Rebecca Gunn, Byline Group
direct number: 01628 411 452/ mobile: 07740 620 101
I am arranging a series of briefings/telephone interviews this week, to discuss the findings of the latest research report by Byline Research: “High Net Worth: Online Wealth Management” launched today, Tuesday October 9th.
Below is the press release highlighting the main results. Please let me know if you would like a telephone interview with the business manager at iE(who commissioned the report, a meeting or require the full findings.
Summary: Online financial services have not taken off as fast as many hoped, but despite the dotcom crash and the recessionary gloom one area is growing fast. Within two years nearly eight in 10 firms offering "wealth management" to high net worth individuals (those with £500,000 or more to invest) will be servicing private clients online. On the face of it, this level of activity is a surprise in a sector that puts a premium on the personal touch, but changing client needs and increasing competition for wealthy clients are forcing private investment management firms to offer an online element to their services. The aim is to use technology to enhance the relationship, not to replace the private client manager. Technology is also one of the factors holding back progress, however. Respondents to a survey of 30 leading UK institutions named security and technical integration as two of the biggest barriers they face.
Tuesday, 9th October 2001 - The conservative, conventional world of private client investment management is embracing online services.
Four in 10 of the UK’s investment management companies already offer an online service, but within two years the figure is expected to climb to 77%, according to a survey by Byline Research for financial software specialist, iE.
The survey identified two main motives for adopting online services: improve services to current clients and the need for competitive differentiation in an increasingly crowded private investment management sector.
According to the report “High Net Worth: Online Wealth Management”, which is based on interviews with 30 UK investment management companies, the increase in domestic and overseas competition in the UK, and the increasing expectations of clients that Internet services are part of the package is responsible for the surge in online development.
Some perceived obstacles remain, however. The most important of these are security and technical problems of integrating various back-end systems with client-facing software, cited by 63% and 50% of investment management companies in the survey respectively.
Commenting on the research, Hettie Hirst, head of wealth management at iE, said: “While the investment managers report that their clients are demanding online services, the research also shows that the same clients are wary. This is not a contradiction but a reflection of the problem that where the Internet is concerned good ideas have often been let down by poor execution.”
Unlike the high street banks, which saw the Internet as a cheap alternative to branches and telephone support, investment managers take a more sophisticated view.
iE’s Hirst said: “The private client sector is deadly serious about the Internet, but as an additional channel for customer service not as a substitute for personal service and advice, and certainly not as a crude mechanism to cut costs.”
Coutts & Co, which took part in the survey, was also keen to allay fears that human managers would be automated out of existence. James Wrighton, senior manager, online strategy, Coutts & Co, said: “Coutts offers clients a multi-channel wealth management experience which is centred around a strong one-to-one relationship with their private banker.
“We launched online banking over two years ago and a significant proportion of clients are actively using the service today. Our priority is to continue to enhance the service to enable clients to carry out quick and efficient transactions, give them access to up-to-date information and provide services that are unique to the online environment, while complementing the personal service provided by our private bankers.”
83% of respondents to the survey said better service was more important to clients than lower fees.
Although a hard core of resistance remains and some firms continue to insist that the Internet is an inappropriate medium for wealth management services, the number committed to online delivery, particularly in view of the dotcom backlash is surprisingly high.
63% said they thought that demand for their services would go up not down as a result of “difficult markets”, as clients move away from execution-only services towards professional management of their portfolios.
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