Amidst a week when the fiduciary rule was the talk of the industry, the leaders of two of the country’s largest financial firms expressed more concern about adapting to a changing clientele and a more sophisticated set of technological tools.
In remarks at SIFMA’s Private Client Conference in New York, Paul Reilly, CEO of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Raymond James Financial and Tom Bradley, president of retail distribution for Omaha, Neb.-based TD Ameritrade, focused more on rapid demographic shifts and technological leaps that firms have to navigate to remain relevant.
Reilly opened his remarks by acknowledging that financial firms need to prepare for a future that may look very different from the present.
“We went back to the drawing board and said let’s figure out what the business is going to look like in 20 years, and of course we’re going to be wrong, so the only way to do that is to look at the clients,” Reilly said, describing an effort that culminated in a picture of the Raymond James client of the future: a young woman accessing information through wearable technology.
“Women in the 30 to 39-year-old category are already making the majority of the financial decisions in their household,” Reilly said. “Certainly that’s an important demographic for our client of the future, and it impacts us in our recruiting and our diversity. I think we’re doing a good job, but we have to do much better.”
Financial firms also need to prepare to serve the new generation of wealthy Americans, Reilly said.
Despite studies showing as much as $40 trillion in wealth moving into millennial hands over the next several decades, Reilly said that advisors have to keep in mind that the wealth transfer will be gradual.
“In 15 years, baby boomers and the silent generation are still going to have a majority of the wealth,” Reilly said. “So it’s not just serving one (generation); we have to serve our clients today and they’re going to become more complicated.”
Technology, sometimes seen as a disruptive element, may create opportunities for advisors in unexpected ways.
In his remarks, Bradley reminded conference attendees that the robo-advisor was not the first client-facing disruptor in the industry -- when firms, including TD Ameritrade’s legacy companies, began serving self-directed investors, many viewed their business skeptically.