Last year witnessed the emergence of a number of fintech trends, from industry acceptance (and adoption) of hybrid digital advice in wealth management to the rapid valuation of cryptocurrencies.
After such a year of change, what might 2018 bring? Here are six trends I expect to see in the coming year.
The rising tide of digital adoption is shaping the expectations of tech-savvy investors.
The same dynamic that is driving consumer adoption of technology is washing over the financial services industry. Essentially, we have all become millennials in how we use the internet and smartphones to consume information and access services. This has given rise to "Investor 2.0,” who increasingly expects wealth management firms to evolve and provide the same user experience, personalized service and convenience of 24/7 access to their money. Given this, we expect to see more advisory firms driven to create or partner with a digital platform provider.
The transition to the bionic advisor will continue.
The role of the financial advisor has never been more important, but that role is evolving. Nearly 50% of advisors will reach retirement in the next two decades, according to the CFPB. With fewer experienced advisors and an increasing focus on mass affluent clients, wealth management firms need to leverage technology to expand the capacity of their advisors. We expect to see firms use consumer-facing digital advice technology to increase their ability to reach and acquire more prospects and to reduce their cost to serve clients, both with “bionic advisor” capabilities and automation of the middle and back offices. In other words, we expect to see firms combine the best of people with the best of technology to better serve the client.
“Slap a logo on a robo” will not cut it.
We are seeing a shift in the industry where advisory firms transition away from the expedient, bolt-on robo solution that purely provides standard, automated investment recommendations. Rather, we are seeing a recognition of the benefits of digitizing across a firm’s business system. Standalone vertical solutions (such as rebalancing, onboarding and financial planning) that cannot be tightly integrated across client and advisor journeys may be replaced by integrated horizontal solutions that allow firms to guide prospects from first contact to establishing an active account in less than 15 minutes — all within a customer-centric experience that is integrated into omnichannel delivery capabilities.
Let’s talk about goals.
There is an increased focus on advisors engaging clients in goal-based conversations, shifting away from pure asset allocation or risk discussions. Early robos were focused purely on strategic asset allocation-based dialogues. As digital advisory firms evolve their platforms, we believe that multi goal-based capabilities will become the norm in digital solutions and offline engagements, helping investors stay focused on the long term rather than chasing returns.
Behavior change is key.
Technology is only a means to an end (the end being to help firms and their advisors evolve to meet market, competitive and regulatory demands). Firms will work with their digital providers to focus on educating and training their advisors on how to communicate with clients and to understand how digital services can help increase efficiency and grow their business. This can free up advisors to do what they do best — connecting with prospects and focusing on the individuals and families they serve, resulting in more robust conversations and, ultimately, a superior investment experience.
Shakeout in the robo industry.
As the industry matures, competition increases and consumer demands shift, many players in the financial services industry will look to bolster their user experience and digital asset management capabilities. Advisory firms will increasingly focus on the funding and stability of digital advice providers to ensure they are in it for the long haul, and can continue to fund innovation- and compliance-oriented investments. This will help drive consolidation and potential failures among the digital advice firms as winners and losers emerge. Digital advice will become a scale game with stable, well-funded firms.
I expect the use of fintech to grow among wealth management firms, but in a way that promotes the value of the advisor-investor relationship. By making business more efficient, fintech can help advisors focus on building relationships and helping investors reach their financial goals. And by offering the types of digital tools and services that people have grown to expect in other areas of their lives, I believe fintech can help improve access to advice and the investment experience for everyone.