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  • Mawson Flinders Cook

Is 'Big Tech' a threat to wealth management?

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

As much as US$12 trillion in wealth could move to “Big Tech” firms the likes of Amazon, Google and Alibaba, should they decide to offer wealth management services, well that’s according to Capgemini’s latest World Wealth Report 2018, which finds that more than 50 per cent of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) globally are interested in Big Tech wealth management. Interest among Asia-Pacific HNWIs at 81.5 per cent is the second-highest after Latin America.

Globally HNWI wealth expanded by 10.6 per cent in 2017, breaking the US$70 trillion mark for the first time. Asia-Pacific maintained its lead over North America in terms of the growth of HNWI population and wealth.

But despite the robust double-digit returns of the past two years, that global client satisfaction with wealth managers has not risen to the degree that might be expected from the strong performance.

Singapore is in fact among a group of countries where client satisfaction declined or remained flat. Satisfaction levels among global HNWIs for firms (64.6 per cent) and  their wealth managers (63.4 per cent) were higher than the previous year, but were below the “passing” mark of 70 per cent.

The relatively low satisfaction levels expressed by clients may relate to issues of fee transparency, and a lack of personalisation and personal connection with their wealth manager.

Capgemini said the widespread entry of Big Techs into wealth management remains uncertain, but it is likely to be a question of “when”, rather than “if”. “Entry barriers include privacy and reputational issues, on top of regulatory constraints. There is a consensus among wealth management executives that Big Tech entry into wealth management will be led by Asia-Pacific, followed by North America and eventually Europe,’” said the report.

Capgemini expects that the Big Tech entry may be via collaboration or a blend of competition and collaboration. Nearly 60 per cent of HNWIs globally said they would be willing to begin a wealth management relationship with a Big Tech firm within a six-month period. Around 80 per cent said they would consider such a model within a year.

Big Tech firms have made great strides in payments and have also tied up with financial institutions. Amazon, for instance, partnered this year with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan to look into the US healthcare market. Last year, Tencent invested US$360 million in China International Capital Corp, an investment banking firm in China. It has also secured a licence to sell mutual funds to WeChat’s one billion users. Alibaba has Ant Financial wealth management arm, which claims assets under management of US$345 billion.

Meanwhile, HNWIs are “cautiously interested” in cryptocurrencies as an investment and store of value. About 29 per cent have a high degree of interest, and 26.9 per cent said they are somewhat interested.

Among HNWIs below 40, some 71 per cent place high importance on receiving cryptocurrency information from their main wealth management firms. But firms have been ambivalent on this; only 34 per cent of HNWIs globally said they have received cryptocurrency information from their wealth managers.

Grant’s Thoughts: An interesting time for Wealth Management, as clients discuss investing with “Big Tech” yet have major issues with their transparency in managing their data currently, so why would they trust the same companies with their money? Alibaba has moved forward with Ant Financial Wealth Management and has it has been successful so will Google and Amazon follow? and what will the Banks reaction be? especially as markets cool and the returns go into a downward single digit return? A very interesting time and the HNWI’s will be the winners.

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