8 Key Digital Transformation Opportunities

Published in Finance Derivative, July 2021

Our Chief Growth Officer, Garry Hamilton, explains how wealth management firms can use the pandemic as an opportunity to rebuild and restructure around the real needs of their customers.


The pandemic has ushered in an era of systemic change for wealth management. While some firms welcome the chance to adapt to emerging challenges others still shy away from them. Wealth management is not alone in needing to rapidly replace outdated operations to suit remote client relationships. Plenty of other industries, from physical retail to entertainment and leisure, have been caught on the hop.


But the pandemic’s effects whipped up a perfect storm for many wealth management outfits that were typically built around offline relationships.


Fast forward a year, and many players have managed to achieve a level of digital servicing. Yet change has also exposed major vulnerabilities and limitations. It has meant a patchwork of fixes – from Zoom consultations to standalone customer management solutions – resulting in questionable GDPR compliance, and guaranteed inefficiency. It’s fair to say wealth management was reaching a tipping point even before COVID-19 hit. The pandemic has simply accelerated the need for transformation; providing customers with modern digital solutions alongside more traditional services. The prize for wealth management firms is contented clients and enhanced efficiency.


Based on our knowledge of this complex market we have identified eight paths through digital transformation that wealth management businesses can take to grow value. 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that digital transformation is critical to the future success – even survival – of many businesses.


Path #1

Technology diligence is a key enabler of value creation in consolidation plays


Wealth management providers face often unanticipated difficulties when buying or merging with other firms, born of splicing multiple software, investment platforms, and ultimately incompatible processes. The result is technology that’s more akin to Frankenstein’s monster than streamlined systems.


Of the 10 companies we researched in our study that underpins the eight paths, we found five different content management systems in play; multiple different portals and CRM databases; and many differing ways of presenting services, content, and engagement.


The danger is that, if left unchecked, acquisition could reduce efficiencies and grow costs.


PE businesses seeking acquisitions can employ strategic planning during the process to ready a digital estate for rapid action. Having a digital strategy and roadmap energises organisations, embeds a culture of change, and creates a framework for evaluating effort.

Action for PE houses:

A robust digital assessment of core business platforms, ERP systems, and sales and marketing solutions will give an independent view of your business today, show where you want to be tomorrow, and determine planning and budgeting.

Path #2

Exploit AI for a competitive advantage


AI arrived on the wealth management scene with the bold promise of becoming the sector’s saviour. The technology is already addressing many pain points, including admin tasks, managing risk, and scaling. Yet none of the businesses we studied appears to be using AI. If they are, you wouldn’t know it as they don’t promote AI-driven services. This is clearly a missed opportunity to become more efficient, more effective, and to create value.


In risk management forward-thinking firms are harnessing AI to minimise this burden, which is undoubtedly driving businesses out of the industry. UK-based, PE-funded start-up Aveni has developed a platform designed specifically to manage and monitor risk. It uses Natural Language Processing technology to monitor customer calls for compliance, risk, and opportunity.


AI is also creating opportunities through algorithmic trading. From fund selection to portfolio optimisation, quantitative trading and real-time systematic investing, AI can make wealth managers more effective and efficient – allowing companies to scale quicker and more easily than was previously possible. From de-risking to more efficient trading, the benefits of AI are compelling.


Action for PE houses:

Evaluate your targets’ current AI adoption, and check whether innovation plans seek to take advantage of AI and its capabilities.

Path #3

Maximise untapped opportunities to improve customer experience & staff effectiveness


Digital technology affords wealth management firms new opportunities to improve both staff effectiveness and customer experience. Benefits of adopting cutting-edge platforms range from delivering personalised relationships to enabling first-class self-service.


The tech comes in a range of formats. Modern administration platforms such as Fintech Automation integrate multiple service components of wealth management into a single software platform, covering automated account opening, trading, and accounting.


Alternatively, full-stack digital wealth management platforms – such as Berlin-based, PE-funded tech-house Elinvar, which offers a complete Platform-as-a-Service for wealth managers – can handle a complete spectrum of activities. These range from trading and customer experience, to portfolio reporting, and empowering investment decisions and research.


Other options for digitising services include:


  • developing customer companion apps that embed service and sales for cloud-based trading and CRM
  • using Robotic Process Automation to reduce paperwork and unnecessary phone calls, and accelerate data analysis
  • investing in Field Service Management software to boost security and efficiency for mobile worker

Action for PE houses:

Invest in research to understand business needs and pain points, ensuring chosen digital tools relate to customer journeys and demands, as well as employee inefficiencies.

Properly leverage CRM

Path 4

It’s tough to hold any specific marketing activity accountable without having an integrated CRM strategy in place. Sadly, our analysis revealed very limited use of effective CRM amongst the firms we studied, rendering them unable to objectively report on the performance of their new business activities. The time savings alone made from deploying CRM tools typically cover their cost, but fully integrating them into your business processes and lead management prompts far better returns.

