.
Personal finance apps
One striking feature of today’s wealth management scene is the existence of mobile-based tools that are extremely simple to use and completely replace a large portion of the tasks many people once turned to professional advisors for help with. Most of these fall under the realm of personal finance, with features that quickly and easily help clients sort out their personal finances with just a couple of clicks.
Apps like Acorn allow clients to automatically invest money in set asset classes at set intervals, or with any surplus funds that arise. Other apps that make wealth investment management and insurance much easier include platforms like Mint, which allows customers to achieve a holistic view of their finances by linking all of their accounts into one centralised location.
Rather than run down the near-infinite list of such wealth investment management and insurance apps, it is easier to take a 5,000-foot survey of their most common service offerings. The features that are now just a click away for today’s wealth management clients include:
- Centralisation of all account data in one app. This allows for a holistic snapshot of one’s entire personal finance portfolio.
- Automated investment advice and execution. Many apps help clients invest by automatically funding investment accounts at regular intervals, given their personalised goals. With more sophisticated programmes, this may even include buying or selling specific securities.
- Robust contingency planning. Retail customers will have access to sophisticated calculators and risk simulations that will help them understand the full range of possible outcomes, as well as the most likely outcome for any investment or strategy. This can help people to easily visualise potential investment pitfalls, as well as hedge against catastrophic outcomes specific to their personal situations, such as diversifying so as to minimise the chance of total loss on individual stock investments.
- Investment tracking and monitoring. Many investment apps allow for constant tracking and monitoring of individual investments. This can be useful for those who take a more active approach to trading, as it alerts them to technical trends that may indicate important future market movements. It can be equally useful for value investors, letting them know when investments fall below a certain price, indicating a buying opportunity, or rise above a predetermined threshold, indicating that the market has overvalued the asset in question.
- Robust budgeting capabilities, with alerts once certain thresholds or benchmarks have been reached. Budgeting apps can alert clients in real time when they have achieved milestones, or are in danger of exceeding their budgeted expenses.
- Electronic filing of bills and receipts. Personal finance apps allow users to do away with the cumbersome filing of bills and receipts by taking pictures of them and then storing them in the app itself.
- Increasing visibility of personal finance through information-packed graphics. Columns in a spreadsheet often fail to cause patterns and key metrics to jump out in the way that well-designed graphs and charts do. The best personal finance apps have great graphics that can help people better understand their current financial position at a glance.
Generally speaking, apps, robo advisors, algorithmic trading and the internet itself are replacing the mundane tasks that financial advisors once performed. Things like executing single trades, or even balancing one’s portfolio, will increasingly be easily handled by customers themselves, who make use of wealth management software solutions.
But there is still an important role for financial advisors to play. Applying these applications in their businesses will help their clients use wealth management software solutions in a way that maximises their chances of reaching concrete personal financial goals. Financial advisors will play a critical role in helping clients establish exactly what their long-term financial goals are, especially in a world of ever-increasing complexity, confusion and risk.
My Merrill and Merrill Edge Example
Merrill Lynch is one example of a financial advisory firm that has taken a proactive approach to wealth management planning. The company has ordered its own custom wealth management planning software that complements the functions of its advisors. This helps Merrill Lynch customers get the best possible experience, while freeing up advisors to concentrate on the most value-additive tasks, like helping customers establish key long-term financial objectives, and then devising strategies that will best deliver the desired results.
The Merrill App gives users access to a plethora of financial services. These include:
- The ability to manage all financial accounts in one secure location. Clients can tie all of their accounts from Merrill Lynch’s parent company, Bank of America, into their Merrill App, allowing for total visibility of personal finances and an astonishing degree of control.
- Instant and secure connectivity with a client’s personal financial advisor. Merrill customers who have a question during business hours can instantly connect to their financial advisors, getting quick and authoritative answers from an industry expert to critical questions that may arise in today’s highly complex markets. Unlike some third-party apps, this makes custom apps that are tied to real advisory services a strong value creator for customers who will need real expert advice on tough strategic questions.
- A fully customisable dashboard. From stunning charts and graphs to original analyses and account overviews, the dashboard can be fully customised by the client, enabling them to see only the information that matters to them.
- Money transfers, bill-payment features and electronic check depositing. The Merrill App allows customers to carry out literally all of their banking tasks from one mobile resource. This includes the enormously convenient electronic cheque deposit option, where the customer can simply snap a picture of their cheque, and the funds will be deposited into their account, subject to temporary withdrawal holds in some cases.
- Centralisation of paperless statements and tax information. As a customer’s portfolio grows, the associated paperwork, and the documents required for tax reporting, can grow exponentially in tandem. With the Merrill App, this is easily handled by centralising all relevant documents into one mobile resource, backed up in the cloud.
Merrill also offers its clients the Merrill Edge trading platform. This is a far more sophisticated package that delivers state-of-the-art trading options and technical analytics to those who actively manage their market portfolios.
Custom wealth management app
While some in the financial advisory business have been slow to adopt any kind of wealth management planning software, others have fully embraced the trend towards technology. Many firms within the industry have been spearheading the development of wealth management planning software tools by designing their own custom apps, which are turning out to be compelling value propositions for discerning clients.
Wealth management software attracts clients by creating real value
A wealth management application is a necessary tool for companies that want to provide their customers with a full range of financial services while spending a minimum amount of their own, and the client’s, time.
Some recent studies have concluded that more than 50% of the global population is banking primarily through their mobile devices - this trend is poised to continue into the future. Clearly, any financial business, advisory firms included, should be carefully considering how to harness these trends in a way that will create the most value for clients. This should be viewed not as an obstacle, but as an exciting and challenging opportunity.
Those who are able to incorporate wealth management software solutions into their business will be in a position to oust their competition, while helping define the future of the financial advisory industry in the process.