Traditionally, the wealth management sector has focused on providing high-quality, white-glove experiences to its customers. The belief was that high/ultra-high-net-worth (H/UHNW) individuals and older, wealthier investors generally preferred the personal touch to digital channels.

Recent ThoughtLab research, Wealth and Asset Management 4.0: How digital, social, and regulatory shifts will transform the industry, however, turns that belief on its head and shows that the need to access services digitally is remarkably consistent across all age groups and wealth brackets. A staggering 89% of investors from every group analyzed (ultra-rich, high net worth, millennials, and baby boomers) internationally showed preference for digital channels in the near future.

Similarly, investors favored virtual conferencing rather than face-to-face meetings, with over half of respondents across categories — specifically, 63% of both UHNW respondents and baby boomers — reporting they would prefer to be in contact with their wealth advisor via virtual channels in the future, perhaps a reflection of their time-poor agendas. Time pressures and busy lifestyles may in part explain why UHNW are even more inclined to prefer digital channels than millennials, but the forced isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic has also played a critical part in propelling the coming-of-age of multichannel advisor services.

Finally, digital access plays a vital role in the drive away from what was once perceived as an exclusively white-glove service to be carried out rigorously in person: Almost three quarters (74%) of UHNW respondents indicated that this is their ideal channel.

Wealth managers and advisors would do well to sit up and take note of these striking results as soon as possible. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been a tendency to overlook the need for digital channels in the sector under the — now proven false — assumption that older, wealthier clients still prefer face-to-face interactions. While of course these personal interactions remain valuable, with over 40% of respondents saying they would prefer in-person interactions in the future, remaining anchored to staid assumptions and ways of doing business could prove risky for wealth advisors.

A compelling digital client experience is clearly no longer a strategy required only to attract millennials and younger investors; it is now necessary to ensure that businesses stay competitive and continue to attract and retain both high-value investors as well as the broader mass affluent and younger generations. ThoughtLab’s extensive survey in fact shows no discernable difference between the channel preferences of baby boomers, millennials, the UHNW, or the mass affluent in terms of their digital expectations of wealth managers.

FNZ’s seamless digital onboarding experience plays a key part in delivering a simple, intuitive, and efficient first impression for advisors’ clients. Especially when dealing with first-time clients, ensuring that a streamlined, simple digital experience is offered right at the earliest stages of the investor relationship helps assure the investor that they are in safe hands and that they have selected a company that truly responds to their needs, including their preference for digital channels.

For complete details about the Wealth and Asset Management 4.0 study on investor megatrends shaping the future of wealth management, download the full report.