Ann Senne, RBC Wealth Management Ann Senne, head of RBC Wealth Management’s U.S. Advice & Solutions

Ann Senne, head of RBC Wealth Management U.S. Advice & Solutions, has focused on one thing for the past four years: modernizing the bank’s systems, processes and talent to create a more efficient and effective wealth management resource center.

In 2016, Senne came back to RBC (after short stints at U.S. Bank and LoCorr Funds) to revamp the firm’s “old school broker-dealer” into a “digitally enabled investment advisory business,” she told ThinkAdvisor.

Today, the bank has 2,000 advisors, up 200 from 2016. They work with $414 billion in client assets.

Senne first joined the bank in 1994 as a senior financial auditor after earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MBA at the University of Minnesota.

“[To better serve advisors] we spent a lot of time thinking about what are the key areas to invest in,” she said. “The first was really creating the planning experience, and to do that, we built out our team.”

That included hiring former U.S. Bank pro Angie O’Leary to lead wealth planning at RBC Wealth. O’Leary also has helped expand the tool set for advisors.

In addition, Nate Angelo from Russell Investments was hired as head of wealth management consulting, to educate advisors on in-depth resources they can use to better help their clients.

The modernization also meant adding strategists and consultants to an “internal wealth center,” who could help advisors build certain skill sets, including those tied to the use of annuities and insurance.

But key to the changes, says Senne, was getting advisors “to feel empowered [and] to provide clarity and confidence” so their work could become more focused and in tune with client needs.

This effort included investments in “enhancing for our solution set and then our practice management capabilities, and by that I mean product feeds. So we enhanced almost all of our products on platforms over the course of the last few years.”

They also added technology such as Envestnet’s MoneyGuidePro, a web-based product to help advisors work with and manage client portfolios. Plus, having strong customer relationship management software was critical to the modernization, according to Senne.

Overall, she sees technology as both a necessity for industry growth and a challenge to keep up with on several levels.

Advisors need to work with robust technology, especially as remote work becomes more prevalent.

“Figuring out how to do this virtually is really important,” she says. “So spending a lot of time on helping everyone get comfortable, delivering the same kind of experience and delivering empathy and compassion in a format where we’re not actually in the same space, that is going to be important to figure out.”

In addition, there’s the challenge of keeping up with technology, “especially when measured against what our clients see in other industries [like operating off an iPhone] which seems to be the standard for how people interact today,” she says.

This brings up the problem: “Do you partner or build, and how do [firms] create that kind of experience and stay current with developments?” she asks. “We’re not a technology firm, but how do we stay current and continue to deliver [best technology to clients]?”

Future Trends

Updating the bank’s wealth management arm was a necessary step in preparing it to address future trends, such as the “enormous wealth transfer” from baby boomers to younger generations.

This effort includes helping advisors find the right mix of team members, and helping them “acquire that new talent,“ she says. This includes a mixture of genders, ages and ethnicities.

Another area they see as an important trend, and one in which they have developed products and education for their advisors: sustainable investing.

“We have seen that clients are far more interested in it than advisors,” she says. “So we now have a director of responsible investing to get the word out that [advisor] clients are interested in this.”

She adds that the other end of the spectrum also is true: Many advisors have made socially responsible investing their sole focus.

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