Empowering the virtually enabled advisor

Future of advice

Pre-COVID, 42 percent of advisors were not interested in digitally enabled advice. Now, they’re racing to plug technology gaps, but we must not settle for being “good enough”.

Like our clients, we have spent the last few weeks addressing our shift to the new reality created by the COVID-19 pandemic. I promised to use this space to share our latest and best thinking, and today I will start by focusing on the advisors and how we expect the changes to affect them in the short and medium term.

The wealth management industry has been slow to invest in digital. At present, much of the advisor toolset is oriented toward onboarding and financial planning, while the digital spend has been focused on the non-advised, the direct investing or self-directed space, or on simple client self-service, with less investment in the digital enablement of the middle of the value chain. A 2015 Aite Group study found that 72 percent of financial advisors surveyed used tablets in client meetings, while only 55 percent provided advisor-client collaboration tools (e.g., chat, co-browsing) via web or mobile. Pre-COVID, advisor sentiment about the benefits of digital had risen, with 67 percent of advisors strongly agreeing that enhanced advisor-client collaboration is the top benefit of client-facing technology[1].

We understand that wealth managers will face uniquely complex challenges in activating these virtual capabilities during an economic crisis. In another of our recent blog post s, we touched on the influx of client requests coming from nervous investors. Advisors today are trying to shore up their clients, answer their concerns, and help them understand the impact that the current crisis will have on their investments. To do this, advisors need better tools—video conferencing or video collaboration tools, for example—to help them connect with clients, and they need training and coaching tools that can support difficult conversations around uncertainty, volatility, and the impact of the crisis on family health and wealth.

While these tough conversations will take wealth managers away from the comfort of routine and operating norms, we need to catch up quickly. As we are already seeing in China, the imperative for establishing lasting digital advisor channels is clear. The coming months present a unique opportunity for wealth management businesses that lag in digital adoption to make short term gains that will let advisors better serve their clients in the midst of crisis, while building the client engagement models and ways of working they will need in the future. This is especially important since we’re on the cusp of a major workforce transition, with 30 percent of current advisors expected to retire by 2030[2].

To that end, we should take inspiration from wealth management firms that have led the way in offering digitally empowered advice. Since launching in Asia Pacific in 2015, Credit Suisse’s Digital Private Banking App has won multiple awards for client experience and servicing capabilities. The app provides a blend of self-directed and advisor-client services that enable collaboration and deeper relationships between clients and advisors.

Pre-COVID, 42 percent of advisors were not interested in digitally enabled advice[3]. Now, they’re racing to plug technology gaps, but we must not settle for being “good enough” by simply layering digital over business as usual. This is a no-regrets time for experimentation and bold action that lets advisors serve their clients with the intimacy and trust required to help weather the storm. We must invest in digital enablement and design digital assets that support conversations, reinforce relationships, and build confidence for advisors and their clients. Transitioning to virtually empowered advice will let advisors:

  • Understand and accommodate client needs, preferences, and lifestyle by being available at any time, providing convenient and proactive digital communications. This is especially critical for “digital native” clients, such as millennials and the children of existing clients, who are the top segments advisors are likely to target through digital advisor platforms[4]
  • Cultivate trust by offering the highest levels of customer service and qualified advice, by listening intently and with empathy, and by finding ways to add a human touch to each conversation, even when they’re communicating digitally, such as by using tools that break down complex financial products and fees into more conversational terms[5]
  • Create a seamless transition between machine-based tools and human-based service. For example, a Deloitte study found that 57 percent of millennials would change their bank relationship for a better technology platform[6].

Our present circumstances are difficult, but they also offer opportunities. We can do more than adapting with digital tools: we can look forward to a more holistic reimagining of the ways virtually enabled advisors will serve their clients. There are many paths forward. We would love to hear what you’re trying out in the near term and the conversations you’ve been having around how to emerge from these circumstances better prepared for the future. Send us your thoughts, and we can continue the conversation on what this means for the Future of Advice.

[1] Aite Group, Aligning Registered Investment Advisor Technology Use and Custodial Priorities

[2] Deloitte, The Digital Wealth Manager of the Future

[3] Aite Group survey of 399 financial advisors, Q2 2019  

[4] Aite Group survey of 399 financial advisors, Q2 2019

[5] Deloitte, Building digital trust: Technology can lead the way

[6] Deloitte, Millennials and wealth management



Matthew McWhirter
Senior Manager, Consulting
Tel : 416-775-8642 

Laura Nesbitt
Senior Manager, Consulting
Tel : 647-515-6832

Brock Lamon
Senior Consultant, Consulting
Tel : 416-601-6261

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