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How can wealth managers transform to improve the customer experience?

Technology is at the heart of modernization, but to be successful, a transformation should be business-led and technology-enabled.

In brief

  • To deliver a scalable next-gen platform, wealth firms should consider a customer-centric and tech-enabled strategy that will deliver business results.
  • A strong data foundation coupled with the application of scalable technology tools can give wealth firms a competitive edge.
  • In addition, it’s important for wealth firms to transform their workplace and establish new agile ways of sustaining transformation.

For years, the wealth management industry primarily functioned with back-office support and legacy platforms to serve its customers, with a limited digital presence. But changing customer expectations and external factors such as COVID-19 are disrupting the landscape like never before.

Wealth managers now need a business model that serves a next-generation client base that expects a very high digital presence. They also need to factor in FinTech disruptors raising the bar, offering innovative features that many wealth managers do not.

However, legacy platforms with immature data quality standards and a lack of system-of-record for data domains hinder innovation and speed-to-market. These legacy platforms also have an inflexible closed architecture, so enhancing them to deliver meaningful business outcomes can take significantly longer than expected.

Many wealth managers have embarked on platform modernization journeys to make their business fit for purpose in a digital world. Some have seen positive results, but the majority have struggled and continue to do so. Technology teams often take a siloed approach to modernizing data or technology. While this may reduce technology debt, it fails to achieve the goals expected by the business. Transformation efforts are more effective if they are holistic and leverage the innovations available through modern technology to drive better business outcomes.

Understandably, given the complexity of global businesses (which have numerous applications and platforms to support multiple business capabilities), many wealth managers don’t know where to start.

Based on the EY team's experience with some of the more successful transformation initiatives in the financial services industry, a business-led, customer-centric, and technology-enabled strategy pays dividends. Each step informs and guides the next in this three-step approach to transformation.

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Chapter 1

How to drive a business-led transformation strategy

Taking a value-driven and customer-centric approach defines a roadmap for scalable transformation.

For a successful, business-led transformation strategy, the first step is to align management with the business’s direction. Organizations can articulate their future vision by taking a value-driven approach and defining measurable goals for various business capabilities. These goals act as a guiding principle for the next phase of the transformation journey.


As the business articulates the vision and goals for transformation, it should also take time to consider:

  • Top-level executive sponsorship and support to set clear mandates for various teams to align
  • An optimal operating model – specifically, whether incorporating outsourced or managed services might prove beneficial
  • Larger organizational goals, such as attracting and retaining clients

In most instances, taking a customer-centric approach to transformation is a good starting point, and organizations that have started by transforming functions that directly improve customer satisfaction scores have benefited from such prioritization.


Defining various personas and customer journeys, conducting user research to help benchmark, planning for a multi-channel experience, and creating clickable prototypes while gathering constant user feedback are no longer optional activities.


Methodologies such as design thinking and service design, which help analyze and refine the front-to-back experience to remove inefficiencies in the overall process, are essential for a successful transformation strategy. Significantly enhanced business outcomes become possible when a platform design considers end-user inputs, business value, and measurable goals.


Chapter 2

Why tech-enabled tools are key to a successful transformation

Creating next-gen platforms to drive a competitive edge.

We define “technology” as the tools that deliver business value, achieve measurable goals and create the desired user experience. Defining a flexible architecture that enables a connected and integrated product ecosystem (with a strong data foundation and scalability enabled by the cloud) are fundamental factors for a successful transformation.

There are four broad categories of technology to consider:

1. Platform approach

Leveraging the capabilities of leading FinTech products can improve client experience, reduce time to market or build capability products to offer end-to-end services. Designing a platform that can provide access to multiple capability products under a common user experience can enable broader advisor outreach, increased adoption, and client retention. Creating a marketplace ecosystem of various capability products would allow wealth management firms to offer varied subscription levels for their platform.

Some organizations adopt vendor products, but significant customization often leads to a longer cycle time for upgrades, and end-users do not get timely benefits from the enhancements and innovations offered by these products. The next-gen platform design should balance between adopting a vendor product “as is” and customizing it.

