The lowdown -
Q&A with Chris Low,
Head of Wealth & Asset Management Accenture UK & Ireland
Chris Low
Head of Wealth & Asset Management
Accenture UK & Ireland
The interview was conducted by Alice Aspinall, a Senior Delivery Manager and AWAMs industry lead at Mudano and Cameron Spiteri, a Program and Project Management Analyst and aligned to the AWAMs practice at Mudano. 
What does the Wealth Management business of the future look like? Is it a reduction in offerings to specialise or is it a focus on people internally to reduce cost and time spent on activities?
“It’s a really good question and being a consultant, I’m going to say both. So, all Wealth Managers (WMs) are looking to grow their business by getting closer to their clients to really understand their needs and preferences and provide them with a best-in-class service. There is also a significant focus on intergenerational wealth transfer.  How WMs serve one client group may be completely different to another. "For example, one theme is ‘purpose’ and how WMs offer clients a broader offering, not just service and investment returns.  Clients are now becoming even more interested in where their money is being invested.  As Wealth Managers look beyond the traditional type of individuals they’ve tried to attract, and when they look at the younger entrepreneur, as a new target, this demographic is going to be much more concerned around a sustainability agenda and ESG investing as well as the digital channels in which they can communicate. The ability to provide clients with a heightened transparency and clarity of their investments and the service they are receiving will become the key differentiators in the market.   "With that in mind, looking inside the organisation it’s less around how we reduce cost but more around how WMs can flex themselves and their ability to fuel growth; developing new propositions, scaling assets and clients in an efficient manner.  Without this, WMs risk becoming left with a very expensive and inefficient model. So, using new technologies to get to your end client is going to be the way to go as well as getting the most out of your data. Initial cost is less of an issue as long as the organisation takes a longer-term view.  Agility and scalability are the two metrics which will set apart the WMs in the future."
If you were to invest money now, what would be the differentiators you would look for in WMs?

"Everyone has differing rationale, however as opposed to differentiators…. Personally, I would like to answer this in terms of core factors.  In ascending order, trust (people and what the firm stands for), consistent investment track record, breadth of service offering, value for money (not just cost but quality of service, via digital or in person).  "The values of the people and the firm are really important to me. The organisation I'm choosing needs to be an organisation that I share the same values with. Thinking around the ESG agenda, in particular what they’re doing in the broader society and community, would also be something I’m very, very keen to explore.” "Likewise, quality advice and value for money are more important to me than cost."
Just on that quality of service point, do you think there’s enough information out there about the quality of service at different Wealth Managers? There's not really that much of a ranking. How people decide seems to be pretty arbitrary.
"You’re absolutely right, and if you look at the banks for instance, for customer service, you always see First Direct is number 1 or 2, and there's some very straight statistics which are being used (to measure). I don’t think anyone’s really thought about what these statistics look like for the Wealth Management industry but some standard metrics in terms of speed and ease of onboarding, mediums for communication, response times, etc would be very interesting."
“Clients are now becoming even more interested in where their money is being invested"
Yes, because if you think around the banking industry and the current account switch service that they offer, that became this huge marketing thing to encourage switching and still no-one does it. That problem is even worse in the Wealth Management industry. If I think about my own investments, the idea of trying to switch them to someone else seems like way too much hassle, but there’s also an issue with transparency. It all gets so complicated very quickly and there's really no way of comparing one Wealth Manager to another.
“True. I'm actually speaking to a Wealth Manager at the moment about my personal circumstances and one of the first questions I asked was what your entry and exit charges are, and both of the answers were zero. So that would instantly attract me to that type of organisation because they have been transparent from the start.”
How can a Wealth Manager whose culture is mostly male oriented start to bring more women into wealth both in the workplace and in terms of client base?
"Good question! And this is something that we are developing a proposition for as we speak! If you look typically at the way the communication is undertaken from relationship managers and how they interact, it has traditionally been geared towards a middle-aged male demographic because that is who the client was. Today, a number of things do need to change – and it’s not as simple as, say, more women becoming relationship managers. There is much more to it than that. We need to ensure that wealth management, as an industry, is much more representative and diverse so that's something in which there is a broader issue to address in Wealth Management. Then I'd say specifically to women, I know a number of women who work as Wealth Managers and Relationship Managers and they just got fed up with the industry, so there is a big issue and I think hopefully Accenture are going to solve that problem soon."
What attributes should WMs be looking for in their new employees going forward? Are these the same as 5/10 years ago or are these shifting?
"They are definitely shifting, so being digitally native is just a no brainer. Communication skills are always going to be important too. Typically, face to face is a much easier environment to empathise with someone, but how do you do the same with someone over the phone or video messaging? It's much more difficult. Therefore, flexibility and emotional intelligence are some things which need to come to the fore. In order to empathise with the client, you need to understand what they want and what they’re trying to do. You then need to have the ability to take those goals and map them back to the organisation in terms of what is actually required. So, new employees with these attributes will be part of that process to transform the industry from the inside out."
What will digitalisation of Wealth Management services allow the Wealth Managers to do that they have not before?

"I’ll firstly say it's a long journey that they’re going to go on. I don’t think it’ll ever be complete because market demand and preferences are continually changing and so fast. If Wealth Managers get their data governance, strategy etc. correct they’ll be able to accelerate their journey faster.  "In the longer-term with remote working, they will be able to have a much more remote relationship management and banking force, with the ability to get 3,4,5 people together at once that traditionally would have been in different parts of the world. Co-creating around specific client issues or demand from the industry will be much easier and simpler in a digital world.  "It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in the marketing and sales space too, as typically Wealth Managers have focussed on the biggest investment (in terms of CRM usage). Now, with the increased data analytics of their customer base available they will also have to consider which clients, channels and which capabilities to invest in. "Those who embrace these new technologies coming down the pipe are also those who will be successful in the future. What they’ve got to be able to do is marry up where they invest in new technologies versus where they get a return on equity. As there is an awful lot of trial, test and error involved with this, those that have got the agility to put in some tech and solutions, test and see if it works, fail fast and try something new will be the ones who will be on the forefront of where the future digital agenda lies."

Is the mass affluent a segment that current WM’s can really go for if costs are as high as they are currently?
“It really is a double-edged sword, because a number of Wealth Managers are chasing the same segments and then you look at the mass affluent segment, there is less revenue today to be driven from that segment. But a lot of Wealth Managers are looking more strategically at what the next 5 to 10 years looks like, because let’s be frank, a lot of the mass affluent clients are going to extend and expand up into the higher scales of the affluent and beyond. What I think is more important is that the Wealth Managers don’t just take that mass affluent target as a group, but actually work out which types of individuals within that segment that they actually want to attract. It needs a more specialist focus by the Wealth Managers to really understand what the demographics are within that segment so that they can better target those affluent clients they actually want to attract."