Why wealth managers must act now to save their future Friday 20 Nov 2015

Why wealth managers must act now to save their future

Break a mirror, and you’ll get seven years of bad luck. Break the banking system, and it’ll take that long just for regulators to work out who’s to blame.

With the Bank of England and FCA having finally issued its long-awaited report into the failings of HBOS – seven years on from the peak of the financial crisis, and its takeover by LloydsTSB – comes yet more damage to the reputation of City executives.

Not that I’m defending them; those guilty of the reckless lending practices which pushed the banking system to near collapse need to be punished.  Still, I think most City professionals will have at some point faced the feeling of suspicion and mistrust from clients or others less familiar with the wider workings of financial services.

In a similar way that as a journalist I’m regularly asked if I’ve ever tapped a phone, so wealth managers must encounter questions about their integrity just because they wear a smart suit and catch the 7:15am train to Liverpool Street every morning.

And don’t be fooled into thinking it will pass; the wealth management and advisory communities across the UK remain lax in the way they market themselves and as such it’s a threat to the industry’s appeal as a viable career choice for the next generation.

"Wealth managers must encounter questions about their integrity just because they wear a smart suit and catch the 7:15am train to Liverpool Street every morning"

Just this morning, I had a conversation with Mark Tibergien, the influential CEO behind Pershing. From his own anecdotal survey – carried out in his native New York – he found young people list three main reasons as to why they had not pursued a career in wealth management.

Firstly, they said they lacked financial education – basic or degree level. Secondly, they questioned the integrity and reputation of financial services, and thirdly they said they didn’t want to work as salespeople!

Carry the same survey out in the UK, and I’m sure you would get very similar answers. Earlier in my career, pre-financial crisis, I worked a short stint for an IFA and I’ll admit that I too had similar preconceptions. It’s an age old problem.

Break a mirror, and you’ll get seven years of bad luck. Break the banking system, and it’ll take that long just for regulators to work out who’s to blame.

Another interesting point from my conversation today is changing demographic shifts – no longer are wealth managers “baby boomers serving other baby boomers”, and so the need to reach out to younger clientele also becomes more important.

Inevitably, use of technology and evolving practices among different generations comes into play.

Pershing’s research found that, among the so-called ‘Millennials’ (those with birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s), the competence of a wealth manager is understandably first priority, but building a relationship with him/her is of much less importance.

Plenty to consider then, and an opportunity to reflect. While it’s too easy to vent at naughty bankers for damaging the reputation of financial services, wealth managers too have a duty to promote their stellar services and make sure this industry has a healthy future.