It seems to be the ambition of the majority of private banks today to see how they can develop or increase their digital capabilities to improve the internal workflow for their relationship managers (RMs) and the online experience for their clients.
Among the main drivers is the need to address the margin, regulatory and investment performance pressures they face. As a result, they are focused on enhancing digital platforms with the aim of reaching more clients to provide better advice as part of the overall user experience.
Yet too many of players have to date done relatively little of any real substance to move them in this direction.
Thomson Reuters believes that significant gaps remain in terms of where these institutions want to be and where they are today.
While many private banks in Asia are involved with accelerators, innovation labs and other “fintech” initiatives, most private banks can leverage existing platforms to improve workflows.
“Many private banks still have a lot of manual processes in place,” says Peter McMillan, head of wealth management for Thomson Reuters in Asia. “This is the main focus for us in terms of how we can help.”
The current situation can expose private banks to unnecessary compliance risks, he explains, but it also acts as a blockage to the desire for greater efficiency.
“For example, many RMs won’t be getting access to the right market and investment information at the right time,” he says.
Making a difference
Greater productivity is one of the biggest benefits that McMillan highlights for those private banks which take a serious approach to tackling these shortfalls.
RMs, for instance, will be able to call more clients if they are accessing and able to interpret information quicker and with more relevance to each client.
Plus, each RM can increase their client book overall if they don’t need to spend as much time analysing each portfolio.
Further, if an RM can be faster at reacting to market events and give a client relevant and timely insights, this will count in their favour when the client measures the value each of their multiple bankers really provides.
In line with this, Thomson Reuters has been developing its wealth management proposition to capitalise on the opportunity in the Asian private banking landscape today.
The first enhancement has been an upgrade to its traditional desktop offering in the wealth management space, moving to a platform-based concept.
The firm has built on existing functionality that gives wealth managers information on multiple asset classes, in conjunction with news and other data points, to help an RM scan a client portfolio for relevant insights and action items. Previously, this existed in isolation of the bank’s internal CRM system.
Now, rather than relying on an RM proactively searching several systems for relevant information, the RM can connect to all relevant data-sets and capabilities via a single platform.
An institution can then more effectively communicate the ideas of the day, or their house views on market events, quickly to every RM, who in turn can then build out their own sales pitch to their clients.
There is also a capability to share the model portfolio on a consistent basis via easy access when there are updates or an RM wants to view it.
“This creates an ecosystem where everyone can get access to the same information at the same time, and they can get alerts immediately,” explains McMillan.
“It cuts out a lot of steps as part of the effort to increase efficiencies.” Taking this further, he explains that a lot of private banks have been looking to build their own applications within this Thomson Reuters platform to connect market information with the wider data suite.
They want to then leverage these apps internally, in conjunction with their own information, such as investment research or client investments in the context of the client’s risk profile.
“It isn’t unfeasible to suggest that they can create an app which streams in their CRM information, so that an RM can see all the data combined with everything the wealth manager is working on from a market data perspective,” explains McMillan.
“This means less need for verification or moving constantly between different internal systems.”
This all stems from Thomson Reuters’ focus on using open technology that forms an integral part of the new enhanced platform.
Meanwhile, for those institutions which want to move completely away from the desktop and revamp their communication channels with their RMs and clients, McMillan says the firm has been talking to clients about building widgets and other capabilities into their existing infrastructure and platforms.
“This is to help them take advantage of streaming market data within the context of their own systems,” he adds.
This also involves more information visualisation tools and market data to help RMs flesh out ideas when they are talking to their clients.
The key difference, he explains, is that rather than a bank taking a sub-set of its information to the Thomson Reuters environment, the firm is able to plug the exact information the bank needs into the institution’s ecosystem.
“This requires a big shift in how the banks and their RMs operates,” he says. “We are looking at evolution rather than revolution, by gradually introducing this type of technology to them, and showing them how it can enhance the bank’s capabilities,” explains McMillan.
Building on sentiment
Another area within which McMillan believes there is a lot of potential in Asia is the ability to use technology to examine unstructured data and visualise the analysis in a simpler and more relevant format.
For example, by tracking social media and other news sites, the firm has looked at several thousand sources to assess and aggregate sentiment at many levels.
From this has come a market psychology index – ranging from excitement and joy down to fear, anger and disgust. “This is connected to trading behaviours based on how pessimistic or optimistic someone feels,” says McMillan.
In turn, this can drive stock-purchasing ideas to help RMs and other advisers understand the potential activity based on market sentiment.
Developing the vision
For the time being, McMillan’s aim is to approach all the leading private banks in the region with the firm’s new platform-based solutions by the end of 2016, and to be in varying stages of implementation.
Looking further ahead, he sees increasing scope to use digital advisory platforms to augment an RM’s day-to-day job. This will be the next step, he explains, as part of integrating a combination of technology and data to help these wealth managers develop even deeper client relationships.
For example, he says, this can create suggestions for an individual client based on their risk profile and investment objectives.
“Where we believe we will be by 2017, is that by tagging our information we can then highlight those key pieces of analytics which are relevant to a particular asset class that a client might own, to make this available to the fingertips of RM at the right time,” explains McMillan.
At the same time, as more and more people get comfortable with online trading, creating full digital pathways is another important objective.
“Our platform is set up to be an environment akin to a sandbox to allow developers to access it fully and leverage off our global expertise across all aspects of the business,” he says.