Last week, SourceMedia, publisher of “Financial Planning” magazine (and several other financial services industry publications), hosted its annual In|Vest advisor FinTech Conference in the heart of Manhattan, with over 1,000 industry executives gathered to discuss technology opportunities and challenges facing the wealth management industry as a whole.
In the guest post, Craig Iskowitz – CEO and founder of Ezra Group, a financial technology consulting firm – shares his signature Twitter-driven recap of the conference, which featured presentations and discussions on digital advice trends, RIA M&A, pricing models, custodians, and of course new FinTech itself.
Craig kicks the recap off with highlights from Shirl Penney’s presentation on running an RIA aggregator, suggesting that RIAs should use a 5-year economic model in order to time a sale (rather than being forced to sell during a downturn), and that (with the recent Goldman Sachs / United Capital deal) more custodians will be looking in the middle-market for acquisition targets. Meanwhile, panel highlights included a discussion on the pros and cons of the subscription pricing model, which is a hot topic given Schwab’s strong launch of its subscription service (as well a more recent news that Bank of America might introduce a subscription model for Merrill Edge).
From there, other conference highlights included sessions on:
- Drivers of Consumer Choice, with market research firm Parameter Insights pointing out that the biggest reason that consumers aren’t using digital advice is that they think they don’t have enough money to invest in the first place;
- Activating Digital Hybrid Advice, where a panel of industry executives suggested that, while digital advice is essentially useless without personal interactions, digital adoption remains a one-way street (i.e., once a digital solution to a problem is adopted, users rarely - if ever - go back to the old way of doing things);
- The World Wealth Report, where Abhishek Singh from Capgemini showed how only 40% of high-net-worth individuals were satisfied with the personalization from their wealth managers, that service quality is still the most important factor when choosing a wealth management firm, and that AI has the potential to make the biggest impact on helping advisors meet their clients’ service demands; and
- Modernizing Advice, with Michael Spellacy from Accenture emphasizing that, while digital advice may have disrupted the industry, personalization and customer experience remain at the heart of good financial advice.
Attention then turned towards custodians and their vision for the future. Bernie Clark from Schwab pointed out that more than a third of the $1 billion of inflows to its new subscription model came from new clients, and that integrating new tools with existing infrastructure is a major area of focus for them right now. Industry consolidation is also an ongoing trend, as the first half of 2019 saw 67 RIA deals totaling $69.5 billion, or more than a 55% increase over the same period in 2018.
Ultimately, the 2019 In|Vest Conference brought together an otherwise seemingly disparate group of presenters, each with their own perspectives on the trends shaping the ongoing evolution of the industry, yet many shared a common thread around the importance of client relationships and excellent service, the opportunities for technology to help deepen those relationships and improve overall client experience, that industry consolidation will be an ongoing driving force, and that there’s a blue ocean of potential, yet non-traditional, wealth management clients out there that need (and want) advice, and that it behooves the industry to figure out a way to reach them (e.g., through the use of new advisor business models, coupled with new advisor FinTech to serve them efficiently).