by Sean Gray, Director, Wealth Management Advisory, RBC Wealth Management – US and Heather Rosales, Senior Director, Learning & Development, RBC Wealth Management – US
As younger generations increase in population and climb the ladder of wealth, financial institutions are increasingly keen to understand how they consume financial advice.
Previous research has suggested that young investors, especially millennials, shun their parents’ financial advisors in favor of solutions offered by the very technology platforms they grew up with. But data from a new survey commissioned by RBC Wealth Management-US and conducted by Old Salt shows the opposite to be true.
According to the survey, only 26% of affluent Millennials use robo-advisors today, and only 24% say they trust robo-advisors completely. Among the HENRYs – the high earners, who are not yet rich – these figures are 29% and 26% respectively.
This is good news for real live financial advisers and probably a bummer for wealth managers who in recent years have put all or most of their chips on robo- or digital-based advice. The survey also revealed that 90% of affluent millennials are likely to use the services of a financial advisor within the next 5 years.
But we would say that even with this data, both approaches have value in part. In fact, it should be noted that millennials are still a generation that appreciates the ease of use that technology offers in all facets of their lives. In fact, innovation is key to grabbing their attention.
Accordingly, we offer three ideas for how financial advisors and wealth management firms can embrace technology in their practices and evolve the way they provide advice.
GO BEYOND FINANCIAL ADVICE AND HARNESS THE POWER OF DATA
In today’s complex world, clients increasingly expect financial advisors to consult on a growing range of financial and retirement topics, as well as non-financial topics such as the educational needs of children and how to care for aging parents.
Advisors who have the most accurate knowledge of a client’s unique circumstances and who can provide top-level recommendations, specifically tailored to that client, will possess a competitive advantage. Accenture found that 91% of wealth management clients said an advisor who “understands” them as a person was most important. Additionally, 34% would increase their investments if they received a hyper-personalized experience. The key to summarizing higher-level recommendations is to carefully collect, catalog, and analyze customer data.
For companies, this means investing heavily in technology infrastructure and artificial intelligence engines – similar to those used by robo-advisors – to perform cataloging and analysis. For financial advisors, this means leveraging customer relationship management systems, wealth planning software, and online banking tools to collect the data and eventually deliver a personalized experience.
ADOPTING THE ROLE OF A GENERALIST AND ENHANCING YOUR PRACTICE’S HUMAN CAPITAL
The transition to a broader range of advice will push many financial advisors out of their comfort zone of advising primarily on investments. Yet, rather than feeling pressured to become experts in new areas, advisors should adopt a generalist’s mentality, seek to acquire a superficial knowledge of a wide range of relevant topics, and leverage the human capital of their company when customers need a subject matter expert.
At RBC Wealth Management, these subject matter experts are collectively known as the regional client strategy teams. The specialties within the teams range from wealth planning and estate strategy to credit and banking, including charitable actions. Financial advisors who interact with high net worth clients also have access to family dynamics consultants.
Throughout the pandemic, RBC Wealth Management advisors have increasingly collaborated with members of the Client Strategies team, not only on an advisory basis, but also involving them directly with clients to to provide direct access to the capabilities they want. The demand for access to these people, from both advisors and clients, will only increase over time and maintaining wealth becomes more and more complex.
We believe companies that strengthen investments in subject specialization will help advisors successfully navigate the transition to generalists.
THE HUMAN ELEMENT – THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE
As powerful as robotic platforms are, they lack the empathy and understanding that customers need. The pandemic-related market downturn of 2020 and the current bout of volatility in 2022 are powerful examples that clients are overwhelmingly seeking advice from trusted advisors who understand them personally in times of uncertainty. Ironically, technology has increased the possibilities for meaningful personal interactions through newly acquired Zoom and WebEx expertise by clients and financial advisors.
Yet digital platforms are not without merit. The dynamic user interfaces offered by these platforms, for example, are useful for providing clients with an overview of their overall finances or a quick overview of their wealth plan.
As a result, our advisors are increasingly using our own digital platforms to complement their advice and enhance the experience they provide to clients.
A NEW NORMAL
As we move beyond the pandemic, it may be time to move beyond the idea that professional financial advisors and robo-advisors are mutually exclusive. Perhaps the best approach is for financial advisors to combine their advice with the illustrative powers of digital tools.
RBC Wealth Management is a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Registered Investment Advisor and Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC.
Learn more about RBC Wealth Management.