Repeatedly, wealth management leaders say their firms are adding new technology and adapting to digital advice trends. But one major consultancy says its research has found that's not the case.

"Essentially, wealth management as a sector is the least tech literate of all financial services," says Michael Spellacy, global wealth management leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

According to a new PwC report on technology and wealth management, Spellacy says that there is a huge disconnect between the use of technology by advisers and their high-net-worth clients.

Among the report's findings: 70% of HNW clients quizzed by the study were using online and mobile capabilities, whereas 25% of wealth managers have no digital contact with their clients beyond email.

"We see the HNW segment -- and even the ultrahigh net-worth individual -- increasingly adopting technology and being much more open to transferring at least a portion of their assets digitally," Spellacy says. "They will continue to have great relationship advice, but they also need to have digitally capable offerings, and a digitally capable way of interacting with their relationship manager."

CLIENT LOSS RISK?
The industry-held belief that the wealthy will eschew robo advice is an "obfuscation," according to Spellacy, who pointed out that according to PwC's study, 47% of HNW clients under 45 not using robos would consider them in the future.

"There's no doubt about the usage of technology at all levels of clients," Spellacy says, "and the veil has been lifted on performance. Everybody can now see what they are getting for what they pay for. And they know they can get as good if not better from a much cheaper portfolio than what you can get from an adviser."

Could wealth managers lose even their richest clients to digital advice providers?

Spellacy says there is a risk, as PwC found that only 39% of clients they surveyed would recommend their current wealth manager, a figure that dipped to 23% among clients with over $10 million in assets.

He chalked up the low numbers to lackluster engagement. The solution, he added, is for wealth managers of all practices to fully embrace digital means of connecting and serving their clients.

"It means bringing together the best of human capabilities and technology to deliver advice holistically across client needs," he says. "They have a complex set of emotional, financial and family goals, and the opportunity is there to use technology to bring a full set of capabilities to bear that a robo cannot."