Tools like Hubspot and Pardot bring exceptional visibility to sales performance, lead management, and conversion. They allow businesses to:

View the status of contacts and salesforce effectiveness

Understand via dashboards the quantity and status of leads and team targets

Manually or automatically capture leads from website, email or third-party channels

Automate lead assignment and nurture

Deliver outstanding experiences using personalised communications; reducing customer journeys and boosting retention

Action for PE houses:

Integrated, cloud-based CRM is the most effective tool for consolidation and extracting value. The right configuration and customisations will allow the business to exploit automation and drive new fee-earning opportunities. In the next article we’ll consider the final four paths to value growth through technology.

Path #5

Choose the right CMS to scale at speed


Wealth management firms of all sizes are failing to invest substantially in digital. As a result, their web visitors often struggle with slow sites that are light on detail and confusing to navigate.


As PE firms move to invest, consolidate and bring scale to the wealth sector, they will seek to merge investments under one platform. At the heart of any web offering is the Content Management System (CMS), the core platform for growing and managing digital presence, including website, content, apps, and social media feeds.


Choice of CMS is a critical decision affected by cost, speed, scalability, security, and flexibility. Many businesses turn to WordPress but it is not perfect. Wealth companies should seek more scalable, secure and contemporary CMS platforms, for example Umbraco, Sitecore, and EPiServer.


As wealth management companies grow, customer experience must not be lost in complexity. Firms must also consider the mobile world we live in and ensure content renders well on all devices customers might use.

Action for PE houses:

Don’t skimp on digital due diligence that only takes a few weeks to complete. It will assess what technology is already in the business, and shape a roadmap for future digital service provision.

Path #6

Invest in content to differentiate, drive sales & increase loyalty


Content is a worthy investment for any business. Research from CMI show that 72% of marketers believe a focus on content has increased the number of leads. It demonstrates knowledge and expertise, and keeps an otherwise static site up to date. But content also requires exposure, ease of access, and discoverability. This is not just about publishing content on social media; it also encompasses originality, engagement, and planning.


Critically, content offers an opportunity for lead generation as an inbound marketing tool. Woven into a tool like Hubspot or Pardot, long-form content creates contact opportunities pre-qualified by proxy, and indicates areas of interest. To be efficient and successful a content strategy must help you:


  • understand your audience’s wants and needs
  • review rival content to inform your own unique content
  • ensure the entire business is considered in your content efforts.

Action for PE houses:

Thoughtful content, regularly delivered through careful distribution channel management, can prove a powerful lead generator and loyalty builder. The target audience is increasingly selecting financial services online, driving sales and deepening customer relationships.

Path #7

Develop an advanced search strategy to win new business


In most growth plans, a comprehensive search strategy will feature as a crucial lever for customer acquisition. Get it right, and you have a platform for growth. Get it wrong, and it can be a genuine threat to your digital business. For these reasons, search strategy analysis is one of our most requested services.


Our study showed a minority of wealth management first invest in the long-term acquisition of new customers through search. With so many people still working from home it is fair to say smaller wealth business will continue to rely on word of mouth, and less effective mid- to upper-funnel marketing activities, for customer acquisition.


Search is inextricably linked to content strategy (see opportunity 6). Considering content creates conversations, it indicates authority, credibility, and trustworthiness; backlinks to your website are votes of trust and credibility. In general, the more links your website gets, the higher Google ranks it.

Action for PE houses:

There is insufficient focus on the importance of search for many wealth management businesses. As you grow and consolidate, ensure that scale and localisation are realised in a strong presence on Google.

Path #8

Go beyond basic analytics for sales & marketing efficiencies


It’s easy to overlook analytics despite the fact it’s a critical part of any digital infrastructure. Our research revealed more than four in 10 digital businesses have inaccurate or incomplete analytics strategies in place. With a properly implemented set-up a business learns, and can adapt its digital operations in real-time.


All of the firms we studied have implemented Google Analytics as a foundation for digital insights. In our experience, however, this doesn’t always provide a complete view. While it will give insight into how your site’s pages perform, where you source traffic, and user behaviour, it will not track handoffs to portals, links to third-party sites, or PDF downloads.


Visibility is therefore clouded for any wealth business looking to measure the effectiveness of its on-site content, and its ability to drive phone and email leads. Line of sight and engagement of existing customers will also be severely limited.


Fixing these problems is not complex, and clearly worth time and investment. Understanding what content, source or activity drives your contacts to get in touch is imperative.

Action for PE houses:

It’s critical to ensure all CRM efforts are measurable and accountable, so web analytics must be robust and accurate. This minimises waste and brings efficiency to sales and marketing operations.


Digital transformation delivers many opportunities to bring rapid profitability, scale and simplification. While our research has shown that consolidation can create more problems than it solves, firms that take a strategic approach and treat technology as an enabler can grow rapidly.


All eight of the overarching opportunities I’ve highlighted are relevant to both wealth businesses and their PE backers. Firms without equity funding would do well to consider how they’ll scale to meet the challenge of well-funded, digital-centric competitors. As a result, wealth managers can face the future with new-found confidence built on digitally enabled, customer-centric foundations.

This article has been published in Finance Derivative, July 2021.