Global wealth managers compete for up to US$200b in revenue as shifting client expectations and technology drive transformation

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Survey finds 4 out of 10 clients are willing to switch wealth managers / Half of wealth managers say revenue growth is top priority / Wealth managers appear out of step with clients on transparency, advice channels and the advisor’s role

Zurich, 02 June 2016 – Globally, up to US$200b in revenue may be at stake, as 40% of all clients surveyed are open to switching wealth managers under the right circumstances, according to EY’s 2016 global wealth management report titled “The experience factor: the new growth engine in wealth management”. Firms that fail to make strategic investments to deliver a superior client experience may risk losing a substantial portion of their current business, the report finds. A differentiated analysis by age and wealth strata shows that loyalty is weakest among wealthier clients on the one hand (close to 70% of high and ultra-high net worth individuals, i.e. with USD 25+ million, would consider a switch), and younger generations on the other hand (almost 80% of 18-34 year-olds could be persuaded to try elsewhere).

The vast majority (73%) of clients surveyed have relationships with multiple wealth managers. Fifty-seven percent of those would be willing to consolidate their assets with fewer wealth managers for various reasons, including “better pricing,” “better portfolio returns,” and “breadth of products and services.” While some of the motivations may sound familiar, what clients actually mean when stating these reasons has changed significantly, the research finds.

More than 2,000 wealth management clients (including Switzerland) representing a broad spectrum of segments including wealth level, age, region and gender were surveyed by Oxford Economics for this report. EY also conducted interviews with more than 60 wealth management executives to better understand how wealth managers are thinking about and investing in key growth initiatives.

Bruno Patusi, Partner at EY Financial Services and Survey Leader for Switzerland, says: “This research should make the industry sit up and take notice. The rules of the game have changed. In order to attain growth, managers must now learn to compete with man, machine and hybrid-based firms to retain and attract new assets.”

Revenue growth is a top priority
With client assets in play, 50% of wealth managers interviewed globally indicated that revenue growth will be the top focus of their strategic business priorities in the next two to three years. Specific revenue growth initiatives will focus on enhancing the client experience.

Gap between wealth managers’ self-perception and clients’ view
The report reveals a major gap between clients’ expectations and wealth managers’ perception. The idea intuitively held by most wealth managers, particularly in Switzerland, that the  advisor is the single most decisive factor determining a good customer experience is at odds with their clients’ opinion. In the case of Swiss institutions. the difference stretches to 33%. In reality, the quality of interactions with the advisor is only one of several aspects that clients value more or less equally with other factors such as self-service and digital capabilities.

For Switzerland, the report also found that well over half of respondents were already familiar with automated advice services. Only 26% of clients pronounced themselves unwilling to use such services, compared with almost three-quarters of respondents who would not be averse to using an automated advice service.

Bridging the client experience gap
Client experience in wealth management is unique and complex, as it spans an individual’s life journey of managing and preparing for the unknown. As a result, wealth managers have lacked a common definition of client experience or a standard against which firms can measure themselves. Yet, the report identifies a common view of client experience, as respondents say they value performance, engagement and trust the most in their wealth managers.

Clients and firms are aligned on most of these values, but there are three areas where firms appear to be out of step with client expectations, the report finds:

  • Transparency — Clients are eager for a new level of transparency that includes rating their advisors and connecting with similar clients in public forums. 
  • Advice channels — Clients are significantly more open than firms to adopting digital channels for wealth advice, not just service.
  • Role of the advisor —The advisor may become more like a “financial therapist” in the future, helping clients reaching financial life goals instead of strictly providing asset allocation advice or other activities that could be automated. 

Olaf Toepfer, Partner and Banking Leader at EY Financial Services Switzerland, adds: “In an industry where advances in technology, new types of competition and client expectations are changing rapidly, firms that challenge traditional norms while remaining true to their core value proposition will be better positioned to succeed. Delivering a comprehensive client experience is the linchpin that will make or break a firm in this wealth management landscape.”

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EY’s organization is represented in Switzerland by Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, with ten offices across Switzerland, and in Liechtenstein by Ernst & Young AG, Vaduz. In this publication, “EY” and “we” refer to Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited.