MyPrivateBanking Blog
Daily Comments on the World of Wealth Management

Archive for March, 2015

How robo-advisors can make ETF investors smarter

Friday, March 27th, 2015

/by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst/

MyPrivateBanking was very pleased to include a profile of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios in our latest report on robo-advisors, published last week, AFTER the launch of the new Schwab service and to be able to make a full assessment of it. Inevitably in such a fast changing area, fresh developments in the robo-advisor sector keep coming and this week we have seen the announcement of the acquisition of LearnVest by Northwestern Mutual. We cover LearnVest in our report, even though we don’t see LearnVest as a full robo-advisor (and neither do LearnVest). However, we do think that LearnVest has some important robo characteristics and its pricing and range of services make it a disruptive force in the industry in a very similar way to robo-advisors. The company’s acquisition by a major financial institution is another example of the way in which corporate strategy is now becoming a major motor of the robo-advisory revolution, a topic that we cover in detail in our latest robo report, which we sub-titled ‘How Automated Investing is Infiltrating the Weath Management Industry’.

John Bogle, the highly respected founder of Vanguard, recently repeated his skeptical views about exchange traded funds (ETFs), saying to FTfm that they were an encouragement for investors to use index tracking in a counter-productive manner. Bogle has been a committed opponent of market timing tactics either by private investors or mutual fund managers and at Vanguard he was a pioneer of index investing. Although many would consider ETFs to be index tracking instrument ‘par excellence’, he’s convinced that investors will be tempted to trade too frequently for their own good. Vanguard’s  own current CEO has come out against Bogle’s criticism in favor of ETFs as a healthy innovation that have lowered the costs of investing for millions of people.

In the light of this debate about the dangers of ETFs, the robo-advisor trend could be a godsend to the ETF industry. Not only are robo-advisors an effective way to encourage people to start investing, they are almost all proponents of planned investing as opposed to impulsive investment decisions. With the robo-advisors around, ETF sponsors can say ‘look, these new robo platforms depend on our products and demonstrate that it’s perfectly possible to use ETFs prudently for investors’ long-term gain.’

Of course, robo-advisors have yet to prove their index tracking commitment in a number of ways. Individual robo-advisors could stray off the path of passive or mainly passive investing and become too smart for their clients’ good. Also, as has often been said, we’ve yet to see how robo-advisor clients behave in a real panic in the financial markets. Finally, we don’t yet have data on how consistently robo-advisor clients are behaving. Are clients sticking with the plan or do they sign up with a robo in a burst of enthusiasm and then lose interest, leaving a perfectly proportioned ‘bonsai ‘ portfolio in their account rather than a full grown tree to provide shelter in retirement or adversity.

On this last point, our view is that some investors will be committed enough to enjoy real benefits and some won’t, but enough people will use their accounts in the way the robo-advisors intend for the robo model to count as a success and to be held up as an example to be followed in the retail investment market.

 

How technology is getting wealthy clients involved with their investments

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

One major finding of our report on Digital and Mobile Solutions for Financial Advisors 2015 is that vendors are increasingly targeting the end customer. For instance, while only half of the vendors we covered in the 2014 report offered apps that could be used simultaneously by advisors and end clients, this rate has increased to 88% in 2015. While, for example, eMoney Advisor’s client tool is actually a mobile compatible website, it offers interactive workshops to HNW clients for self-education, an electronic vault to store multimedia content, and screen sharing capabilities to enhance client-advisor communication.

The implication is that the market leaders have recognized that high-net-worth clients are becoming increasingly self-directed and demanding when it comes to tools for handling their financial matters. We are convinced that such tools will be an obligatory part of wealth managers’ digital offerings in the near future and, according to our latest findings, the leading solutions already excel today through extraordinary features like elaborate document management or screen sharing capabilities to collaborate with their financial advisors.

 

Latest trend in authentication works with a heartbeat

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Well publicized, recent security breaches at giant retailers (Home Depot) and financial institutions (JP Morgan Chase and the European Central Bank (ECB)), have caused waves of panic about the security and privacy of sensitive (financial) data. As this threat seems to be ever expanding and detection of security attacks gets more and more problematic, the Canadian startup Bionym has developed a biometric alternative to passwords, PINs, or other time-consuming security details. The Nymi wristband leaves other biometric authentication methods like Apple Pay’s touch ID fingerprint technology for contactless payment behind. It could be used for numerous applications like unlocking devices, remembering passwords, authorizing transactions, or controlling connected devices. The bracelet has an integrated electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor that enables measuring a user’s heartbeats (the electrical activity one’s heart generates), which is unique to every person. Nymi uses the heartbeat signature to authenticate and confirm the user’s identity. There are three levels of security involved: the heart ID, the armband itself and an authorized authentication device like a smartphone (via Bluetooth and a matching app for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android). The user must wear the bracelet on the wrist and touch its top sensor with the opposite hand for it to work.

UK’s Halifax bank’s decision to test Bionym’s technology to allow its clients to make online banking operations in an easy and secure manner is an exemplary initiative. It shows that biometric identification is the future for online banking security. Over the next three years, we expect many innovations in this space – just like Nymi.

 

Arming Advisors with their New Digital Weapons

Friday, March 6th, 2015

MyPrivateBanking Research released a new report on ‘Digital and Mobile Solutions for Financial Advisors 2015‘ this week. Unlike the first two editions, which focused exclusively on mobile apps for financial advisors offered by technology vendors like Avaloq or Temenos, the new edition has a much broader perspective. Besides evaluating the developments the established vendors implemented in their mobile apps over the course of 2014, in-depth research has taken place in the fields of communication solutions (particularly video tools), recommendation and analytical solutions, as well as social media management tools.

In addition to the interviews our analysts conducted with the technology vendors themselves, they did several interviews with representatives of the leading wealth management companies, private banks and bank consultants in order to derive a deeper understanding of the actual level of digitization in wealth advisory business.

The three most disruptive trends according to our analysis are:

Remote meetings increasingly gain importance. Contributing to an omni-channel client experience, advisors are shifting more and more towards alternative digital channels like video conferencing and screen sharing tools.

Advisors are under great pressure. Shrinking margins force wealth managers to serve more clients per advisor who therefore need to be more efficient to operate feasibly. Solutions, which partly automate certain processes as well as social media management tools, are the response to these needs for an increasing number of advisors.

Clients are becoming more self-directed. With the booming app supply for retail banking clients, the high-net-worth clientele are demanding digital tools for their financial matters, as well. Hence, matching client tools empowering them to do their financial planning or even trading and portfolio rebalancing by themselves, are already standard. What has yet to be covered more extensively is the provision of advisor contacting options. Many advisory apps still lack basic communication features like video and text chat.

The report combines all the thought-provoking findings from these interviews, detailed company profiles of the vendors included with thorough descriptions of the solutions and products, and comprehensive conclusions on all these results.

 
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