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How wealth managers can help clients live their values now

Clients’ sustainability goals are evolving fast. A deep understanding of client purpose will help firms to implement their beliefs and build emotional engagement.

In brief

  • Wealth providers must understand clients’ sustainability goals if they’re to provide the investments — and the investment styles — they increasingly expect.
  • Strong Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) profiles are becoming vital to engagement, retention and performance.
  • Wealth firms should use client beliefs to build purposeful investment legacies — and need to ensure they live up to their own commitments.

The uncertainty and disruption of the past year have forced all of us to reflect on what we value. As they contemplate a post-COVID-19 world, wealth clients are placing increasing importance on personal priorities and sustainability goals. If wealth providers want to make their propositions truly meaningful, they should challenge themselves to deliver on these aspirations by integrating a strong sense of purpose into client experiences — and their own activities.


Chapter 1

The desire for sustainability in investing

Wealth firms have an opportunity to evolve services to guide clients through their sustainability goals

Worldwide, 78% of wealth clients now have goals related to sustainability in their lives, while 62% of clients, regardless of age or gender, have goals related to generating a legacy. But wealth providers’ understanding is failing to keep up with clients’ beliefs. True, half of clients believe wealth managers understand their goals, but 41% feel their provider could understand those goals better and 5% think firms don’t understand them at all.

This deficit in understanding is concerning, given the vital importance of delivering tailored, differentiated experiences to clients. The gap is especially stark in some key Asia-Pacific markets. For example, 97% of clients based in China have sustainability goals, but three in five feel their provider does not understand these well enough. In Japan, 86% of clients have sustainability goals, but three-quarters believe wealth firms could do more to understand their priorities.

A major reallocation of investments is clearly on the cards, with 76% of clients believing it is important to integrate Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) parameters into their portfolios. Some issues, such as climate change, are a major concern in every region. Others are more localized; for example, deforestation is a growing concern for 61% of Latin American clients but just 19% of those in Asia-Pacific. On the social front, clients are most focused on diversity and inclusion, data protection and human rights.

But understanding clients’ sustainability beliefs is only half the story. Clients also want to change the investing techniques they use, and just 36% globally expect to rely primarily on traditional investing approaches by 2024. That’s a fall of 16% and the decline will be even faster in Europe (-22%), in Asia-Pacific (-25%) and among the ultra-wealthy (-43%).

For the industry, the ultimate goal should be to deliver end-to-end investing journeys underpinned by a wide choice of ESG investing options, tailored advice, flexible education and supplemental research.


Chapter 2

D&I is key to engagement, retention, performance and purpose

Data shows D&I is now a key driver for clients in building purpose-led relationships with wealth firms.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is finally moving to the forefront of the wealth industry’s strategic thinking. Clients increasingly view D&I not just as a goal for firms to aim for, but as a key driver of their provider choice and as crucial to building a meaningful sense of shared purpose with advisors.

Globally, one in two clients see D&I efforts as important when evaluating a wealth manager. Clients want to see wealth firms demonstrate an active committent to D&I in their operations too.

When it comes to value for money, cost transparency and fiduciary standards, LGBTQ and many ethnic minority clients’ views of their providers are comparable with those of their heterosexual and white counterparts. Our survey confirms that these minority client segments see their wealth managers as providing similar positive day-to-day experiences.

However, our research also identifies opportunities for providers to enhance their understanding and support of minority groups One example is that 20% of LGBTQ clients believe that a diverse team of advisors is important when selecting a wealth manager, compared with just 12% of heterosexual clients.

Firms that can better identify and understand the preferences of under-represented clients will strengthen engagement and retention among those groups.

Finally, wealth providers need to improve their own D&I performance; partly because D&I is an increasingly important driver of attraction and retention for clients and staff, and partly because growing evidence suggests that diverse teams are better at detecting blind spots, enhancing innovation and identifying investment opportunities. 


Chapter 3

Personal legacies are the ultimate expression of purpose

The new model for wealth firms will combine a strategic focus on service and engagement with an emphasis on client purpose.

The COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened clients’ focus on their own health and well-being and that of their families and communities. Clients of all ages and levels of wealth want to look beyond purely financial outcomes to build purposeful investment portfolios and relationships.

To differentiate their capabilities in this area, wealth managers should aspire to build purposeful, personalized client legacies. Individuals are increasingly keen to create a positive legacy through their investments, at every stage of their lives. Firms should understand that it’s never too soon to understand clients’ goals and to help them build meaningful living legacies.

Delivering personal legacies for clients will depend on providers’ ability to understand clients’ views and beliefs in detail, including specific investment preferences; to build client offerings that incorporate sustainability goals into every product and service; to equip advisors with the tools they need to identify client goals and link them to appropriate investments; to track and report on outcomes, demonstrating accountability; and to enhance the sustainability of their own operations, including the diversity of their workforce.

Firms should also remember that purpose begins at home. Many organizations are making public commitments around their own sustainability as well as setting societal goals. The challenge now is to align operational reality with these ambitious goals — and to show clients that firms are following through by adjusting their behavior, products and services in line with their stated aims.

In the final analysis, however, purpose is about more than implementation. The better that providers understand the full richness of their clients’ goals and beliefs, the easier they will find it to personalize their offerings, strengthen their relationships and drive enhanced financial and nonfinancial performance for the benefit of all stakeholders.

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


Wealth managers should place a deep understanding of clients’ purpose and beliefs at the heart of their proposition, helping to deliver tailored and meaningful services and experiences that create long-term value for clients, staff and firms alike.

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