TheWall: Wealth Management: It is time to go digital

This article first appeared in Personal Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on November 26, 2018 - December 02, 2018.

All the wealth managers are trying to get rid of paper and speed up the time it takes to open an account because it takes way too long. > Gamble

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The long and tedious process to open a private banking account is impacting the customer service experience offered by traditional wealth managers. There are many layers of paperwork to deal with on the client’s end while the bank has to verify the documents and ensure that it complies with regulations.

This process has led to many prospective customers contemplating speedier options elsewhere. However, this is changing as technology-driven tools such as digital onboarding platforms are revolutionising the wealth management industry, says Dominic Gamble, head of Asia-Pacific at global wealth management technology firm Wealth Dynamix.

This is being partly driven by pressure from clients, who are getting younger and more digitally savvy, he says. They are familiar with the multitude of financial technology (fintech) offerings in the market and would not want to review hundreds of paper documents and wait for an account to be opened manually.

Gamble observes that digitalisation in wealth management is gaining traction, especially among the big banks, but its reach is still expanding slowly. “It is not just in Asia, it is a global [challenge]. At some of the top global private banks, it can take up to two or three months on average to open an account. It is the first touchpoint the client has with an institution and it is horrific. There is a lot of customer pressure over this,” he says.

While not new, digital onboarding has significantly revolutionalised the wealth management industry, he adds. “All the wealth managers are trying to get rid of paper and speed up the time it takes to open an account because it takes way too long. It has complicated workflows, huge manual interventions, legacy systems and a reliance on paper. Digital onboarding is digitising that into a more streamlined process and giving a better customer experience.”

Doing so could be a matter of survival for traditional players. Unsatisfied clients, particularly those from the mass affluent segment who are priority customers for some financial institutions, may go for new technology-heavy entrants in the wealth management industry.

“These are corporate professionals in their thirties and they are extremely digitally savvy. Quite frankly, financial institutions have to digitise or they will lose clients to their fintech competitors, be it robo-advisors or media companies that are starting to add financial elements to their services,” says Gamble.

Companies such as Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, are beginning to add wealth management products to their platforms.

“That battlefield is just starting to take shape and it will take another 5 to 10 years. It is just going to take one of those social media or messaging platforms with a huge user base to start coming out with elements of wealth management to cause a huge disruption,” he adds.

Meanwhile, the cost of compliance with increasingly stringent regulations is also forcing the industry to digitalise. As Gamble points out, the account opening process requires a huge internal workflow to verify all the information, store the data and update over time.

“It is about risk profiling, making sure we know your profile so we can show you the right products, know-your-customer (KYC) policies, anti-money laundering (AML) policies and electronic verification of your identity documents,” he says.

According to an EY report on private banks published in 2016, KYC, AML and tax transparency standards are becoming tighter, especially in Asia-Pacific, where there are multiple jurisdictions with different laws. Private banks will have to update information from clients more frequently. However, digitalisation will automate the entire process so banks can save on compliance costs, says Gamble.

 

Digitising the back-end

Wealth Dynamix was founded in the UK in 2012 by CEO Gary Linieres and chief operating officer Brent Randall. The company offers software that uses Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 platform to provide a Client Lifecycle Management solution.

This means processes such as client acquisition, digital onboarding, regulatory compliance, relationship management, client servicing, business intelligence and digital portals for clients and advisers are integrated into a one-stop platform.

“It is not a portfolio management system. We help the adviser build a stronger relationship with the client. There is a huge compliance element in that. There is risk profiling, annual periodic reviews, KYC elements … all the workflows are built into our system,” says Gamble.

The company serves private banks, priority banking departments for the mass affluent segment, independent financial networks and insurance companies with a wealth management arm.

“We are pretty intrinsic to what an adviser or an operational compliance individual would be using every day on his computer. We are like a one-stop dashboard where they can see everything,” says Gamble.

According to him, the company has managed to streamline the account opening process for some of the biggest wealth managers in the UK down to one day by automating their workflow, from 25 days previously.

Prior to this, Gamble was co-founder of findaWEALTHMANAGER.com, a UK-based online matching service for investors and wealth managers, and chief digital officer of Privé Technologies, a global fintech company.

According to Wealth Dynamix’ website, its global clients include Schroders, Rathbones Investment Management and UK-based investment company Charles Stanley.

Wealth Dynamix is a Microsoft global preferred partner in wealth management. Its system is integrated with the software giant’s other platforms such as Microsoft Outlook.

The company also has access to the innovations put into Dynamics 365 by the Microsoft engineers. This includes artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, voice-enabled commands and security features.

The AI capability enables a financial institution to read the sentiment in the client’s communication. For instance, if an angry or frustrated tone is detected in an email, it could be flagged as urgent for the adviser to address.

“There is also AI in tailored investments. If the bank has created a new product, such as a new fund, we can use AI to help the adviser ascertain which clients would find it relevant with a click of the button,” says Gamble.