The beginning of the New Year is a great time to reflect back on the year and to look ahead at what the future might hold. If 2019 is anything like 2018 we know for certain that the rate of change will continue to increase. With change comes uncertainty, but also opportunity.
Here are six technology trends that will impact the family wealth industry in 2019 and beyond:
- The Family Office will have more choice (and more confusion)
- Best of Breed becomes a reality
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) bridges the talent gap
- Data has its Day
- Client Reporting actually adds value
- Firms drive paper out of their operations
Trend #1 – More Choice, More Confusion
We are at the beginning of the golden age of technology for family offices. Today, there are so many technology providers bringing industry specific solutions to the market. Gone are the days of when family offices had cobbled together systems from different industries.
In 2019, this trend will continue to spread where established vendors refine and mature their offerings. New startups will spring up filling niches that are often underserved or overlooked.
This may be great news, but in the short term it will increase confusion and increase market inefficacies. Selecting new technologies will not become any easier.
Trend #2 – APIs, Eco-Systems and Technology Stacks: Best of Breed becomes reality
Early on in my technology career there was an effort in the RIA industry to get systems to work together better. The so-called Silver Bullet. The ideal behind the Silver Bullet was to get key systems to talk to each other. This would be the first RIA technology stack. It was a great ideal, but never took hold. It often left advisors re-keying the same data into multiple systems that did not speak to each other.
Vendors have put an emphasis on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that can build out eco-systems. Firms can now pick and choose the vendors and applications that best suit their business needs. Best of breed is no longer an ideal future state, but becoming a reality.
Trend #3 – Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning bridge the talent gap
There is lots of talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. TV ads and movies present AI as something that will either transform humanity or ruin it. However, AI’s actual impact on family offices will be far less dramatic.
The quest to attract and retain talent is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry today. Combine this challenge with the growing complexity and increased expectations and the result is a lot of stress on a firm’s operations. It is no longer sustainable for firms to throw bodies at a problem.
Technology needs to create scale. AI and machine learning will create scale by automating mundane and repetitive tasks. AI use will normalize alternative investment data and process high volume, low dollar recurring bills for example. Employees will not have to manually enter data and process transactions. They are free to provide higher levels of analysis and spend more face time with clients. It may not be sexy, but it will be critical in helping firms scale and be more sustainable.
Trend #4 – Independence Day for Data: Data has its Day
The importance of data is finally starting to be appreciated in the industry. Data is the life blood that makes software that actually solves a problem. As firms start to look at the strategic value of data, they are also starting to figure out ways in which data can be decoupled for software solutions. These firms are putting more emphasis on the portability of data and vendors are responding.
Trend #5 – Client Reporting actually adds value
The days of producing paper reports with information that is 60, 90 and even 180 days old that nobody reads are coming to an end. Millennials growing up in the digital age are becoming more involved in family offices. They are becoming significant wealth accumulators themselves. Growing up, their parents may have been comfortable with paper statements (and reading maps and using pay phones). This is no longer the case for the next generation. We all experience digital information now that is interactive. Technology is available on everything we use and we expect the same from our advisor\family office.
Trend #6 – Firms drive paper out of their operations
As the days of paper statements are numbered, so are the days of paper forms. Custodians have been slow to accept electronic signatures. This is rapidly changing and firms will push their providers to eliminate any paper in the client onboarding process. This will allow firms to get full ROI on their investment in CRM and workflow technologies. Paper based workflows will go the way of the fax.
None of these trends are new, but they will increase in speed and have a significant impact on the industry. The golden age of family office technology is here.