If the past year of remote work and interacting with colleagues through computer screens has taught us anything, it’s that technology has become an indelible part of our everyday lives. The new digital work domain has also opened up novel avenues for innovation in the financial services industry.
In the Feb. 8 issue of InvestmentNews, our newsroom came together to honor a host of luminary figures in wealth management with the annual Icons & Innovators awards, highlighting the personal stories of the inspiring people who have made enduring contributions to the business. Recognizing the achievements that firms have made in the advice industry as well, InvestmentNews also spotlighted 13 innovative firms that are changing the way advice is created, delivered and used by clients.
Our 2021 icon, Sallie Krawcheck, has been the driving force behind the success of Ellevest, an innovative digital investment platform designed to help women reach their financial goals. Her tech-enabled platform has attracted nearly $1 billion in assets and helped thousands of women reach financial wellness.
Mark Casady, who after a 15-year stint at the top of LPL Financial, has been busy funding and guiding fintech companies, many of which support advisers, through the venture capital firm he co-founded in 2015. He now mentors and coaches the entrepreneurs who run the 23 fintech companies in which his firm invests through its two early-stage funds.
There are hundreds of worthy people working toward innovation in wealth management, an effort that has been bolstered by our new reliance on technology during the pandemic. And yet there are still areas where the advice industry could use improvement. Technology is often one of the most noticeable areas in need of support — especially when compared to other retail or consumer channels, and specifically in terms of mobile apps.
In a study of 2,724 wealth management firms fielded last year by J.D. Power, 33% of do-it-yourself and advised clients said they used their wealth management firm’s mobile app more frequently during pandemic-ravaged 2020. Ominously, wealth management customer satisfaction fell well behind that of other sectors based on a range of services. In fact, wealth apps scored lower in overall satisfaction than other financial services products like credit cards apps and banking apps.
Why the disconnect? The study found wealth managers are less likely to engage with investors via a mobile app. Throughout the pandemic, only 2% of investors said they communicated with an adviser via mobile appS or secure messaging, according to the data. Although clients frequently request features like chat functionality, the vast majority of advisers are still not reaching out to clients in the way they want to communicate.
Clients expect apps to provide as seamless a user experience as they are used to from some of the most recognizable tech names like Amazon, Google or Netflix. New buzzworthy technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence could well upend the world of wealth management in coming years and provide the most noteworthy innovation.
But advisers could take small steps toward real innovation in the industry by reaching out to clients using the mobile apps where millions of Americans spend much of their time every day.
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As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.