Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s technology-related projects are making headlines. With nearly 15,800 advisors and $2.2 trillion in client assets, the wirehouse is working with tech partners like Hearsay Systems and Twilio to give its registered reps — who have average yearly fees and commissions of close to $1.03 million — more ways to interact with clients.
Naureen Hassan, chief digital officer of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, and Chris Randazzo, chief information officer, recently shared some of the thinking and details behind the unit’s mobile plans, social-media strategy and emphasis on innovation as it aims to stay ahead of the competition.
What is your firm’s overall philosophy with regard to technology in the long term?
Randazzo: We are seeing dramatic changes across all aspects of our business — shifting demographics, new competitors emerging, client expectations being set outside the industry, endless access to information and unsurpassed speed of innovation. In delivering the full breadth of Morgan Stanley’s technology resources to meet these evolving client needs, we deploy a competitive advantage that is hard to match.
Emerging technologies are influencing all aspects of our technology solutions from shared infrastructure to internal and external client interactions, and we are making aggressive advances to deliver a great client experience across all platforms. Our mobile-first development philosophy ensures that we are designing with client flexibility at the forefront.
Cloud is allowing us to nimbly respond to market swings, and decreasing our time-to-market on innovative new solutions. Digital, together with social technologies, is allowing us to enter new markets and improve the productivity, experience and interactions for our clients.
Automation is tightening our workflows while driving consistency and efficiency of process. Analytics and data are fueling enhanced decision making through advanced quantitative analysis techniques. And artificial intelligence is allowing us to extend to sentiment analysis and algorithmic learning methodologies to create limitless possibilities in decision making.
How is the firm meeting client expectations?
Hassan: Clients expectations are changing. They expect their interactions with their financial advisor to be as easy as it is to order a taxi or order groceries online. They have access to more information than they ever had in their lives, and we believe in providing them with the tools, products and capabilities that deliver Morgan Stanley to them in the way they want to consume.
To meet those expectations, we’re enhancing the way clients can communicate with advisors, such as implementing texting capabilities. And while texting sounds simple, there’s a lot of regulatory oversight involved.
With that in mind, we’ve signed a partnership with Twilio in order to bring texting to our financial advisors and our clients. Similarly, we are investing in video chat capabilities, so clients can check in with their advisors from anywhere they may be.
How is the firm meeting advisor expectations?
Hassan: Much like our clients, our advisors are looking for ease of use and having the information they want at their fingertips, regardless of where they are. In order to meet those expectations, this past quarter we released a mobile version of our core advisor desktop platform.
The newest version allows for advisors to see all their information at their fingertips, on their iPad, wherever they are, whenever they want. That has been extremely popular with our advisors.
We are also leveraging data to help advisors engage not only with more clients but also more effectively. Rather than sending clients an email the day after Brexit with a macro analysis, which feels generic, we are building a system that can assess a situation for each client in an automated fashion.
Our advisors will be able to engage with their clients — and a greater number of clients than they currently reach — with the ability to deliver more timely and relevant advice to scale.
What is the role of advisor feedback, and how is it integrated into what the firm does?
Hassan: Working together and obtaining feedback from advisors is a crucial part of the technology build-out at Morgan Stanley. We have a Digital Advisory Council whose sole focus is to provide the digital team input on what they and their clients would like to see from a technological perspective.