futuristic bridge

There are many investment dealers, asset-management firms and insurance companies that have been in business for many years and rely on legacy systems and processes to serve their clients. These companies — and virtually every player in the financial services sector — recognize the importance of digital transformation if they wish to be market leaders or even remain competitive. However, for many of these firms, there’s a big gap between their digital vision and execution reality.

In fact, a recent report from Deloitte LLP entitled Digital Transformation in Financial Services reveals that 90% of financial services leaders agree that digital technologies are disrupting their industry, but only 46% of these leaders believe that they’re preparing adequately for digital disruption.

At InvestorCOM, we define this gap as the “digital bridge.” On one side of the bridge, you have a legacy foundation that includes systems and processes integral to the financial institution but have been around forever and can be an impediment toward digital progress. On the other side is the digital foundation or future; this is the desired state. The journey across this bridge can be littered with hurdles, including compliance challenges, security considerations and change management. This journey can also be prolonged, which creates risk as pure-digital fintech firms compete for clients.

So, how does this impact financial advisors? We have all heard the adage that a parent is only as happy as their least-happy child. That’s also true of advisors — they’re only as happy as their least happy client. If clients are not being served with engaging digital technologies, client satisfaction will suffer.

Investment Executive’s 2017 Advisors’ Report Card identifies the need for financial services firms to improve their technology as advisors with brokerages, mutual fund and full-service dealers, banks and insurance agencies gave their firms an overall average performance rating of 7.5 in the “technology tools and advisor desktop” category. That pales in comparison to the overall average importance rating of 9.0 advisors gave the category. In fact, this difference resulted in the second-largest “satisfaction gap” in the Report Card.

Imagine a world in which your clients can access their financial data securely in a highly engaging digital experience on any device, enabling them to plan their financial future, review past performance and chat with their advisor. This client experience may sound like the description of a leading robo-advice platform, but what if this can be delivered to the clients of traditional wealth-management firms?

This begs the question: How can traditional wealth-management businesses position themselves to compete with purely digital fintech firms that are not saddled with legacy systems and processes? The answer is by creating an open architecture. Without delving into technical detail, there’s a rapidly emerging trend in which financial services firms are opening their systems and data to external partners that will deliver digital client experiences while integrating with legacy systems.