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Archive for the ‘robo advisors’ Category

Tech vendors’ surprising ideas about wealth management digitization

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

In My Private Banking’s latest report, on the digitalization of advisor functions, we interviewed just over 20 people from 13 different wealth management technology providers and various other industry experts.  Our interviewees gave us some fascinating insights into the direction and pace of innovation but had a number of surprises for the My Private Banking analysts.

Small surprises - but nevertheless significant findings - included a general air of confidence among technology providers about the value of their contribution and their assessment of the outlook for their wealth management clients. Initially, we thought that technology vendors might not be so sure that their digitalization message was finding willing listeners in the wealth management industry.

However there were bigger surprises in store for our researchers, firstly in our interviewees’ evaluation of the relative importance of regulatory compliance the remainder of the current decade and, secondly, perhaps most unexpectedly of all, in their estimation of the part that AI and machine learning will play in advisor digitalization in the near-term.  This provides a useful reality check to some of the technology hype that’s currently popular around the topic of AI.

Overall, our analysis of the future of advisor roles and the part likely to be played by robo advisory services was confirmed, giving us a clear picture of advisors and digital tools working in concert as a dominant model of service.

Last of all, we were a little surprised at the relatively minor attention given to the way in which advisors and relationship managers will experience the change to their roles and work styles through digital enabling.

Our report provides detailed coverage of the difference digitalization will make to compliance, advisor-client interactions (and hence client ratios and overall efficiency) and in which technologies and functions we can expect change soonest.  In addition, we have analyzed the impact of advisor digitilization on communication channels and client journeys.  Our researchers have endeavored to convey the feel of our conversations with technology providers through plentiful quotations and the report sums up My Private Banking’s findings with a number of clear recommendations for wealth management firms and private banks.

 

Chat and Voice Wealth Advisory Client Interfaces @ Finovate Europe 2017

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

(by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst)

A number of presenters at Finovate Europe 2017 gave ample demonstrations of the way in which chat and voice are fast becoming as impacting to wealth clients as the wealth manager or robo-advisory website. The first to attract our attention was the presentation of Munnypot, a new UK robo-advisory service using the Five Degrees ‘Matrix’ platform. Munnypot’s major innovation is to achieve the entire client acquisition, portfolio assignment and onboarding process via chat powered by AI. We were also very impressed with the co-browsing functionality from SaleMove with an excellent demonstration of how this can work in a wealth management context. With SaleMove, advisors can track clients’ use of their interface in real-time and AI is used to offer (naturally and sensitively) immediate assistance via live chat or video chat/call. We understand that major players in the U.S. are already making use of this and it’s easy to understand how the technology will be a great improvement on advice offered via the telephone and will improve advisor efficiency at the same time.

There were also two interesting presentations demonstrating the potential for AI at the stage of portfolio reporting and market updates, both of which were voice-based. Poland’s Comarch presented an interesting ‘conversation with your broker’ taking place while on the road. Myra, the virtual broker, not only gave you a portfolio update but suggested changes and took your instructions to execute them. In the case of AIXIGO, partner in Luxembourg robo, Investify, we were shown portfolio reporting being provided through Amazon’s Alexa.

 

Robo Investing – Let’s Talk Digital

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

(By Francis Groves, Senior Analyst)

There was a strong consensus at yesterday’s Robo Investing conference that the future of automated investing is NOT standalone D2C robo-advisors. Breaking even as a go-it-alone robo is simply too much of a challenge for many to succeed; to be successful the robo approach needs to build on the advantage of established brands, though these are by no means certain to be just existing financial brands. Andrew Power of Deloittes made the point that a robo with average portfolios of £35K and charging 75 basis points would need AuM of £3 billion to break even.

