Historically, the financial planning and advice industry focuses on advisor-centric offerings targeted at higher net-worth clients. The delivery has varied across many types of firms, but the essential program has remained the same — a very skilled (and highly compensated) advisor, serving a small number of relatively wealthy clients. The most prevalent model consists of the advisor having a series of face-to-face meetings with the client to gather information about goals and objectives, assets and liabilities. The advisor then formulates a financial and/or investment plan and again meets face-to-face with the client to deliver the plan.
This model has worked relatively well, particularly with clients who have more than $1 million in investable assets. This market, the affluent, could generate enough revenue to make the time and the effort of advisors worthwhile. However, the model has never translated very well to the mass affluent market, broadly defined as clients with between $250,000 and $1 million in investable assets. These clients simply cannot generate the revenue to compensate for the amount of time and effort an advisor spends on his/her account.
However, the mass affluent segment still wants and needs advice — now more than ever before due to the erosion of wealth and, more importantly, confidence in the future.
So, how can financial institutions provide an advisory offering to serve the mass affluent market? The technology components exist today to provide a comprehensive, scalable and efficient advisory offering to the mass affluent space. The challenge is weaving the components together to conceive such a platform.
Core components of such a platform include:
- A streamlined workflow application to automate functions such as account opening
- Flexible and configurable advisory tools to gather and store client data, build investment proposals, and set asset allocations
- Robust rebalancing and overlay management functionality to streamline and scale the investment management process
- Comprehensive performance reporting and fee billing capabilities
- Interactive client portals for the storage and delivery of documents and other information
- Robust compliance tracking and auditing functionality
- Widespread mobile and telepresence communications capability
Essentially, it should be every firm’s goal to use technology to streamline as many mundane and manual tasks as possible, and make the process more efficient. All of the technology mentioned above exists today. However, it is uncertain whether there are any institutions with the full capabilities tied together in a comprehensive platform. Deploying that type of comprehensive platform would be a major challenge that requires the examination of nearly every existing procedure and workflow, but it could reap enormous benefits. It is estimated that the mass affluent make up nearly 22 million U.S. households, making it an attractive market to pursue.
What is your firm doing to attract the mass-affluent?