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The Global Wealth Management is Under Pressure


August 06, 2020

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6 min read


The Global Financial Crisis

The 2008 financial crisis was the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, leaving firms and economies in shambles. 

The main cause was the housing market bubble. People were borrowing more than they could afford to purchase bigger houses, which drove house prices through the roof. 

While that was happening, banks were paving the way to their inevitable fall. More loans were being applied, causing banks to be overwhelmed and, and to start making moves based on impulse and speculations. As a result, many financial innovations were introduced, but it was moving way too fast and way ahead of regulations. Even the banks themselves were unable to keep up with the risks. 

And that is when the bubble popped.

Financial institutions and banks alike did not have enough capital to combat the losses. And the global financial system wasn’t ready to absorb the shock. The aftermath rippled to all financial institutions across the globe. 

New Regulations in the Regions

To prevent such an event from recurring, regulators and governments around the world have tightened their measures on financial regulations with emphasis on transparency and accountability. 

Here are some regulations that have been implemented according to region: 

Europe – MiFID II

The MiFID II was implemented by the European Union (EU) in 2018 to regulate financial practices and improve protections for investors. The main purpose of the framework is to standardize financial practices across the EU and regain the trust of investors, all through increased transparency.

The US – Department of Labour Fiduciary Rule 

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is re-evaluating the Department of Labour Fiduciary Rule with the main aim of developing a uniform fiduciary standard. The newly updated Fiduciary Rule will ensure that high commissions do not have any influence on advice provided to investors- following the initiative started by the UK Retail Distribution Review in 2012.

The Asia Pacific

Within the Asia Pacific region, individual countries have implemented stringent regulations built on four pillars: board effectiveness, risk and compliance, financial integrity, and disclosure and transparency.

Compared to the US and Europe, such regulations actually opened up new opportunities for investors and firms in the Asia-Pacific region. 

How do the Regulations Affect Financial Institutions?

These new regulations are definitely putting pressure on financial institutions especially in terms of cost and profit margins. 

Disclosure of Costs and Fees

As part of the aim to increase transparency, the regulations implemented require financial institutions to disclose all costs and fees. The MiFID II bans asset managers from paying retrocession– usually seen as non-transparent fees. Similarly, the US Fiduciary Rule requires firms to increase disclosures and voluntarily make statements more self-explanatory.

With such rules implemented, it has massive implications on customer acquisition capabilities. Under the new regulations, financial institutions will need to charge an explicit advisory fee and/or increase the brokerage fee to make up for the lost revenue from retrocessions. However, this also means that it is easier for clients to pick and choose. Thus, there is a higher chance of losing clients who are unwilling to pay such fees. 

To counteract this problem, financial institutions need to adopt new cost-efficient advice models, such as Robo-advisor, so affluent clients can still obtain the same guidance even if the fees structure changes. 

Higher Costs 

The disclosure of costs and fees bears another problem — higher costs for firms. There has been a rising cost-to-income ratio across the industry as financial institutions are incurring more costs than they did before. But where do all these costs come from?

Well, after the implementation of regulations, operating and compliance costs have skyrocketed. Mainly due to the competitive pressure from peers. 

Additionally, investors are demanding for more. More customization, complex products, and different reports, all these add to the cost in servicing assets. Based on a study of firms in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, the average cost of managing each dollar of AUM has increased by 4% since 2014. The cost of salaries also rose by 5% and non-compensation costs (regulatory expenses, technology, and office space) now account forof a firm’s budget compared to just 26% in 2014. 

Ultimately, this will definitely impact the revenue margin and it did. It has been decreasing since 2014 and is continuing on a downward trend.

Source: Bloomberg

Slow Growth

The stringent regulations have definitely played its part in slowing the growth of the financial industry. Now coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, the growth does not seem so rosy anymore. 

PwC forecasted AUM to grow from US$84.9 trillion in 2016 to US$145 trillion by 2025– a growth rate of approximately 6%. Unfortunately, in 2020, Covid-19 sent the world into a downward spiral, and with it the financial industry. Hence, forcing a downward revision of the earlier predictions to within the 1% – 3% range instead. 

What Can Firms Do?

It is hard enough to thrive in a competitive environment and now with even more uncertainty, the tough just got tougher. However, this is no time to lose hope. According to McKinsey, firms can overcome the pandemic and the ever-changing environment through three horizons. 

Horizon 1 – Short Term

Business continuity is the first priority. 

  • Taking clear and well-communicated steps to protect the health and well-being of all stakeholders
  • Educate investors on holding on through these volatile times 
  • Be transparent with clients through frequent communications, as this will strengthen the relationship between firms and clients 
  • And more importantly, ensure that the firm’s infrastructure is able to offer omnichannel communications- consistent and on-brand communications across multiple customer touchpoints (variety of offline and online channels)  

Horizon 2 – Medium Term 

The market is slowly stabilizing so: 

  • Focus on upgrading digital and analytics infrastructure across the value chain 
  • Upskill employees to ensure they are prepared for the increasing reliance on digital engagement platforms 
  • Develop new approaches to meet client’s needs such as through digital advisory platforms 

Horizon 3 – Long Term 

Both incumbents and newcomers must reinvent the wealth management scene through:

  • Striking a balance between physical and online channels 
  • Shifting from a product-centric approach to client-centric advisory methods 

No matter the horizon or the cause of the volatility, firms need to remain agile and transparent. Financial institutions that manage to navigate through the turbulence will emerge above others- transformed and well-positioned for the new challenges ahead. 

It has only become more evident the importance of digital platforms as part of a firm’s offerings. Let us help you make that move towards digitalization.

At Bambu, we specialize in developing Robo-advisory solutions for the financial services industry, from smaller RIAs and wealth advisors to some of the largest banks in the world. We help our clients work through the above key considerations to implement solutions that truly benefit their wealth management business.

To find out more, check out our product here or contact us at sales@bambu.co for more information.


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