Wealth managers complacent about digital changes

Wealth managers complacent about digital changes

Investment groups are showing “surprising complacency” when it comes to adapting to digital changes, according to a major study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Of the 185 asset and wealth management firms PwC surveyed across 45 countries, just 10 per cent planned to strengthen their digital capabilities.

This comes despite two thirds of chief executives saying they were concerned that the speed of technological change is a threat to growth.

Barry Benjamin, global asset and wealth management leader for PwC, said investment houses seem to be less familiar with new technologies than their peers in other sectors.

He pointed out that these technologies have as yet disrupted the asset management industry less than sectors such as banking, where 74 per cent of chief executives said digital change has completely reshaped competition in the sector.

By comparison, just over half of asset and wealth management bosses said technology has had a huge impact on their business.

Yet Mr Benjamin questioned whether digital innovation will now start to seriously interrupt fund groups as well.

This comes as a survey from research house Cerulli Associates warned fund groups were in danger of falling behind because they were failing to have a clear strategy in place for coping with digital change.

While the PwC report indicated that a growing number of asset managers are expecting technology to have a huge impact on the industry, Mr Benjamin warned many still seem to underestimate the threat.

When comparing the views of chief executives of large asset management firms and those of the rest of the financial services sector, he said fund groups show “surprising complacency” about technological innovation beyond automated advice. 

“Blockchain, the use of artificial intelligence in portfolio management and a range of digital applications, promise significant opportunities for [investment groups] that should not be ignored.”

Schroders’ group chief executive Peter Harrison agreed that technology will lead to considerable change. 

“I think the advent of artificial intelligence is the thing which will really change the way in which we approach our work.

“We haven’t really started on how we process information without behavioural biases,” he said, claiming as individuals we bring far too much behavioural bias into the workplace.

“Once artificial intelligence is up and running, we will be way better at making informed, relevant, consistent decisions." 

While Mr Harrison said this would cause its own problems too, he said it will "undoubtedly" be the thing which changes most over the next 20 years .

Brian Conroy, president of Fidelity, said his firm has no intention of being left behind.

He said: “In order for any firm to successfully deliver financial products to clients going forward, they’re going to absolutely depend on being at the cutting edge of technology.”