When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone way back in 2007, it revolutionised the mobile phone industry. He realised that people wanted a smartphone that was far better than what the market was offering at that time. Yes, he lived up to the old adage “Necessity is the mother of all inventions” by fulfilling an unmet need in the market, but more importantly, he envisioned the world benefitting from his ideas and made that vision a reality.
Imagine the world today if the CEO of Apple Inc. had come up with a familiar and safe product simply to match his competitors, rather than innovate to be lightyears ahead of them.
My last article entitled “The Reality of Wealth Management in Malaysia”, which spoke about the wealth management industry in Malaysia being riddled with issues and inadequacies, has stirred up something amongst Malaysians who value their time and their hard-earned money. I have received numerous emails from readers sharing similar sentiments and disappointments with their current wealth management providers and their wealth growing efforts.
Despite advancements in technology and the right regulations in place, the level of professional expertise and quality of advisory services are still sorely lacking. Which leads me to ask, as consumers, do we continue to settle for a mediocre offering forever or is it time we take a page from Steve Jobs’ visionary legacy and reimagine wealth management as how it is supposed to be?
Before we plunge into a world where wealth management is reimagined, let’s take a few steps back and re-establish what the word ‘wealth management’ truly means and what it stands for.
There was a time when insurance agents provided life insurance, investment advisors provided money management services, accountants did tax work, attorneys did legal work and so on and so forth. Over time, buoyed by strong demand for a one-stop centre to handle the complexities of financial matters, a melding of functions took place and wealth managers were born.
Now we know that there is no one-size-fits-all plan or solution. Older investors need solutions to help with windfalls and address retirement security issues while younger investors need more focus on changing their socio-economic conditions to be upwardly mobile. And in between we have a group who are middle aged, middle income earners who want to do what is best for their future investments. However, all these differing “needs” boil down to one core need to grow and preserve wealth.
“The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself” – Thales
In order to establish the very institution which represents wealth management, the relationship between the wealth manager and the client must be in complete alignment bound together by a high level of trust. Imagine working with wealth managers who are focused on improving client experience rather than their organisations’ bottom line. The financial performance delivered by wealth managers through various elements of their offerings: products, financial education and advice, are geared towards one single objective, and that is helping clients achieve their end game ie. financial freedom.
Imagine having a wealth manager who understands you better than you yourself and endeavours to give you tailor-made investment recommendations based on a 100% understanding of your overall financial situation.
You trust your wealth manager to act in your best interest, and that there will be no mis-selling of products that do not meet your needs and priorities. In fact, your wealth manager will even go the extra mile to help you assess risks and filter any investment proposals that you receive to prevent you from falling for scams or wrong investments. It is his duty to advise you how an investment will impact your overall financial well-being, as the ultimate aim is to protect your wealth from unnecessary risks.
“Know what you own, and know why you own it” – Peter Lynch
Imagine the wealth manager as your personal Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Rather than having to manage your financial statements and reports haphazardly from various providers in order to piece together your investment records, you will now have all this information carefully organised in a balance sheet to form the basis of a holistic financial plan and a strategic asset allocation statement. Instead of the wealth manager calling you to introduce yet another new product that his or her organisation has launched, your confusion and restlessness over your investment decisions are put to rest when you are invited for follow up meetings to report on the performance of your investments. And in the course of these regular meetings, key modifications are made to your investment portfolio in light of changes in the financial market, and to suit your changing lifestyle or financial status.
In fact, you can draw parallels between a personal trainer and a wealth manager in terms of the low client to wealth manager ratio, typically less than 50 clients per wealth manager, which allows him or her to be more focused on your needs. By having more time per consultation session, you are welcome to discuss various issues with your wealth manager any time a financial concern comes to mind; be it a new property you are thinking of investing in, whether you should be buying a new car or even whether you can afford for your spouse to stop working.
“The best or nothing” – Mercedes Benz
Mis-selling is one of the key issues plaguing the wealth management sector, making investors wary of advisors. Mis-selling occurs partly because of a lack of financial literacy among customers and partly because of a tendency among certain relationship managers to push products that fetch higher fees.
Where previously you were bound by a limited selection of investment products offered by each individual financial institution, now imagine an infinite array of product possibilities that go beyond banking borders.
Without the confines of institutional chains where you are restricted to in-house products or be subject to tie-ups between your bank and its partners’ products only, you will get access to various local and foreign investment opportunities. It would be as if Christmas has arrived, because you can choose across financial institutions all over Malaysia and even across different countries and currencies.
Your wealth manager will help you to compare and contrast best of breed product selections across various financial institutions and recommend the best value for money options without you having to ask. You can be assured that the recommendations are truly independent and impartial as the wealth manager is neither tied to any financial institution nor obligated to sell one product above the rest.
By now, are you sufficiently convinced that the reimagined wealth management experience is truly heads and shoulders above what you have come across in the past? But wait, there is still one key aspect missing to complete the picture and it is one that ties everything else together.
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results” – Winston Churchill
There is little use having access to the best advice, the best service or the best products if you cannot see how you are benefitting from it. This is where monitoring, an often overlooked component in wealth management, comes in to ensure that we are on track with what we set out to achieve.
A consolidated performance report allows you to see the performance of all your investment assets across different financial institutions at a single glance. As a result, you are able to take a more proactive approach on your investments, allowing you to act on the under-performers in a timely manner. Meanwhile, an annual net worth report card will show how your wealth has grown over time, and whether you are on track to achieve your financial goals.
These reports will surely be the icing on the cake for you as an investor as they not only offer a whole new perspective on where you stand overall financially but also serve as a catalyst to identify irrelevant investments which will eventually have to be discarded.
Was our vision of an ideal wealth management experience nothing more than a whimsical trip down the proverbial rabbit hole, or is it something that can become a reality if we are ready to shift our mindsets and ask for it? Sometimes all it takes is a little reimagination and the willingness to go against the norm and of course, raising the bar of our expectations. Many may be fascinated with such a full spectrum wealth management experience but skeptical whether such a client-centric concept can truly exist in Malaysia.
Well, what if I told you that it already does! But first, be prepared to shelve the old concept of wealth management that is way past its best-by date. To make Wealth Management 2.0 a reality, we need to look hard for it and when we finally find what we have been looking for, be willing to go all out to support and embrace it so that it becomes an industry standard. Are you game enough for it