Financial Services Innovation and Insights

It’s 3:45 a.m. and my alarm is screaming at me to wake up. I reach for my phone to stop the blasphemous racket. By instinct, I manage to shut it off but the noise keeps blaring. I realize that I had set the alarm on my tablet as well. Good thing too, because that’s the alarm that brought me to my senses. As someone predisposed to staying up late rather than waking early, the hour is more familiar for being the end of a day than the start of one.

But I am excited to be getting up. I’m on the first flight out of Toronto heading to Boston. And the purpose of my trip is to attend the Celent Innovation and Insight Day. I’ve been to the event in past years, when it was hosted in New York, and witnessed NexJ customers like American Family earn great recognition. I am hoping for more of the same this year.

The primary theme is customer experience, which couldn’t possibly be more aligned with my interests. I’m also looking forward to meeting the many analysts I’ve been exchanging ideas with and who have participated in NexJ events over the past couple of years. After all, business is about relationships and meeting in person is the best way to connect.

So let the day begin.

My flight is uneventful, the taxi ride to the venue is OK but traffic is a bear. I’m among the first to arrive and am immediately presented a very professional program. I notice for the first time that they have added a “Wealth and Asset Management (WAM) Symposium” to the traditional Model Insurer and Model Bank tracks. A pleasant addition as wealth management is a key vertical for NexJ.

Following opening remarks from Celent’s CEO Craig Weber, the Chief Executive of Digital Partners for Munich Re, Andrew Rear, addressed the audience. Two points particularly struck me during his presentation. First, while Fintech might be a $400 billion market, it is dwarfed by the publicly-listed tech vendors who sell into the industry. Together, these vendors have a combined value of greater than $13 trillion. This is not counting start-ups, who are agile, which Andrew claims is more a function of size and age than culture, and who offer new products.

My second learning was this: the big company should buy the little company if it is a potential threat. Andrew went outside the industry for his example, describing how Blockbuster should have acquired Netflix — early on it could have purchased Netflix for a small fraction of its own market cap. We are certainly seeing this happen, as a lot of financial services firms are buying start-ups. Munich Re is taking a slightly different approach at the moment, by partnering with and funding start-ups.

Moving on to the Wealth Symposium, the analysts had much to share. It was great to hear that trends like regulation are acting as an impetuous for technology adoption. NexJ certainly believes in this and is working to support the industry in not only meeting regulatory requirements, but using the same technology to deliver a better customer experience. We recently hosted a webinar on the topic, Meeting a Fiduciary Standard for Advice and have another coming up shortly, A Catalyst for Transformation in Wealth Management: MiFID-II. Another compelling statement was made by @AshleyGloberman when she put forward that wealth managers are embracing an advice-centric model and recognize a need for greater collaboration.

What stood out most for me, though, was the extensive dialogue around artificial intelligence and how AI can amplify the capabilities of the advisor. I agree with @williamtrout’s argument that AI is empowering human advisors, not marginalizing them. Further, the thought that AI can bridge the gap of servicing the upper affluent in a cost-effective way made perfect sense.

Automating processes like client onboarding, which I’ve discussed in the past, is a great use case for AI in wealth management. Helping firms prospect and segment customers are also great examples, particularly as they relate to customer management.

Unfortunately, my time spent in the Wealth Symposium meant I wasn’t able to take in as many presentations as I would have liked in the Model Insurer or Model Bank tracks. There was one piece of information, however, I was very happy to hear. @SFeinbergCelent declared that the Number 1 driver of technology spend in Corporate Banking is improving the client experience. This has never been a goal in Corporate Banking; until now it has always been all about growing revenue. My belief is that improving the customer experience will also lead to increased revenue.

With that, the day concluded and I made my way back to the airport for the flight home, enriched by my learnings from another value-packed event. And I was comforted in the fact that another NexJ customer was recognized for some of their good work.

Originally published at www.nexj.com on April 11, 2017.