MyPrivateBanking Blog
Daily Comments on the World of Wealth Management

With the unexpected level of success of the iPhone 6 generating record profits, Apple is said to be already ‘cooking’ up the next big tech sensation: the iCar. Apple’s shift into the auto sector would not mean the end of the iPhone business. On the contrary, Apple fans have come to devour anyiThing related to iPhones - apps, music, films and more. And that’s exactly the main idea behind the tech giant’s strategy: to captivate more prospects and clients with every new product into the Apple universe.

With Tesla already leading the electric car market one may wonder how is Apple going to compete against that given the company’s lack of experience in the strictly regulated automobile industry. Have the iBeetle and Google’s self-driving car not stolen the thunder away already? What new revolutionizing design or functionalities could the iCar bring? First of all, Apple has never played the race to first game, the iPhone was not the first smartphone ever seen and the iPad was not the first tablet on the market. Secondly, Apple’s strategy is strongly brand- focused on Apple being a product company and not a technology company like Samsung. The aim is not to come up with completely new products on the market but to make sure the products Apple brings to the market are well-designed and have cutting edge technology integrated. Therefore, the iCar project is going to take a few more years to be finalized. In the meantime, suggestions and rumors are unstoppable: the Apple car would connect to all its existing products thus creating an exciting Internet of Things (IoT) experience or it would enable unimagined ways of interacting through digital channels while driving. Imagine your car morphs into a full-fledged office. It will be another step to make clients and employees more independent of their physical surroundings. It will have implications for advisors and their clients, for the ways they work, meet, communicate and interact.

Electric cars and Apple definitely make an interesting combination but to take on the car industry will be a different kind of fight than everything Apple has done so far.

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Exploring the digital world of financial advice for our upcoming report, we had to take a deeper look at cognitive computing, analysing the role of tools like IBM Watson and others. The technology certainly sounds promising: enabling advisors to make better and faster recommendations to serve a higher number of wealthy clients with higher quality recommendations through cognitive computing. This way, IBM Watson is likely to play a substantial role in easing the pressure for wealth managers, which results from shrinking margins as well as from rapid digitization in private banking.

While the use of Watson in financial advice is still in an early phase, the technology shows already promising results in healthcare. Moreover, IBM Watson plans to launch their first intelligent toy for children this year – CogniToys are supposed to develop with the children side by side, learning together with them through continuous interaction.

The need to educate Watson prior to using it effectively is the critical step for wealth managers who consider implementing the technology. Although there are some use cases already, for example at Singapore-based DBS, most banks are not yet rolling out AI platforms – such as Watson – as they are waiting for a clear proof their economic viability and ability to deliver RoI.

It is out of question that intelligent, learning software platforms with cognitive abilities will find their way into the wealth management industry. Early adopters may face some uncertainties but will certainly gain a competitive advantage being a step ahead of the pack.

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/by Francis Groves , Senior Analyst/

I saw numerous presentations at FinovateEurope that have implications for wealth management, especially in the wide variety of security features and applications designed to help people with their financial goals were demonstrated. However, there were just three presentations that looked at supporting the work of wealth managers/client relationship managers specifically.

The first of these presentations was from Crealogix, the digital banking software providers based in Zurich, whose CLX.AdviceManager financial advisory mobile app we covered in MyPrivateBanking’s ‘Mobile Apps for Financial Advisors 2014′report. Now Crealogix are adding a new product to their overall offering for financial advisors called ‘BankClip’. This an easy to use video clip assembly module that enables the advisor to create a customized video including components such as an update on the client’s portfolio, excerpts from the latest market commentary by the private bank’s analysts together with, for example, the advisor themselves making the argument in favour of a change to the client’s portfolio. It’s a good way to make service more personalized and more immediate and it really was straightforward to implement.

The next item that was specifically relevant to wealth management was by newcomer Mydesq, also based in Zurich. The company’s CEO, Milan Vora, demonstrated their just launched advisor application. The most impressive aspect of Mydesq is how much the application assists advisors with its continuously updated compliance content. This not only enables advisors to keep up-to-date with regulations in multiple jurisdictions but it seamlessly introduces all necessary compliance-related changes to the advisor’s work processes. As an advisor application, Mydesq includes features to support account and portfolio analysis and portfolio recommendations to the client. A client app is planned for Q2, 2015.

