The dilemma of digital is that it simply does not do everything. As long as there are humans on this planet, it never will. Notwithstanding this, what “digital” has achieved as a concept is it has forced us to rethink.
Such an opening set of statements above may lead you to think that I consider digital to be flawed. Far from it! I believe it is the best thing that ever happened to financial services and, in particular, wealth management. Digital has forced a reassessment of the importance of engagement between the private client and the private bank. Notably, this has been led by clients not by the industry. That makes it even more refreshing.
To paraphrase a commercial for a famous technology brand of several years back: “once you get technology out of the way things become delightful”. Such a statement is particularly true with digital financial services. The arrival of digital has opened a world of options for wealth families across the world when it comes to their personal finances. They can reconnect. They can interact. They can understand. This outcome was not really anticipated by the wealth management industry. The brightest financiers thought that the wealthiest people in the world had no time for digitization. They were too busy elsewhere.
The reality is that the wealthiest in the world were among the early adopters of digitization and finance. Our insight showed this as early as 2005. They saw its benefits. They had the most equipment. They were online. Wealthy individuals saw quickly that digital was an enabler toward achieving an enriched financial life. Most professionals thought differently: digitisation was a transaction tool. Few recognised its broader potential.
The client’s long-term exposure to digitization has consequences for the next phase of wealth management. The client is pushing the digital concept to a new level. They are using it to reframe the relationship model. The traditional wealth management relationship has been totally dependent on people. The personal expertise and contact was the essence of the value. It was the alpha and the omega of the proposition.
Clients do not disagree. In fact, they never challenged it, even when some feared digital might replace human contact. For clients what digital is providing is a way in which to make this relationship even better. At its core digital is data. Data in a wealth management environment is, fundamentally, all about information. Wealthy individuals are now seeking out ways to integrate this data into the personal relationship model.
Looking to the future digital wealth management will transform how clients and their professional advisors interact with information. The best relationships will be those where the information is equally shared. Ultimately, digital is essentially a means to an end and not an end itself. Resistance to it is futile. For everyone to get the best out of digitization in our lives it is clear that partial participation is almost impossible.
The leading families of the world already embrace this. They seamlessly switch between digital and non-digital. Indeed, such clients do not really notice the difference. For them it is all about better outcomes. So, whether they are on a boat or in a bank, they expect that the content of the digital environment is at the fingertips of both themselves and their advisors. With this type of access then the opportunities appear.