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BOOK REVIEW: Charting How Tech Is Transforming Wealth Management

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , 13 August 2018

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A study drawing together wealth management and technology practitioners around the world points to how ideas such as robotics and AI are upending the sector.

There has been so much talk – and some action – around the term “fintech” in the past few years that it is all too easy for wealth management practitioners to become overwhelmed. And in some cases, the temptation might be to take the line of least resistance and tune out the noise.

However tempting this might be (and this writer knows how true that is), it is a mistake. Areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics are upending business models across the world and there is no particular reason why wealth management should be any different. Modern technology makes it possible, for example, for advisors to throw different potential market situations – such as a stock market slump or sudden rise in the oil price – at clients to see how they might shift their money. Using technology to simulate all kinds of market and investment conditions to test out what people might want to do is known as “gamification” and is a term springing out of the world of computer games. All those years when adults fretted about teens sitting in front of computers playing supposedly daft games might actually have borne some valuable fruit.

The Wealthtech Book: The Fintech Handbook For Investors, Entrepreneurs And Finance Visionaries (Wiley), therefore hits the shelves at an opportune time. This 318-page tome collects dozens of commentaries from industry figures – some of whom will be familiar to readers of this news service – and does so in a logical way, leading readers from basic themes through to specific case studies. Running to 71 chapters, there are nine main segments on digitising client advice and wealth management operations; a look at different digital platforms and products; the use of the distributed ledger technology known more widely as blockchain; some case studies of wealthtech businesses that have been successful; views about innovation, some global views of technology and finally, thoughts about what might come next. 

The length of the book and its subject should not put readers off: the book is pretty easy to read and the user can pick out sections they find useful. For example, chapter 5, “Blockchain Applications in Asset and Wealth Management is a very useful walk through how distributed ledger technology could revolutionise parts of the value chain – hopefully making the end-user (i.e. the client) better off in the long run. On a very different subject (page 108), there is a discussion about how firms’ resilience against cyber-attackers is likely to be a more important selling point in future. Clients are going to be willing to pay extra for peace of mind amid all the current headlines about hacking attacks. There is, in fact, a very rich, well-written amount of information in this book that business development managers, RMs, intermediaries and, yes, clients, can exploit. 

The book has been edited by Susanne Chishti and Thomas Puschmann. Chishti is founder and CEO of FINTECH Circle and FINTECH Circle Institute, a peer-to-peer learning platform; she has also worked for 15 years at prominent financial organisations such as Morgan Stanley, Accenture, Deutsche Bank and Lloyds Banking Group. Co-editor Puschmann is founder and director of the Swiss FinTech Innovation Lab at the University of Zurich. Before this, he led a large financial services project at the Universities of St Gallen and Leipzig. 

Several of the contributors will be familiar to some readers, such as Paolo Sironi, of the IBM Industry Academy (see a review of his own book on fintech here), and April Rudin, president, The Rudin Group (she has been a judge for the Family Wealth Report news service, sister publication to this one); Oren Kaplan, co-founder and CEO of SharingAlpha; Andreas Kubl, head of multichannel development and digitilisation, UBS Switzerland.

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