As a leading FinTech company, we’re in a position to see new industry trends before they take shape. Some trends happen quickly while others unfold over a longer period. Today, a trend is evolving that will forever reshape the financial services industry even more than it has already: Unified Digital Wealth Management.

Following the global financial crisis, the growth of self-service options swept across the industry. Savvy clients were unwilling to explicitly trust brokerage firms and advisors and demanded greater access to manage their own investments. Even as the industry bounced back, the self-service train kept on rolling, as evidenced by the growth of firms such as Scottrade, E*Trade, Vanguard and Charles Schwab, among others.

Fast forward to 2016… the trend continues. Investors want advice to be independent of the product or service channel they choose, so they can access advice only when they need, want, and value it. And increasingly, they want to direct their own investments, much as they direct other financial services (banking, insurance, bill payment). This poses a transformative challenge to the industry: blending self-service and full-service investments and brokerage into a Unified Wealth Management offering.

It also is a clear and present danger to full-service firms that have yet to embrace a unified, digital approach to wealth management.

It’s a question of when, not if

So what does this digital experience look like? It unifies and integrates the client experience across the complete service offering, placing investors at the center of the experience. And financial institutions are starting to pave the way
with a user-friendly “Client Portals” that can be accessed whenever and wherever the client wants. Across the industry, we are seeing improved client experiences offering:

  • Seamless integration of Self-Directed, Full-Service, Trust, Managed Account and Automated Advice in a single portal accessible via web and mobile
  • Portfolio analytics, performance measurement and other tools to help improve the performance of investors
  • Tools to simplify and improve investment selection, research and decision-making
  • Social, peer-to-peer benchmarking and comparisons
  • Set-and-forget capabilities to simplify investing
  • Comprehensive self-service options that extend beyond trading tools and money movement

“What-If” and scenario-based analysis

Most of these initiatives center around providing investors: more transparency, control and a deeper understanding of their investments, the ability to conduct research and the tools to make better investment decisions. It answers two burning questions investors have: “How is my portfolio doing?” and “”How can I do better?”

In turn, financial institutions benefit from empowering their clients: creating new revenue sources while deepening and strengthening relationships.

Adapt, or get left behind

Firms that delay making changes or fail to adapt, run the risk of becoming obsolete. The further along the trend moves, the harder it will be for firms to adapt that haven’t already begun to transition to the new paradigm. Other new options, such as Digital Advisory Solutions (Robo-Advisors), will continue to evolve. Industry regulations like Department of Labor rule changes will permanently change the competitive playing field.   Delivering targeted information, advice, and service to clients when they want and need it.

Coming out ahead

We don’t need to be fortune-tellers to see that wealth management firms must embrace the technology-driven digital change sweeping across the industry. This is particularly true for full-service firms, for whom the combined service offering will become a primary tool for attracting and retaining clients. With investors demanding anytime/anywhere access to a premium digital experience, firms that adapt quickly will win.