White Paper

Digital Disruption: Is the Financial Advisor’s Value Under Siege?

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Executive Summary

A steady drumbeat by the media and technology-driven competitors has suggested something is terribly wrong with the traditional brokerage relationship and, in particular, the client-advisor relationship. The brand of full-service investment advice that the industry has historically delivered is under attack. At the same time, escalating regulatory oversight and compelling technology platforms are converging. The headwinds the industry faces suggest a time of significant change is here.

No one factor is the root cause; rather, there are multiple influences at work. Some are environmental, coming at us from the outside. Others fall within the realm of human nature because they’re all about how people feel and prioritize their lives.

First, from the environmental corner: Increasing regulatory oversight, such as the recent Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule, will be changing the industry without a doubt. But other environmental factors are impacting the industry too — above all, technology. A mature financial services industry that has focused on investments and markets now finds itself eclipsed by the proliferation of digital technology. Technology has crept into our lives and profoundly changed our habits, preferences and expectations. A mix of competitors and upstarts with masterful digital tools and know-how offer simplified investment solutions, encourage investors to participate more in their investment life, save more by paying less for portfolio management and take control through engaging portfolio platforms.

Second, we’re living longer. This is transforming our thinking and our behavior. The longevity trend has breathed life into the notion of living better while living longer and is shaping new attitudes about work, retirement and quality of life. Everyone has a different idea about how to spend the last third of their life. As each successive generation plans to live longer, fewer than ever are planning to retire to that proverbial rocking chair on the porch.

As a result, wealth management firms are struggling to predict consumer attitudes and preferences and trying to keep pace with changing investor demands. Informed investors with a multitude of information and more options than ever expect more from their financial advisors. These factors are combining to drive fundamental changes in investor behavior. They are redefining the rules of advice and threatening the longstanding assumption that financial advisors offer investors an advantage in pursuing their financial goals.

The time has come to restate the advisor value proposition and redefine the essential value in clients’ lives.