What do you want to know
- Here’s why these blue chip banks – which for generations have been fixated on the 1% – are bent on winning customers with just 0.01% of that wealth.
Three of the biggest names in white shoe wealth have recently opened their digital doors to the moderately affluent:
In February 2021, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. expanded its Marcus personal lending platform by launching Marcus Invest, “an automated investment platform with managed portfolios of affiliated and non-affiliated ETFs.”
In June 2021, JPMorgan Chase & Co. spent £700m ($899m) to buy Nutmeg, “one of the most successful digital challengers in the UK wealth management market”.
In January 2022, UBS Group AG raised $1.4 billion in cash to acquire Wealthfront, “an industry-leading automated wealth management provider serving the next generation of investors.”
While each of these brands has its own wealth management pitch, all are essentially retail “robo-advisors” – digital platforms providing automated investments, based on semi-tailored integration (risk profile, personal goals, time horizons), offering fees that reflect this lack of human interaction and requiring low opening balances.
(Similarly, if less historically: Lloyds Banking Group acquired investment platform Embark; Abrdn bought AI-based Exo Investing; Royal Bank of Canada proposed acquisition of wealth management Brewin Dolphin; and Barclays has partnered with Scalable Capital to develop the discretionary portfolio manager, plan and invest.)
To open an account with Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management, you need at least $10 million in investable assets; Marcus Invest needs $1,000.
So why are these blue chip bankers – who for generations have been fixated on the 1% – bending over to win customers with just 0.01% of that wealth?
Various interrelated forces are at work:
According to Backend Benchmarking, assets under management (AUM) in the robo-advice market grew from $631 billion in 2019 to $785 billion in 2020.
And so, as the Total Addressable Market (TAM) grows, traditional wealth managers eye enviously the AUMs of trailblazing bots and FinTech disruptors like Betterment, Fidelity, Schwab, SigFig and Vanguard – not to mention gaming apps. /trading hits like Robinhood, whose 17.3 million monthly active users, as of December 2021, had an AUM of $98 billion.
While wealthy clients tend to use elaborate financial structures in multiple jurisdictions, and wealthy retirees have to juggle pensions, annuities, dividends and estate planning, Joe/Joanna, who works above average, just wants to enter the market without getting burned. .
For such modest aspirations, the “robo-advisor” is not only better suited to the task but, given its fees, preferable to the client.
Once mainstream consumers sign up for wealth management, how much easier is it to sell them retail banking, loans, mortgages, insurance, online transactions and, who knows? , cryptos?
Capacity By investing in the high technology and human capital required for robo-boarding, traditional banks are simultaneously better equipped to serve modern billionaires who also prefer digital dashboards and mobile phone apps to stuffy, wood-paneled desks. Oak.
Anyone who still thinks Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen Xers have nothing to offer but personal debt and avocado toast should remember the actuarial gravity of an aging population.
With each passing day, more and more XZ People are reaping the tax harvest sown by the richest generation of all time who, born between 1946 and 1964, are now between 58 and 76 years old.
According to Morgan Stanley, this represents “the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history, with $30 trillion expected to change hands over the next few decades.” As the restaurant sign said, “A milkshake customer today is a steak customer tomorrow.”
All of this poses a puzzle: if wealth management isn’t just for the wealthy, what’s the best brand for the product?
What is Wealthtech?
For many people steeped in the traditions of wealth management, the technology of wealth is an oxymoron: you can either have a “high key” or the common key.
Yet such hidden thinking increasingly collides with our troubled, democratic, direct-to-consumer present, where digital natives have neither the time nor the personality to chat with pinstripe advisers inherited from their (great ) relatives or advised by a friend.
In this informal news, where word of mouth rivals the click of a mouse, brands as prestigious as Goldman Sachs are a double-edged sword: on the one hand, they provide history, stability and depth of experience; on the other hand, they evoke the expense, exclusivity and intimidation of consumers.
Of course, the Germans have a word for that: schwellenangstwhich literally translates to “threshold anxiety” and is used metaphorically in the arts sector to describe the apprehension that discourages neophytes from even trying “high” culture like classical music, opera and ballet.
Such schwellenangst puts the bankers with the brass plates in a dead end: do they respect their inherited brand image? Are they creating their own counterfeit FinTech indie brand? Or are they trying a form of hybrid broadcasting?
Hybridity is the approach taken by JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, whose offspring cling tightly to their parents. (Marcus was named after his bank’s founder, Marcus Goldman, 1821-1904.)
It’s worth noting that Nutmeg and Marcus’ logos don’t just reflect established typography, they include connecting slogans – though there’s an interesting difference in tone between the company “a JPMorgan company” and the collaboration” by Goldman Sachs.
Likewise, their websites reflect only a cautious departure from formality…especially when compared to how Nutmeg looked and felt before the acquisition.
In contrast, Wealthfront is (currently) skimping on its pending UBS property, instead showcasing the else-a bland, cute origin story of “when Andy called Dan” and “realized they didn’t just share a mission – to help democratize access to sophisticated financial advice – they agreed software could unlock great investments for everyone.”
When it comes to tone of voice, however, all three brands exercise a bit more freedom: sounding related is one thing, sounding the same is another. Compare the pitch (in bold) of Goldman’s Private Wealth Management…
“It is a privilege to advise the most influential people and institutions in the world. Goldman Sachs’ deeply personal approach goes beyond wealth management and investments – it’s a lifelong partnership for growth. Join us to access expertise, opportunities and others. … to Wealthfront’s cakeist approach:
“If you try to do things yourself, you’re never sure you’re making the right decisions. If you use advisors, you never know if they’re making the best decisions for you…or for themselves. Wealthfront is leveling the playing field. Because everyone deserves an equal opportunity to succeed.
That said, the disarming frankness of Nutmeg…
“Investing can be tough. Just ask anyone who has tried and failed to beat the market. Fortunately, we have the people, the technology and the wallets to help.