Lastly, Vienna-based CPB Software introduce some of the features of its PROFOS software, launched in September 2014. The three aspects of PROFOS that particularly stand out are presentation in relation to risk, the financial crises feature and the client profiling. PROFOS has introduced an extra degree of flexibility in portraying investment risk so that in addition to text explanations or charts projecting risk, the advisor can employ other graphical tools to explain risk in relation to the client’s portfolio. The financial crises feature of PROFOS allows the advisor to demonstrate how the client’s portfolio would have performed during specific crisis events such as the Russian default in 1998, the dotcom bust or the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Lastly, PROFOS allows the advisor to create a (confidential ) profile of each client on the basis of client meetings that will enable them to prepare for future meetings in the most effective way. The client profile focuses on the client’s negotiating style and communication style in particular and gives the advisor extra resources for achieving mutually satisfactory outcomes from client meetings.

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/by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst/

MyPrivateBanking were kindly invited to FinovateEurope 2015 and I attended on Wednesday this week. So how was it? There were a lot of presentations by providers of payments technology, so, occasionally they seemed to be crowding one another. Nevertheless, payments is really technology security going by another name and there were plenty of other security features presented as well. It seems a safe prediction that some of these will have implications for private banking and wealth management. We hope to post here about these in more detail before long and we’ll also look at some of interesting private banking relationship manager applications that were featured at Finovate.

One of the presentations that stood out for me in the field of security was Israeli firm NICE Systems’ voice authentication solution, demonstrated on a bright green analog phone (circa 1965) complete with curly flex. I especially liked the way that the voice database can store the voice ‘print’ of crooks and scammers. The genuine you can be authenticated in less than six seconds; the criminal impersonator lasted just eight seconds before they were identified.

Solutions aiming to educate and support clients included the gamification applications from AdviceGames of the Netherlands. This looks fun to use but I’m not sure that the pirates theme of the games demonstrated would really appeal to the older customer. Also impressive was the Spendific app from the Norwegian firm Evry. This is a savings goal app for 18-24 year olds. You set your goals and allow the app to have a say in how you spend your money; it’ll tell you things like whether a particular purchase will wreck your saving plan and how much money you’ll have for the rest of the week if you go ahead. It’s not particularly sophisticated – or diplomatic – but it is a great way for people to be sure that their financial good intentions bear fruit. Moreover, it’s easy to see that Spendific could be integrated with financial planning and investment applications as users become older and wealthier. Also, it’s another example of the imperative to be financially prudent being promoted in retail finance that we’ve noticed is a feature of several robo-advisory services. I love the name ‘Spendific’; it’s just a pity that this is a white-labelled product so users won’t get to use it.

Finally, who received the most applause? This was the Polish Internet bank, mbank, and their collaboration with i3D to create a hybrid interactive digital/physical banking experience for shopping malls. As well as standard functions, the shopping mall bank enables very rapid enrollment in banking products such as payment cards complete with special offers for the retailers nearby. A key feature are the very large multi-touch, motions sensing screens that provide identification through face recognition. All the time the mall is open for business, the mbank branch stays open and though rentals are high, the bank’s staffing costs are considerably lower than for a normal bank branch.

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Many banks and wealth managers are happy once their great new banking or wealth management app is uploaded to the app store(s). They start promoting the app to their client base and advertise it on their webpage. And that’s where the story usually ends.

Our analysts are often dismayed how difficult it is to find the right banking app in the app  store or on the Internet. If a client does not know the precise name of the app, she might not be able to find the app at all. Existing clients can at least be targeted and informed directly by the bank. But what about prospective customers? A wealth manager might just have launched this wonderful research app with great new features. It would be an awesome tool to convince potential new clients to check out the wealth manager. Yes, it would and it could. But prospects hardly find this new app. Because banks hardly think about app marketing, app search and app promotion.

