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Where will wealth take clients next?

Wealth managers must use deeper, richer insights to provide clients with more holistic, tailored, and meaningful experiences.

In brief

  • The last year has fundamentally changed what wealthy clients expect and value from their providers.
  • Firms need to respond holistically, using enhanced understanding to integrate service and engagement with a stronger sense of purpose.
  • This approach will elevate client experiences, build trust and demonstrate the long-term value of wealth management.

Wealth managers faced an unsettling combination of practical disruption and enforced reflection during 2020. As the dust raised by the COVID-19 pandemic begins to settle, 2021 promises to be the year when clients financially de-clutter their lives and refocus on their most important priorities.

Our newly released 2021 EY Global Wealth Research Report (pdf), which surveyed wealth management clients in 21 geographies, confirms that the pandemic has had a far-reaching effect on wealth clients’ beliefs and world views.

Going beyond the appreciation for digital channels, clients are becoming more risk-averse and increasingly focused on achieving personal goals aligned to their purpose, and enhancing their financial protection, diversification, and security.

As they contemplate their providers, clients value an altered range of tangible and intangible factors. Our research highlights a new opportunity for wealth firms to deliver long-term value across three key dimensions of the wealth experience:

  • The core services clients receive
  • Clients’ engagement with firms
  • Firms’ ability to implement purposeful legacies

1. Service

Firms have an opportunity to develop an ecosystem model that delivers a consolidated network of financial products and services, diversifies risk and enhances protection. While clients are expecting more for free, they are still willing to pay extra for a tailored and more holistic experience.

The appetite to diversify financial products, most notably through the greater use of alternative investments, is strong. Nearly half of investors want to consolidate their financial activities, across private banking, insurance, wealth and investments, in one place. More than 75% of that group have yet to choose a single provider, creating a huge potential opportunity for wealth providers.

2. Engagement

Flexible interactions are more important than ever — increasingly, wealth providers will not be able to depend entirely on advisors or digital tools. Using high-quality, data-driven insights to curate digital experiences will allow firms to counter expectations that less human interaction might lead to less effective personalization. Firms should overtly demonstrate the links between the sharing of data and the identification of tailored services that can result in positive outcomes. Clients expect flexible platforms that evolve around their needs.

3. Purpose

Clients are now investing for purpose and looking beyond return on investment, making it more critical than ever for providers to understand their unique needs. Clients with sustainability goals are twice as likely to switch providers and are attracted to firms that share their beliefs. Only 36% of clients expect to rely solely on traditional investing by 2024. Clients increasingly view D&I as a sustainability goal, a key driver of provider choice, and as important in building strong advisor relationships.

Moving forward

Complementing a strategic focus on service and engagement with a clear emphasis on purpose holds the key to elevating client experiences and demonstrating the long-term value of wealth management.

The uncertainty and disruption of the past year have brought about profound changes in clients’ values. The good news for wealth providers is that clients are open to sharing more personal data, are interested in consolidating their relationships and are willing to pay more for holistic, individualized, and meaningful experiences. Set against that, clients’ growing demands for tailoring, diversification, protection, education, sustainability, and flexible interactions also pose significant challenges.


The events of the past year have had tangible effects on wealthy clients’ behavior, expectations, and perceptions of value. In response, wealth managers need to integrate a deeper understanding of client beliefs into their services and interactions. This will build trust and create stronger, longer-lasting relationships based on a shared sense of purpose.

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