As we saw in our last blog, the Future of Banking and Wealth Management is complex and full of uncertainties. So how can banks best anticipate change and confidently navigate the unknown? In an attempt to create more clarity, we recently hosted ‘scenario thinking’ workshops for CEOs, business development heads and chief strategists of Swiss private banks, in which we explored what the industry might be like in 2030. Below, we describe four scenarios these executives, collectively responsible for more than CHF 2 trillion of assets under management, came up with.
1. Family office ecosystem
In this scenario, open architecture simplifies collaboration between different providers across the value chain enabling wealth managers to provide their clients with the best product experts, financial planners and tax experts from within their internal and external network. In turn, basic banking services, including custody, become a low-cost commodity which will be sourced from the most cost-efficient provider. As a consequence, wealth managers exit parts of the value chain and focus on high-quality tailored advice, leveraging strong networks of internal and external experts. This shifting focus, and the competition for differentiation, lead to family-office-like offerings, even for lower-end clients. While clients are willing to pay for high-value, human-centered and holistic advice, client loyalty erodes if service quality is not met.
2. Wealth management marketplace
Digital interfaces and open platforms enable clients choose their wealth management services from various suppliers along the value chain according to their specific needs and preferences, with very low switching costs. Excellent customer experience as well as pricing and performance of digital services are the key differentiating factors in this scenario, and many digital native players such as BigTechs successfully gain market share. Winning wealth managers re-invent themselves as modular integrators of services to reduce complexity for their clients, drawing together services offered by other participants in the ecosystem.
3. Digital islands
Driven by shifting client preferences, virtual interfaces are the main channel for client interactions and the delivery of standardised, yet sophisticated, products and services. Banks and wealth managers are able to respond to new competition from Big Techs due to their clients’ lack of trust in tech players, in particular with respect to data sharing. The industry consolidates progressively around the largest and financially strongest incumbents that invested heavily in technology early on. Superior digital client experience, scale and cost efficiency are the primary factors for success. This leads to a small number of closed ecosystems dominated by (private) banking giants, with a number of niche players serving one or several of them as specialist providers. Usually, clients stick with one ecosystem, due to high switching costs.
4. Club feeling
Incumbent players exercise tight control over the entire value chain, and interactions with clients are human-centred. Clients look for high-quality offerings and superior services for which they are ready to pay a premium. Some incumbents establish themselves as leading players that leverage their strong brand and differentiated services to remain ahead of the competition. Similar to a members-only club, these players retain clients by offering unique experiences and a feeling of exclusivity. Top players command margins that are higher than today, but the industry also faces limited opportunities for cost reduction compared to other scenarios, due to limited inter-operability across the value chain and the human-centred service model. This scenario is vulnerable to shifting client preferences and the emergence of disruptive competitors.
So which of these four scenarios could it be?
Asked about their vision for the future, workshop participants voted for the “family office ecosystem” scenario. However, when we asked the same questions to the participants at a conference not exclusively targeted at private banks, the “wealth management marketplace” received the most votes. We can’t predict the future, but we can make ourselves responsive to the changes going on around us, impacting wealth management clients and the value chain. Scenario thinking is a tool that supports us in doing so. Looking beyond our own client base and across industry borders is another helpful approach. Winning organizations succeed by creating shared narratives about their visions for the future to drive internal change, while constantly monitoring developments in their business environment to remain flexible in the event a different future materializes.