What came across most strongly was the wealth of insights into what is need for automated interfaces to play their part in engaging new clients. Speakers made the point that the public need more education about their own need to make financial provision for themselves and the importance of switching from saving to investing if they are going to make their money work for them. However, as Rob Hudson of Aberdeen Asset Management said, institutions shouldn’t make education a main focus but, instead, should use ‘the power of easy’ and concentrate on putting financial products in front of customers.

Richard Theo of Wealthify suggested that simplicity (of design) could move mountains and that design really needed to concentrate on mobile delivery, gamification and the use of ‘nudge’ techniques. Anna Lane of the Wisdom Council also voiced concerns about simplicity and strongly recommended institutions leave out jargon and give absolute costs as well as percentages and basis points. The key learning points are to recognize that financial service users prefer automation to human interaction where it delivers what’s needed and that advisors need automation to improve efficiency and raise client:advisor ratios. Engagement is more than a good user interface and requires the creation of trust by means of the kind of preference and behavior analysis and anticipation of client needs that AI/machine learning can provide.

 

Only robo-advisors constantly pushing ahead for superior client experience will survive

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

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.

 

New survey: Investors surprisingly open when it comes to robo-advisors

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

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.

 

Robo-Advisors and Market Falls: Leaders Like Wealthfront and Betterment Are Surprisingly Resilient

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

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.

 

LPL’s Partner for Planned Robo-Advisory Solution

Friday, April 15th, 2016

(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.

 

Hybrid Robos – a close-up look at Schwab Intelligent Institutional Portfolios

Friday, February 19th, 2016

The launch of Charles Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios and Institutional Intelligent Portfolios last year was undoubtedly the most significant robo-advisor development in the U.S. in 2015. MyPrivateBanking  profiled Schwab Intelligent Portfolios in our Robo-Advisor 2.0 report and in our just published Hybrid Robo report, “Hybrid Robos - How Combining Human and Automated Wealth Advice Delivers Superior Results and Gains Market Share” , we take a closer look at Schwab’s Institutional Intelligent Portfolios (SIIP) as one of the report’s five case studies.

SIIP provides most of the advantages of digital investment management with the opportunity for a wealth manager to customize their own recommended asset allocations from a choice of 450 exchange traded funds that Schwab makes available for the purpose.

One aspect of the Institutional Intelligent Portfolios that took our attention was the way in which different advisory firms can use the Schwab solution to enhance their own offering in different ways. For example, it is perfectly possible for a wealth manager to to make SIIP available as an almost completely separate service with its own website and completely different branding. In effect, a registered independent advisor or financial planning firm that did this would be creating their own ‘pure’ robo-advisor. This limits the danger of cannibalizing the firm’s main client-base but it also restricts the possibilities for the users of the robo service. Longer-term, we believe that the future lies with greater integration of the digital component with a firm’s other services to create a hybrid offering of robo features and tools and personal interaction.

The most obvious kind of integration would be full integration on the wealth manager’s website with the SIIP option standing alongside a wealth management firm’s existing services, whether these are discretionary investment management, retirement planning, tax planning, specialist advice services for alternative investments or the other specialist services that a firm has made into USPS. This kind of transparent approach has much to recommend it and it is already being followed by some firms. For a firm specialising in just financial planning but which wants to provide an investment management component, this policy has clear benefits.

One more subtle alternative approach might be to have, say, a client rewards programme that is shared by a firm’s SIIP users and by its full service clients. Perhaps even more effective would be to allow SIIP users to make use of a finance management dashboard like eMoney that your full service clients are already benefiting from. Allowing the users of a firm’s digital offering to participate in behind the log-in features like these signals a much clearer welcome to smaller accounts (which will hopefully become full service accounts in time) than a standalone robo-advisory website can achieve on its own.

 

Vendors and Wealth Managers Agree: Digital Transformation Only Way to Success

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

MASTERING THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION – this was the slogan of this year’s Avaloq Community Conference. Besides presenting their impressing roadmap, clients and partners had the chance to attend live demos of exciting new tools and technological developments. Furthermore, there were several highly interesting presentations and panel discussions from Avaloq representatives, partners, and wealth management companies focusing on the digital transformation in banking and wealth management.

