The wealth management sector has historically been the domain of longstanding, trusted businesses and any disruption has been by dynamic start-ups who can offer innovation and tech-based solutions for a forward-thinking consumer, writes Marcus de Maria, chief executive of Investment Mastery.
But as we see big tech companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon move into new sectors, will we see them move into wealth management? As we have seen them monopolise other areas, it may only be a matter of time.
The main threat from big tech is their brand. We have a complicated relationship with money, people get nervous and freeze like deer in headlights and put off making decisions until it is too late.
They could say: ‘Am I doing the right thing? Is wealth for people like me? The big wealth management companies only cater for wealthy people and I’m not one of them’
People don’t like feeling stupid and when traditional wealth providers start using their convoluted words such as diversification, asset allocation and tolerance of risk, many people will feel belittled and shy away from finding out more.
If a big brand name that people already use and trust, were to come along and make it simple and focus on actually educating people, this type of service would become more accessible to all.
If these companies then went a step further and offered people the tools and the network to help each other by creating a community, it would be a huge disruption to this sector.
Wealth creation is inclusive, because sometimes it is that one bit of information, that one golden nugget that you need to get to the next step, to keep going and succeed. You will be part of a group, a family, a movement even. It’s inclusive.
That’s what big tech with their systems and processes could offer. It’s not that people will jump to have Amazon or Facebook as their wealth manager. It’s that they trust the brand. People will be open to having that first conversation.
Which will then lead onto the next step and so on until they do accept Amazon or Facebook as their wealth manager.
I have seen it first-hand. While using Amazon and being generally pleased with their systems and speed of service I noticed that they were also selling groceries.
While my normal provider was struggling delivering during the pandemic, I thought I would give Amazon a go. And it was the same system and speed of service as usual. So now I buy groceries, including fresh fruit and veg from Amazon – who would have thought?
The new generation want things that are simple, and they want things fast. They are open to use technology. The thought of having to organise a meeting and drive to see someone about the subject of money is anathema to them.
They would much rather go online, fill in a form and have things done instantaneously.
There is also a different generation of people who are sick and tired of their wealth managers’ meagre returns, who don’t feel properly served by them and so will be open to trying something new.
The only thing that the industry can do to fight back against these giants is to appeal to those people who prefer more intimate relationships. People still buy from other people.
The big tech companies might not be able to offer the one-to-one individualised service, especially at the beginning, because they will probably focus more on systems and processes to get things done quickly and efficiently.
It won’t be easy to compete with bigger trusted brands and the traditional wealth management companies will need to rethink their customer service, the relationship they are offering, and how being there for their clients is key to a really personalised service.
This might lead to higher costs, but people will pay for the extra attention and service. If the traditional companies try and compete on price then they won’t stand a chance against big tech.
If it were me, I would create a personality brand about the people, not a business brand. Be the brand that cares more and become the trusted person who’s there for the customer and their family.
Big Tech can’t compete on that level. Wealth management companies should focus on the fact that they have deeper, more specialised knowledge, after all they have been helping their clients for years.
As for the customer, can they really trust the person who sells them groceries to help manage their money?
This article was written for International Adviser by Marcus de Maria, chief executive of Investment Mastery.