Pinterest is a place where people check out new things. Cook recipes. Fashion. Gadgets. And beginning in this week, there will be also the Pinterest app store for iOS apps only (at this point). iPhone and iPad users can download apps directly from Pinterest without going to the app store. I think this is one great example how banks should start thinking about app promotion. Recommending an app with cool images. Getting your app on the smart phones and tablets of prospective clients is becoming more and more important for promoting a wealth management organization and ist capabilities. The Pinterest app store is just one option.

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/by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst/

Yesterday there was news of two major acquisitions of fintech companies in the United States with the takeover of Advent Black Diamond by SS&C in a deal worth $2.3bn and the purchase of eMoney Advisor, the financial planning software company.

The eMoney Advisor deal is reported to have cost Fidelity Investments just $250 million and reflects the fact that although financial planning software can bring great advantages to financial advisors and eMoney Advisor seems to be highly regarded in its field, the software itself seems surprisingly cheap. A license for eMoney Advisor’s emX PRO product currently costs less than $4,000 a year. Other financial planning products in the U.S. are even cheaper.

In fact eMoney Advisor offers more than financial planning software with marketing tools (advisor branded media such as videos and presentations), account aggregation, vault solutions and, perhaps most importantly, its client portal. The eMoney Advisor personal financial management (PFM) tool (they call it a client site) is seen as possibly the most attractive of the company’s products in the eyes of Fidelity. MyPrivateBanking’s view is that Fidelity’s purchase should probably not be seen as a cherry picking opportunity and that they have plans for the whole product range. That said services like MINT.com or Personal Capital’s financial software are showing that personal finance portals have plenty of potential in the retail segment.

Just what those plans may be is unclear at this stage but the eMoney Advisor purchase has raised concerns among financial advisors that use its products even though Fidelity has promised not to interfere with emX’s integration on the platforms of other custodians such as Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade. Concerns have also been expressed at the possibility of Fidelity making use of big data on HNWIs’ portfolios available on the eMoney Advisor platform but this raises such serious questions about who really owns that data that we think Fidelity Investments would see this as a highly dangerous strategy.

Although we shall have to wait to see how Fidelity plans to build on its eMoney Advisor acquisition, it is clear that the company is fully aware of the need to accelerate the speed with which it engages with digital technologies to provide more help to investors. MyPrivateBanking believes that, in particular, the new collaborations between Fidelity Institutional and Betterment Institutional, and with LearnVest may be a sign that Fidelity’s focus on providing advice and planning services to the mass affluent and the young via technology is increasing.

The eMoney Advisor deal also sheds an interesting light on the volume of investment going into fintech from venture capital funds. Fidelity is paying a lot more than start up’s funding but it is getting an established revenue stream of at least $30 million a year as well as a well qualified team of 250 people. It seems likely that they have interesting plans for that team as a team but that they will respect what eMoney Advisor has already achieved since it started 15 years ago.

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I read an interesting article about the fear AI (Artificial Intelligence) development causes due to an assumed threat of destroying jobs. However, the conclusion Andrew Ng, the famous AI researcher, makes, hits the nail on its head: the true challenge is not the robots but the retraining of the employees.

What does this imply for wealth managers? As robo-advisors gain ground, don’t waste your time but think about ways how to obtain benefits from this development. Define your new competitive advantage and exploit the psychological lead a human advisor (still) has over a robot.

Watch out for our upcoming report in March 2015 on digital interfaces for financial advisors to learn how.

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Reading about the more and more popular Steve Jobs schools or new iPad schools in the Netherlands it struck me that this kind of digitized scenario is exactly what happens or should be happening in the financial industry. Children attending these schools need no textbooks, blackboards, pencils, or fixed classrooms but only their iPad. They choose what they want to learn and in the rhythm they can do it. And most importantly, the educational apps are interactive, thus providing each kid with immediate feedback on his/her tasks, which changes the traditional teacher-student hierarchy into a closer student-coach relationship.