The main insights were:

Continuous experience across all channels are key. Continuous experience across all channels beats self-service/virtual branches (2nd) and collaboration tools on digital channels (3rd) in the race for banks’ digital strategy’s top priority according to the conference attendees’ voting.

Robo technology is no nice-to-have but the prerequisite for successful advisory. According to Thibaut Jaquet-Lagreze, Head of Marketing & Sales at Avaloq, the biggest costs are no longer caused by the back-end but by the front. The use of automated services (financial health checks, real-time market information, proposal generation, etc.) is the only way for financial advisors to serve a large number of clients and, thus, to generate margins securing their jobs.

Growing critical factors are agility and flexibility. Financial institutions and their clients are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to flexibility regarding the digital services. Here, Avaloq is a clear industry leader thanks to their unique Banklet™ technology. Barclays, whose wealth arm is relying on the Avaloq system, enable their clients to pick products and services from the Features Store to their accounts to allow for tailored solutions meeting clients’ individual needs (learn more in our upcoming report on Mobile Apps for Banking 2015 by end of September).

Vendors and banks are awaiting Generation Y. One common aspect of banks’ digital strategies was that Generation Y is just about to enter their client environment and that this leads to completely new challenges. Grown up with iPad, smartphones, and social media, young people expect their bank to offer them an integrated experience across all these channels to foster a personalized relationship and tailored wealth management services.

FinTechs’ influence is skyrocketing - crowdfunding and –lending are the hot trends. Total loans in crowdlending added up to $8bn in 2013 and are estimated to grow to $40bn in 2016 and to reach $1trn in 2025. Keep an eye on this trend and its effects on the banking industry and watch out for our new report on crowdfunding coming out this month!

Slim and integrated user interfaces are what banks should strive for. Integrated digitalization layers should serve all channels and all customers for building a common basis for internal and external customers, which significantly enhances communication. Moreover, to say it in CEO Francisco Fernandez’ words: the aim should be to “hide complexity, making it sexy to use”.

 

The self-driving car is here - but what about self-driving wealth management?

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Today I read that Audi will offer the new version of its A8 flagship model in 2016 with „piloted driving features”. Essentially the car will drive itself under certain circumstances, namely in traffic congestions on the highway. Google Cars have driven more than 1 million kilometers on public roads so far (with only a few minor accidents). It will be only a matter of time until auto-piloted cars will be available on the roads for everyday use. The industry is heavily pushing for a change of traffic laws and it seems that legislators will open up the roads in the near future. The benefits of self-driving cars are clear: fewer accidents, freeing up the driver to attend to other things while riding with her car and overall much smoother traffic and fewer traffic jams due to intelligent routing.

It appears to me that the wealth management industry is today at a similar junction and could push for the auto-piloted investor. But the industry leaders are more skeptical and not quite open to change - just the opposite of the car industry. The products are here - just think ETFs and passive, index-based investing. The technology has been developed: robo-advisors stand ready to help consumers get their investments right. The benefits are clear: Computers are much better investors than human beings.  Passive investing beats active investing in more than 80% of the cases. Algorithms have a much better appreciation of risk and return in financial markets than most private investors (and - I have to add - many professional wealth advisors, too).

But yet we see little enthusiasm in the global banking industry for automated, self-driving investments. The overwhelming majority of global banks leaves it to start-ups like WealthFront or Betterment to bring automated investing to the masses. A notable exception is the brokerage firm Schwab with its Intelligent Portfolio offer and a few online brokers.

It may be the case that banks and wealth managers are fearing that robo-advisors will put pressure on the fees for advisory services. But it should be clear to every industry participant that just as sure as self-driving cars will soon become a mass market, automated investing will be a success story in the financial industry. Why leave it to the start-ups and technology companies?

 
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