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Towards a democratisation of wealth management

Forward-thinking wealth managers are adapting to meet the digital demands of high-net-worth clients and mass affluent investors, writes Nick McCall, Head of Wealth Management at Dolfin

6 February 2020 / Investing

For some time, digital investment platforms have served most retail investors’ needs while high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) clients have used face-to-face services. But wealth managers are realising that many HNW individuals also expect digital services alongside their relationship-based offerings.

Meanwhile, the minimum investment wealth managers require to provide a personal service has been growing – even to £5m or more in some cases. This has created an increasing gap of affluent but underserviced clients who need a better digital offering than has been available in the past.

The challenge for wealth managers targeting HNWs is to provide a digital experience that matches and complements the personal service. For those serving affluent customers, the goal is to give them a low-cost digital service that meets their full financial planning needs. Dolfin believes it can cater to both.

Next generation platform

To fill these gaps, pioneering contenders are joining forces. For example, Goldman Sachs has invested in robo-adviser Nutmeg and tech-savvy asset manager United Capital; BlackRock has tied up with digital service provider Scalable Capital; and Allianz has joined forces with robo-adviser Moneyfarm. These groups are moving towards financial platforms and apps that will allow clients to integrate their disparate collection of financial products.

“Using Dolfin gives smaller wealth managers a head-start in offering a compelling solution to their own clients.”

Dolfin has taken a two-pronged approach to this trend. While we continue to serve HNW and UHNW clients in a bespoke, face-to-face way – with experienced Dolfin relationship managers enhanced by online reporting tools like myDolfin – we have also developed a B2B digital platform and client relationship management tool that we are making available to the financial advisers we serve. By using Dolfin’s platform these smaller wealth managers, multi-family offices and boutique private banks get a head-start in offering a compelling solution to their own clients and are free to focus on doing so while Dolfin takes care of the likes of onboarding, opening custody accounts, executing trades, and client reporting.

One of the early adopters of the platform is digital wealth management provider Rosecut Technologies. Rosecut is an appointed representative of Dolfin and uses the firm predominantly for custody and trade execution. Qiaojia Li, co-founder and CEO of Rosecut, previously worked on digital projects at large private banks, but says she felt they were too slow to adopt technology and felt that there was a fantastic opportunity to try it herself.

“It takes banks a very long time even to launch an app.” – Qiaojia Li, Rosecut

“My experience is that it takes banks a very long time even to launch an app, and then it works on an iPad but not an iPhone,” says Li. “They are aware that digital is an option, but they do not believe it will be big. In that sense, private banks are like the luxury fashion industry ten years ago – they thought all clients needed to go to the beautiful boutiques and touch the leather before they spent £10,000 on a handbag.

“Then the likes of Net-a-Porter found people were willing to spend that money without actually seeing the products. Some people do prefer face-to-face financial advice, but others do not and the demand for digital access is growing across the wealth spectrum. Even retail platforms are attracting HNW and UHNW people, whose expectations of digital services are similar to everyone else’s. Also, HNW and UHNW clients have children who fit into the affluent categories, so need digital services.”

Mass affluent market

Furthermore, affluent investors are falling through the cracks because, even though they may have £500,000 investable assets, they find it hard to get full planning and investment services due to wealth managers raising their minimum investment levels.

Dolfin’s platform aims to serve all these groups – either serving them directly or by helping other wealth managers provide the kind of digital service that UHNW, HNW and mass affluent clients currently need and expect but do not receive.

To return to Rosecut, the firm has built an offering on top of Dolfin’s infrastructure that is able to understand clients’ wider financial needs, build a long-term plan, implement it and update it as their life evolves. It is currently investment focused and plans to include specialist advice in areas such as protection, lending and alternative investment management – something few digital players offer – using artificial intelligence to build an advice engine that addresses all these issues.

“Wealth managers like Rosecut are democratising wealth management.”

“You can use the advice engine to iterate your life plan in as many ways as you want – even 100 ways – until you’re happy,” explains Li. “Charges only start when you’re happy with the plan and decide to give us some cash to invest. So we can use AI to replicate the face-to-face experience clients have with their wealth manager. Instead of a two-hour meeting, they interact with our app at any time they want, ask it questions and the advice engine gives the answers and strategies for their life plan in the most efficient way.”

High-quality wealth management is clearly no longer the preserve of the rich. By leveraging Dolfin’s platform and online technology, wealth managers like Rosecut – which aims to be the first digital platform in the UK using AI to build holistic planning and investment services – are democratising wealth management.

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Founded as a London-based wealth boutique in 2013, today we’re a diversified financial services firm with an international presence and our own bespoke technology platform.

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