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Wealth Managers Lag in Strengthening Digital Capabilities: PwC

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Chief executives of asset and wealth management firms are strongly optimistic about their own growth, but some firms are ill-prepared for the huge change technology, shifting consumer preferences and globalization may bring, according to PwC’s 20th CEO survey.

The survey of 185 CEOs from 45 countries conducted in the fourth quarter was part of a larger study of global CEOs.

The survey found firm leaders’ optimism robust going into 2017, despite uneven growth in 2016. Ninety-two percent of CEOs said they were at least somewhat confident about their firms’ revenue growth, up from 90% who said this a year ago.

Respondents were not so sure about the global economy, as less than a third expected improvement and half expected last year’s anemic growth to persist.

Researchers sought to find out whether the asset and wealth management sector was preparing fast enough for the effect of new technology.

The answer was dispiriting. The survey found that CEOs, both personally and commercially, were less acquainted with new technologies than their peers in other sectors—perhaps because these technologies have disrupted their sector less than, say, banking.

Looking forward five years, 65% of respondents expected technology to completely reshape or significantly affect competition. In contrast, 77% of CEOs across financial services as a whole anticipated this happening.

“Technology is a disruptive force and I am amazed by how low the sector’s survey responses are around digital and cyber security,” Barry Benjamin, PwC’s global asset and wealth management leader, said in the study’s introduction. “This industry is not thinking as agilely around technology and disruption as it should.”

Benjamin said some CEOs in the survey were looking into the matter, but many were not. “There’s a real risk of firms being swept aside.”

The survey found that although asset and wealth management CEOs realized they had to re-engineer their approach to the workforce, they did not appear to prioritize relevant areas such as digital skills to the same degree as other sectors.

At the same time, it found a drive to adapt the workforce to the broader set of skills, agility and creativity needed for the future. For instance, 79% of CEOs said they promoted diversity and inclusiveness, and 68% said they had changed their personnel strategy to reflect the skills and employment structures needed for the future.

How to revive trust in an increasingly digitized world? Sixty-two percent of the sector’s CEOs acknowledged that it had become harder to gain and keep clients’ trust.

Given this, 83% agreed on the importance of running their shops in a way that accounted for wider stakeholder expectations, and 90% considered it important to have a strong corporate purpose that was reflected in their values, cultures and behaviors.

Fifty-three percent of CEOs in the survey saw cybersecurity breaches as the biggest threat to trust, and 42% IT outages and disruptions. As a result, 38% said they were addressing cybersecurity, and 41% were doing the same for IT outages and disruptions.

— Check out Clara Shih: How to ‘Work Smarter’ on Social Media on ThinkAdvisor.