Banks' emerging strategy for digital advice: All channel access

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As banks wade into digital advice, they do so knowing they will need to appeal to every stripe of client, rather than a specific niche.

The strategy then calls for relying on an advantage banks still have over virtual competitors and even wealth management firms, says Mark Jordahl, president of U.S. Bank's wealth management group: meeting clients in multiple channels, including bank branches.

"We're not going to proscribe any way for clients to access us," Jordahl says. "We want to enable them to access us as they want to access us."

U.S. Bank is one of several institutions that paired with BlackRock to launch a digital wealth platform, and Jordahl says that it is on track to be launched this year.

Like many retail banks, Jordahl says there's been a realization that wealth management can be offered beyond its niche unit, to reach the 2 million clients the bank has deemed mass affluent or above.

He shares a common disdain for the term robo advice, and stresses that the bank does not see it as a substitute for its traditional wealth management offerings.

"We actually don't think of this as a stand-alone product," Jordahl says. "Rather, we have this breadth of wealth management services. … Ultimately we believe clients will benefit from multiple ways of delivering a wealth management product."

Clients seeking financial advice will still be able to walk into a branch, call for service, or meet with an adviser, Jordahl says.

"Technology is always challenging," Jordahl says. "We aspire to improve the client experience in a way that makes sense to an affluent client, a high-net-worth client, a millennial or a baby boomer."

A burgeoning market of digital advice competitors isn't much of a concern, Jordahl says, partly because institutional strength will keep clients from switching providers.

"First and foremost, you need to have a brand that lends itself to credibility in this space," he says.

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Online banking Robo advisors Automated investing Investment technology U.S. Bank