The future of wealth advisory requires being in sync with your clients: understanding their financial needs, what’s going on in their lives and how they prefer to interact. Firms that want to remain competitive will need to think from the lens of how to make life easier for their clients with digital tools.

Each year, our design and innovation consultancy arm, Fjord, puts out a report identifying major trends affecting business, technology and design in the coming months and years. In the 2018 edition, the trends all reflect on tension: digital versus physical, human versus machine, centralized versus decentralized, speed versus craft, automation versus control, traceability versus anonymity. Successful companies will be those who best navigate these tensions and seize the opportunity to collectively design the world we’ll be living in.

Here are three trends I found most interesting in Fjord Trends 2018 and how they apply to wealth management in the digital age:

1.  Physical Fights Back. Fjord predicts that the future of service is about blending digital with the physical world. For the past five years, wealth management firms have focused on designing their digital offerings with experiences targeted for PC and mobile screens. This approach needs to change. Our “Wealth in the Digital Age” research shows that clients want hybrid advice—the best of both worlds. So firms need to ask—how can we design experiences to connect with people and improve those interactions, leveraging digital in a physical world? The answer: they need to start driving consistent, connected experiences that fuse physical and digital. For instance, UBS’ new digital advice and online investing offering combines technology with access to a financial advisor and research.[1]

The fusion of digital with the physical world will have huge implications for wealth management firms—both in terms of how their teams are structured, and how they develop products, services and experiences.

2.  A Machine’s Search for Meaning. One needs to rethink the way in which machines and people coexist and design ways to help them get the best from each other. We recommend firms think collaboratively, not competitively, and consider how AI can amplify our own human capabilities to enable your workforce to work smarter. For wealth management firms, this means letting people do what they do best and letting machines do what people do worst. As an example, Morgan Stanley is purportedly designing a siri-like AI assistant to help advisors sift insights from thousands of reports in seconds.[2]

As we think of hybrid advice, let machines identify patterns and insights while humans focus on advice. As Kendra Thompson recently blogged, remember to include advisors in defining this journey—to build trust in the impact of AI, they must feel reassured, included and informed. Accenture Strategy’s latest report, “Reworking the Revolution,” highlights the innovative ways in which machine and people can collaborate.

3.  Design Outside the Lines. As encouraging as it is to see design thinking embraced widely, Fjord experts warn that its proliferation could blur the distinction between novices and experts. When lots of companies and brands claim to employ its tenets in their work, it is crucial to be able to identify those who truly understand design thinking and its transformative promise.

Wealth management firms need to commit to design thinking to truly differentiate themselves in the experience they provide to clients and avoid “flat design.” Design thinking is most effective when multidisciplinary teams work together with skilled designers and those intimately familiar in advising clients.

If you are interested in learning about how Accenture and our Fjord team can help you address your digital experience, please reach out or comment below. I would be happy to have an in-depth conversation about how these trends will impact your wealth management business and how to manage change successfully.

To learn more, read the full report: 2018 Fjord Trends.

[1] https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180405005714/en/UBS-Wealth-Management-USA-Introduces-Digital-Advice

[2] http://www.wealthmanagement.com/technology/farewell-robo-advisors-hello-cognitive-computing-pulse

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