And this is also what financial advisory should be based on: coaching, advising, suggesting, making recommendations for the client while also allowing clients to use the same technology as the advisor does. Making sure the advisor has access to the latest tech solutions that bank clients are using, being able to offer flexible communication channels like social media or to share screens during a video conference with overseas clients.

Mobile devices and digital solutions reinvent the school for our children, offering them flexibility and enabling individualized learning, helping them stay focused on what they really want to learn. Applied to the advisory world, the advantages are the same: clients become empowered, stay up-to-date with developments and communicate effortlessly with their advisors from anywhere in the world while advisors and relationship managers morph into client coaches. Will banks and wealth managers have the courage to follow this new path?

Our upcoming report (March 2015) on mobile apps and digital solutions for wealth advisors will focus on the technology infrastructure required for a changing client relationship.

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(by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst)

Windows 10, due for release on Wednesday January 21st, is being reported as Microsoft’s latest effort to establish itself in the smartphone business. At first glance this looks like a lost cause with sales of Windows smartphones globally only making up 3% of global sales in the third quarter of 2014. With such poor market penetration, many mobile app developers are simply not including Windows in their calculations. Certainly, MyPrivateBanking’s findings on app deployment by financial institutions suggest that Windows smartphone users are very rarely catered for.  In some cases Microsoft is reported to have been paying important developers to develop Windows phone apps.

In these adverse circumstances, Microsoft is doing what it can to make its mobile platform more appealing to app developers and mobile app market. With regard to Windows 10 this means that developers are going to be able to adapt compatible applications available on personal computers more easily to mobile use.

Many commentators seem to hold the opinion that nothing that Microsoft can do can overcome their original late entry into the mobile market and the relative failure of Windows smartphones ever since. A contrarian view might be that Microsoft still remains supreme in terms of work-place computing, even if not in terms of devices used by workers, and there might yet be ways to grow the market for Windows as a mobile platform by leveraging the average office’s reliance on Windows on its laptops/desktops.

To a large extent the success (or failure) of different platforms for mobile has been a matter of fashion. So which way does fashion flow, from experience of technology in a work context into leisure and recreational activities or the other way around? Sadly for Microsoft, we think that apps for recreation are the trendsetters BUT there may be hope for Windows in some contexts where the purchasing decisions lie with employers rather than individuals. Apps for staff ‘on the road’ or ‘in the field’ are big business though not as high profile apps for leisure. And, of course, increasing numbers of people have more than one smartphone in their possession; my work mobile - as opposed to my mobile - is common.

In terms of mobile apps for wealth management clients, we expect that they will continue to be content with apps for Android and iOS, where all their other after-work app requirements are being met. But if Microsoft were to come up with awe-inspiring developments in cloud computing  or Internet security or its natural language research program, Windows as a mobile platform could have a new start in life.

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Remember Inspector Gadget, the detective who solves cases with the help of high-tech devices? Totally futuristic in early 80s, the concept is easily applicable to today’s financial advisors. While particularly the advisory services for the mass-affluent experience a severe threat from the booming robo-advisor industry, we forecast a pressing need for HNW clients’ advisors to redefine their role, too.

In Private Banking, advisors or relationship managers as they are called there, will not disappear as the main interface to the high-net-worth client. Digital innovations like robo-advisory tools, mobile apps, video conferencing, or social media dashboards will support and improve the advisor’s work. Just like her cartoon sibling, the new advisor is combining her human benefits (the emotional intelligence) with the technological benefits (the data, analytical and visualizing part). The new advisor will be – like Inspector Gadget - inspired by Cyborgs, bringing together the best of human capabilities and machine intelligence.

The new advisor offers to her clients support and coaching across all channels in real time in an increasing personalized way. Big data tools help her to identify relevant information to recommend the right products at the right time. Social media compliance tools deliver the compliant framework for advanced client communication, and sophisticated video conferencing tools allow for flexible advice anywhere and anytime. Thanks to dedicated mobile apps, client meetings improve in terms of quality, engagement and efficiency.

Watch out for our upcoming report on digital interfaces for financial advisors this spring!

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