2. Modern architectural patterns

Building a modern, open, and extensible technology architecture that can rapidly reconfigure and integrate new technologies helps to launch new business capabilities in quick cycles. Platforms can benefit from architectural patterns such as event-driven, plug-and-play, microservices, embedded analytics, and real-time insights – hosted on a scalable cloud infrastructure. A model wealth management platform demands a rich user experience, which is scalable and backed by a strong architectural foundation to enable easy integration with various products. Hence the focus should be on implementing a middleware solution that acts as an interoperability layer for integrating multiple products (in-house or vendor) into a cohesive product ecosystem that is fronted by a consolidated user experience layer and has security and compliance considerations at the core.

With modern architectural patterns in use, as the business evolves, wealth managers can:

  • Add or replace a vendor product to increase their service offerings without disrupting advisors or client experience
  • Allow the generation of real-time insights from data, meaning that advisors can work proactively rather than reactively
  • Have access to next-best-action for individuals, groups of accounts, or across the client base – which means that clients are served more efficiently and that should contribute to a higher retention rate
  • Leverage the elastic capabilities of a cloud-hosted solution to serve a large advisor/client base while keeping the operating cost low

3. A strong data foundation

Data is an integral part of a successful and efficient wealth management business. There needs to be a “single source of truth.”

As businesses progress toward various product-based solutions, the level and sources of data expand. The goal should be to build a data architecture that maintains a “golden record” or master source. The “single source of truth” can be established through integrations and workflows that enable data transfer without creating duplicate records.

Building a consolidated data store that aligns to a business taxonomy and leverages a canonical structure can reduce vendor product dependencies. It allows business processes to span various products and leads to efficient client-servicing workflows. Consolidated datastores require not only scalable cloud-based infrastructure but also strong governance policies and security procedures to support evolving data capabilities. Advisors can import alternative data sources or third-party datasets with a flexible and scalable data architecture and generate smart insights for prospects to improve client conversion rates.

4. Do more with consolidated data

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP) are likely to offer significant benefits to wealth management firms.

AI-powered automated data analysis can help wealth managers to analyze large datasets more quickly. Advisors can better understand customer behavior and assist with customer segmentation and the customization of product offerings. It can also help with financial product marketing.

Wealth managers can leverage NLP-based digital assistants to enhance the client experience. Digital assistants can understand and answer questions on markets and the current outlook for investors, use graphs and visual aids and draw on historical data and the latest research. They can also answer procedural queries regarding account opening and other client-servicing needs. These digital assistants enable advisors to save time by focusing on higher-value tasks.

Being technology-enabled ensures an organization can be confident that its next-generation platform is not just meeting a short-term goal but setting a strong foundation to meet ever-increasing business demand.


Chapter 3

Sustaining transformation through agile ways of working

An opportunity to create long-term value through engineering-driven teams.

Successful transformation is not merely reaching a defined point and then stopping; it’s sustaining progress. This is achieved by enhancing the delivery processes and ensuring teams with the right skills are in place. To deliver technology at speed, organizations have to adopt agile delivery processes, continuous integration, continuous testing, continuous monitoring, and agile operations.

Engineering teams need to adopt agile ways of working and upskill themselves to function effectively in a changing and demanding environment. Engineering organizations are changing from traditional project management practices based on the time-scope-cost triangle to a metrics-driven organization that continuously benchmarks itself around speed, quality and value.

Some of the ways wealth managers can successfully transform their engineering organization include:

  • Establishing technology innovation as an enabler of differentiated experience
  • Establishing an innovation lab to track use cases, trends, and statistics on emerging technologies
  • Developing toolsets designed to release technology more quickly
  • Establishing the right alliances with leading technology providers
  • Committing to a rapid, agile, and proactive approach to decision-making and teaming

By focusing on a holistic, business-led, and technology-enabled transformation approach, wealth managers can increase the adoption of their platforms and establish themselves as trusted advisors by delivering truly differentiated client experiences.


Wealth firms have an opportunity to gain a competitive edge by establishing the right transformation roadmap to develop next-generation platforms that deliver an exceptional customer experience. To successfully implement a business-led transformation, firms must take a value-driven and customer-centric approach that combines scalable technology tools and a data architecture to maintain a “gold-record” or a single source of truth.

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22 Apr 2021 Nalika Nanayakkara + 3