MyPrivateBanking Blog
Daily Comments on the World of Wealth Management

The pioneer years of robo-advisors have come to the end and the market will separate the wheat from the chaff. Too many automated investment services target the same, growing - but still not sufficient - client segment to nurture all or most of them. Too few of the automated investment services see their platform through the eyes of a first time user, while many are losing sight of the need for sustaining a customer experience that will - ideally - last for years.

In our new report on the leading robe-advisors worldwide, MyPrivateBanking makes a series of recommendations on the basis of our benchmarking evaluation, among them:

Aiming for transparency is the best policy, especially when presenting the robo-advisor’s pricing and product and process information.

Automated investment platforms need to be subjected to rigorous user experience testing. Looking good is not enough - equally, content must be in-depth.

Robo-advisors risk side-lining themselves if they don’t recognize that clients need financial plans as well as investment portfolios. At least a basic financial planning offer should be considered for inclusion as part of the robo value proposition.

We foresee the need for leading institutions to be more radical and wholehearted in their automated investment initiatives in the next few years, even if this means starting over again with a second robo-advisor to replace their first.

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MyPrivateBanking Research has taken a comprehensive look at the performance of the overall leaders in digital wealth management across mobile, website and social media channels.   Our assessment in this report is both highly granular, based on the underlying benchmarks by channel, but also it considers the holistic aspects of how firms have put in place strategies for digital transformation, to offer a unique perspective. The results show that only 5 of the Top 25 global wealth managers by AUM make it into our shortlist of eleven digital leaders, and just over half feature in the ranking of Top 20 cross-channel performers. This is a disappointing performance for two reasons, one is that as a sector financial services is a forerunner of digitization (especially in terms of electronic payments), and then there is the fact the 25 largest global wealth managers are responsible for over $15 trillion USD of client assets, circa 80% of the industry. That is a large proportion of clients for whom their wealth management relationship is under-digitized and the pace of change is too slow.

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In our latest study on “Fund Managers’ Digital Presences for Institutionals and Advisors” we have looked into the digital presences of fund and asset managers targeting institutional clients. We reviewed the websites, mobile strategies and social media efforts of the world’s biggest fund and asset managers from the perspective of “institutional investor” and “financial intermediary.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Today, the city of Düsseldorf in Germany has blocked a major bridge for cars as this bridge has become a big “Pokestop” and hundreds of Pokemon-gamers have occupied the bridge to hunt Pokemons. The game was released on July 6, 2016 - just three weeks ago and was downloaded more than 30 million times (status of last week). There are more than 20 million active, daily players, it is claimed. Pokemon Go is probably the most successful game that has ever been released.

Pokemon Go is an app-based mobile game that uses augmented reality. Players hunt Pokemons of various types, train them, exchange them and have them fight against each other. The fascination of the game is to a large degree caused by the blending of virtual elements (the Pokemons) with the real surroundings of the gamer. This is what we call “augmented reality”. It is a concept that is now available to the regular smartphone owner as modern smartphones contain HD cameras, gyroscopes, GPS and various other elements.

And augmented reality is exactly one of the critical elements that will be integrated in the digital customer journey in wealth management as well. Only a few years from now it will be unimaginable NOT to use augmented reality when communicating and transacting with your wealthy clients: virtual meetings, portfolio simulations, performance reporting, educational seminars, virtual events will all contain elements of gamification and augmented reality. Together with other important trends like speech recognition or the use of artificial intelligence for investment decisions, augmented reality is one of the critical features on the way to complete digitization of the customer relationship. While the number of personal interactions in an offline-environment will shrink considerably, it will be important for every private bank to make the customer experience in the digital sphere as unique as it used to be in the “old” offline world. If you haven’t, download Pokemon Go today and get a glimpse of wealth management’s digital future. You should also read our briefing on gamification in wealth management.

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In the following interview Oren Kaplan, the CEO of SharingAlpha, explains what the new firm is all about and why it is important to the wealth management industry.

MyPrivateBanking: Oren, can you explain the idea behind “SharingAlpha” in a few words?

Oren Kaplan: SharingAlpha is a user generated fund rating platform, or in other words, it’s where Morningstar meets TripAdvisor! SharingAlpha will also rank the fund raters in terms of their fund selection capabilities which will allow fund selectors and investment advisors to build their own proven track record. The users will also be able to construct a number of virtual fund of funds and SharingAlpha will rank them according to their asset allocation performance.

MPB: Why do you think that the collective fund ratings of investment advisors offer valuable insights given that we all have seen over and over againg that more than 80% of active fund managers are collectively not beating simple index strategies?

OK: Funds will receive a high SharingAlpha rating only when the different raters expect the fund to beat the passive alternative. Predictions based on collective wisdom have been proven to work in plenty of cases. Furthermore, qualitative fund analysis - using for example factors such as cost, capacity and active share - have also been proven to work and using a large group of market experts will make this task possible.

MPB: Is SharingAlpha also interesting for afffluent and high-net-worth investors?

OK: Yes, the fund ratings and raters ranking will certainly be followed by all types of investors.

MPB: How can the private banking industry take advantage of SharingAlpha’s offer?

OK: Number one, to improve fund selection and asset allocation recommendations based on the collective wisdom that will be shared on SharingAlpha. Number two, to build their track record and prove to clients that they are able to add value to their portfolio and justify their fees.

MPB: Thank you, Oren!

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the-question-for-wealth-managers-is-no-longer-if-they-should-have-a-mobile-app-but-how-they-can-develop-a-winning-mobile-app11

The question for wealth managers is no longer if they should have a mobile app, but how they can develop a winning mobile app to provide them with an essential competitive advantage.

