Banking on the Unified Wealth Model


It seems as if every investment management, advisory, accounting and consultancy firm is offering some sort of technology-enabled unified wealth solution to the ultra-wealthy these days, and it's about time. While demand for a more holistic view of finances had been rising among high-net worth communities since the financial crisis, obstacles remained to integrate separate technology systems, and therefore financial data, to a single platform—the necessary requirement for holistic wealth management. As expectations have continued to move to even greater integration and convenience, some astute clients are noticing that most wealth platforms have left out an important component – traditional banking data and functionality. 

Most wealth platforms have left out an important component – traditional banking data and functionality.

Current-state wealth management platforms enable consumers to evaluate investment and retirement accounts in relation to cash-flow analysis and long-term investment goals. Ultimately, the move to real time and full wealth platform convergence will be driven by parallel technology emerging through mobile app development in the banking sector.

New apps provide clients with an aggregated view of banking, mortgage, savings and credit accounts, as well as automated payment functionality. In many cases, the offerings intended for the mass affluent are already far superior to those provided to ultra-wealthy families even through elite service provider relationships. Integration with investment and long-term planning components would dramatically speed industry adoption of a comprehensive wealth platform.

This doesn't mean that advisors, family offices and accounting firms are destined to be crushed under the weight of the expansion of resource-rich private banking groups. Nor does it necessarily suggest banks will become active acquirers of registered investment advisor (RIA) and professional services firms as traditional institutions bolster capabilities.

While there will be casualties of inaction, many other firms will find up-sell opportunities in this new environment. Providers that plan to remain autonomous while expanding services might benefit from creating or enhancing investment partnership programs that banks can then market to high-net worth investors on retail platforms.  Through these business arrangements, lending companies would be able to offer unified wealth services without creating new and possibly dilutive platforms that erode overall operating margins. As a result, the desire for both the investment management and banking company to continue to operate distinctly within a unified wealth platform will likely lead to the formation and announcement of dozens of investment partnership programs over the next 12 – 24 months. 

Similarly, professional services and accounting firms might find opportunities to market advanced planning and related functions that fill the gaps in bank offerings for ultra-wealthy families. For these firms, an obvious area of interface and enhancement is bill payment capability. By streamlining with banking sector technology, these firms might gain perspective and data essential to align investment, tax mitigation and lifestyle management objectives, finally realizing the vision of the unified wealth network.  At its core, the unified wealth platform is intended to support wealth accumulation, preservation, transfer and overall quality of life. It's no surprise that the most promising solution seems to be a marriage of equals in retail banking and investment services. 

To learn more about the unified wealth model, attend Trends in Wealth Management: Consumer Technology and Data at Fiserv Forum 2016, which features sessions dedicated to the unique needs of investment services.

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