The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of lives. It has also disrupted business as usual for countless professions throughout the world. Virtually everyone is worried about financial stability with both assets and incomes in jeopardy. According to the World Trade Organization, global trade is expected to decline between 13 and 32 percent in 2020. The United Nations’ labor agency estimates that the crisis will erase roughly 6.7 percent of global working hours in the second quarter of 2020. That’s equivalent to 195 million full-time workers. With social distancing measures in place, the importance of digital business transformation has never been clearer. Digitally enabled businesses have been able to continue servicing customers, whereas digital laggards have been brought to a standstill. This juxtaposition has reinforced the urgency of digital transformation for business operations, but it’s just as important for wealth management.
Q2 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more
Digital Wealth Management: The New World
Investors helplessly watched significant swaths of their savings disappear as global markets plunged and their businesses made a fraction of previous earnings.
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Everyone is wondering what the long-term impact of this economic freefall will be on their financial goals and how they can safeguard their portfolios in the meantime. It’s time for all businesses to reassess their roadmaps toward digital transformation. COVID-19 just accelerated benchmarks that may have been five to ten years away.
We see a paradigm shift in wealth management. Before the pandemic, priorities included sales enablement, client experience, operational efficiency and innovation for growth. During this crisis, however, these will take a back seat to focused client acquisition, client retention, operational effectiveness and innovation to sustain. Wealth managers must act with the appropriate digital tools to save and sustain their business in this new world:
Focused Client Acquisition
- Help investors who are worried about financial wellbeing for the first time
- Transfer wealth to the next generation of clients due to health concerns
- Offer specific products to meet market demand
- This will require business intelligence and artificial intelligence tools to process client demographics and marketing tools to communicate products and services.
- Engage with clients more frequently
- Share timely and accurate information on performance
- Advise and manage allocation changes
- This will require video-conferencing, mature accounting/reporting platforms and chatbots for client queries.
- Ensure proper security controls for remote working teams
- Execute client requests in a timely manner
- Avoid human errors with stronger reviews and controls
- This will require flexible workflows, resilient trading/accounting platforms and reconciliation/validation platforms to identify gaps.
Innovate to Sustain
- Customize products and services based on client needs
- Tweak fees and pricing models as needed
- Reduce time to market to launch newer products
This will require scalable cloud native solutions and flexible, well-designed architecture.
Right now, we have a newly remote workforce and threats to operations and security. But in the near future, digital engagement will become normalized and workers will worry about more familiar problems – margin pressures and new fintech competitors.
Lessons from early adopters
With an integrated digital platform that drives deep engagement, these early adopters could proactively address COVID-19’s challenges to the financial wellbeing of their clients.
What can wealth management firms learn from rivals that have already taken steps toward their future states as digital leaders? They can get up to speed by studying the innovations their competitors have already adopted and consider investing in similar offerings:
Once they appreciate what fintech is already capable of, wealth managers need to assuage the fears of panicked investors watching their money slip away while repositioning their clients in a new and uncertain marketplace. To make matters worse, they are facing the same problems as their clients – a drop off in new business opportunities and potential customers.
Protect the business
Managing black swan events is part of their job, so wealth managers should know how to handle them.
Amid this pandemic, it’s clear that the needs and risk profiles of clients have changed, which necessitates a reallocation of assets in their portfolios. Many people are struggling with the immediate threat to their current stream of revenue and need to unlock immediate cash to pay their bills and fulfill their responsibilities in work and personal life: business expenditures, mortgages, school tuitions, philanthropic
donations, etc. Once that’s addressed, wealth managers need to revisit the mid to long-term goals of their clients. This includes potential changes to their lifestyle and retirement age. But shifting their investments early and thoughtfully could shorten this time of purse-string tightening and prevent the worst potential consequences of the economic fallout.
Prepare for the future
It’s important for wealth managers to understand that this too will pass and macrotrends will change. Countries and businesses that handle the crisis better will come out stronger than others. The balance of economic power will likely shift. Travel and hospitality have already suffered significant losses and these are all but guaranteed to continue until a semblance of our previous reality is restored. For a variety of reasons, other sectors will boom and become even more vital to our lives. Healthcare, for instance, is an essential part of our entire system and has been woefully underfunded up until this point. Other sectors, such as online retail, were previously seen as nonessential luxuries for people who didn’t have time to go shopping or were perhaps too lazy to leave their homes. Now it’s clear that online retail wasn’t just a convenience but a crucial part of our new world. Digital-first financial firms are better suited to handle the current predicament given that their entire business model is predicated upon frictionless service from anywhere at any time. That’s exactly what customers need at a time like this. But it’s also what they want during simpler times anyway. To keep pace, business models and new products will evolve to reduce the amount of time a customer needs to spend outside the home. There will still be the option to enter brick-and-mortar stores in general, but it will become increasingly less necessary with time.
In this new world, wealth managers need to take decisive actions:
- Leverage AI and increased data structures to create more personalized experiences for clients and advisors
- Rework traditional asset allocation models to improve portfolio performance and reduce risk for the clients
- Focus on cloud native solutions to drive business agility and operational effectiveness
- Embrace new alternative investments (fintechs, digital currencies) to diversify and improve results
- Strengthen accounting, results and reporting platforms to make timely, accurate information available to clients
- Use newer collaboration platforms (video conferencing, chatbots) for seamless, real-time client support
Priya D. Bajoria, SVP of Financial Services at Publicis Sapient
Priya Bajoria, Senior Vice President at Publicis Sapient. Priya has extensive experience in industry transformation utilizing digital technologies and innovation with a unique background in consulting & investment banking. Before joining Publicis Sapient, Priya leads Infosys' North American capital markets business. Before joining Infosys in 2000, she was an Investment Banker with Merrill Lynch in Asia. Priya is a champion of diversity in organizations, a sponsor/ mentor of women's leadership networks, and actively volunteers for CSR initiatives.