Almost eight years ago, in July 2008 the Apple App store was launched and Google Play followed only a few months later. Since then the app market has grown, apps have become an essential part of our lives and the technical possibilities have developed a lot. The wealth management industry is typically not among the first movers when it comes to technical innovations but we have seen that the market of mobile apps for wealth management is slowly but surely catching up. In our latest study Mobile Apps for Wealth Management we have analyzed the mobile apps of 30 of the biggest wealth managers worldwide. We have found that in contrast to the previous years, the number of wealth managers that offer dedicated apps to their wealthy clients has increased (from 63% in 2015 to 82% in our latest 2016 study).

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Our new report on investors’ attitudes towards robo-advisors is based on a survey covering (mass-)affluent and HNWI in the UK and the US. The 600 respondents answered questions with regard to their awareness of robo advice, benefits and risks of automated investing, awareness of existing players and many others.

One of the main findings is that investors are generally very open to the new technology as more than 70% believe that automated advisory tools can positively influence their wealth manager’s advice and decision-making process. Particularly when it comes to onboarding processes, investors see huge benefits in automated online tools – 74% think that the technology is likely to speed up registration and, hence, lead to an increased efficiency and convenience.

Similarly encouraging, investors’ awareness of the robo technology is surprisingly high: 45% of the entire sample already heard or read about the concept of robo-advisors and 20% state to know quite a lot about it or even know it in detail. At the same time, the share of people saying that they don’t think to be using robo advice in the future is 20%, which is mainly driven by the older age segment with 55 years and above. Interestingly, the share of the hesitant appears to be more than twice as high in the US (28%) than in the UK (12%).

In the US, the largest share of respondents selected Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios as the brand they associate most with robo advice (43%) while in the UK, it is Nutmeg that leads the field, with the same share. This is quite interesting since original robo providers such as Betterment (18%) or Wealthfront (13%) seem to be far less known – this is a strong sign that it is a lot easier for established wealth management brands to promote their automated services.

Our new survey report elaborates on these and a lot more findings that draw a very clear picture of wealthy investors’ adoption of the robo advice technology. In addition to the general results, the report describes the main differences among the two focus countries, UK and USA, different wealth segments (mass affluent, affluent, and high-net-worth) as well as different age segments in order to derive valuable recommendations and learning points dedicated to wealth managers’ target client groups.

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Last Wednesday Bloomberg carried an interesting article: ‘For Robo-Advisors the Next Bear Market is Make or Break.‘ It left the question of make or break unresolved but it did have some interesting details about how Wealthfront and Betterment had fared in the first few months of this year, with Wealthfront reporting that it grew its client-base three times faster this January than 12 months previously. Meanwhile Betterment reported that client growth and net deposits had seen peaks in January and March.

The ability of robo-advisors to survive bear markets is still seen as their Achilles heel by some but the counter argument, that the application of behavioral finance insights and in robos’ outbound communication messages about consistent long-term diversified investing helps investors stay on course, seems to be gaining ground.
But isn’t there a more fundamental reason for the resilience of robo-advisors? Investors who start from scratch and grow their investments over a long period are likely to be less affected by aversion to loss(es) than a someone who gives a wealth manager a discretionary mandate for an already sizable fortune. The corollary for this though is that robo-advisors that require a minimum investment (e.g. Personal Capital - $25K, MedioBanca’s Yellow Advice - €20K) or ones with a charging structure that offers much better value for money for larger portfolios, may not have such an easy ride when the markets turn down. Moreover, perhaps there’s a penalty of success for very low cost robo-advisors and younger clients; growing their portfolios successfully and in 10 or 15 years’ time these clients will be a lot more worried about market downturns than they are at present.

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(by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst)

A few days ago, came the news that LPL, the major U.S. broker dealer has agreed that San Francisco-based Future Advisor is to provide its robo-advisor platform. Like other broker dealers, such as Commonwealth, LPL revealed that it was considering a robo solution last year. In our report on Hybrid Robos (February 2016), we looked at how easy it would be for established players (LPL included) would find it to create a hybrid robo/personal contact integrated model. This question is particularly acute for broker dealers as there are marked differences from a psychological perspective between approach of broker dealer client and a typical prospective user of a pure robo-advisor solution. To put it another way, loyal clients of robos and broker dealers probably expect and receive quite different user experiences. We have seen some bold, clever approaches at integrating the two on the part of some major banks but the LPL/Future Advisor initiative is a first. Future Advisor has branched out into B2B solutions (e.g. SaxoSelect and with BBVA Compass and Royal Bank of Canada) since being acquired by Blackrock in 2015. Our expectation is that the LPL robo solution will at least begin as a discrete entity with its own website but that there will be exciting opportunities a full hybrid robo/broker dealer a little further down the road.

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The FinTech market is becoming increasingly complex as new startups emerge and financial institutions come up with own innovations or collaborations with FinTech companies. Yesterday, I came across the latest deal – Goldman Sachs just bought retirement-saving company Honest Dollar that claims to enable employers to sign up in just 90 seconds while offering retirement benefit plans for competitive prices. The process is quick and easy - after having responded to some questions, employees are recommended one of six different portfolios consisting of Vanguard ETFs. Goldman Sachs aim to serve more people with more efficient retirement planning services by partnering with Honest Dollar and, hence, adding to their growing digital offerings. Currently, the finance giant claims, 45 million Americans are not offered retirement plans by their employers, which is mainly due to the high costs.

How important is it for people that they can sign in to such tools quickly and easily? Do they think their financial advisor can make faster and better decisions when using such tools? This and a lot more questions covering affluent people’s attitudes towards robo-advisory services are being answered by our upcoming panel study. Stay tuned! http://bit.ly/1pGGYQt

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