Issues : Strategy

Preparing for the Great Wealth Transfer


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The net worth of millennials is slated to more than double by 2020, with estimates ranging from $19 to $24 trillion, according to a report released by Deloitte Consulting. This, combined with the fact that more than two-thirds of wealth managers’ current clients are over the age of 60, means that wealth managers should be preparing for a massive wealth transfer.

In anticipation of the great wealth transfer, it is important to recognize the expectations of this younger generation. Millennials, a group that has grown accustomed to instant search results and access to on-demand advice, expect to be treated as unique individuals and value the ability to make data-driven decisions. Yet, as much as this generation embraces digital technology and on-demand services, when it comes to finances, they also want a personalized approach.

Consequently, it is no longer sufficient to place a client in a generic portfolio model, especially when the client can pay next to nothing for a similar portfolio allocation through an automated investment service online. The quality and level of service that this new generation of clients demands is higher, as they want to be involved in making informed decisions about their money and now have cheaper options for managing their wealth.

And wealth managers cannot rely on millennials to just “inherit” their services from parents or grandparents. Fifty-seven percent of millennials would change their bank relationship for a better technology platform solution, according to the Deloitte study. In order to remain profitable as client demographics shift, and to meet the demands of millennials, wealth managers should leverage technology and data analytics tools to successfully engage their clients and maximize the value of service provided.

By harnessing the availability of data analytics, wealth managers can adequately get to know their clients and identify the distinct human capital factors in their clients’ lives, enabling them to provide truly tailored financial advice and investment recommendations.

Rather than simply assessing a client’s age and income, existing technology allows wealth managers to consider other aspects such as, geography, work sector, health, family, real estate, balance sheet and time until retirement. Taking a more holistic approach to wealth management makes it possible to customize a client’s investment portfolio, designed to fit each client’s unique risks and financial situation. This approach also delivers a more interactive, consultative wealth management process for both the wealth manager and the client.

To illustrate the value of this method, consider a petroleum engineer in her thirties living in Houston, where the oil industry drives property prices. An automated investment service or a conventional approach to wealth management would likely propose a wealth portfolio that is based largely on her age and income; however, this would fail to identify the concentration in oil within her career, property and subsequently, her portfolio.

Furthermore, changing market conditions can also be challenging for even the most experienced wealth managers, but today’s technology can help wealth managers mitigate risk and market fluctuations for their clients. Digital platforms and data analytics can adjust the risk exposure of the portfolio and compare performance over various market scenarios, enabling wealth managers to propose targeted solutions in an engaging, diagnostic context.

Ultimately, wealth managers must focus on understanding the needs of their new clientele to remain profitable in an increasingly competitive market. In fact, a recent PwC survey revealed attrition rates of more than 50 percent in intergenerational transfers of wealth, highlighting the fact that the next generation relies very little on the services of their parents’ wealth manager. This means that banks and their wealth managers must expand their technological capabilities and digital offerings, while gaining a deeper understanding of their clients to successfully build a sustainable business in today’s evolving market.

The industry should recognize that this group of clients has incorporated technology into almost every aspect of their lives and they expect nothing less of the businesses and financial advisers they interact with. As the industry quickly approaches the transfer of wealth to millennials, wealth managers will have to satisfy the demands of a new generation, and technology will play a critical role in engaging those who are accustomed to the benefits and polished user experience associated with digital tools and devices.