Wealth Management

(New York)

Speaking at a large ETF conference yesterday, the head of Vanguard has a big warning for all advisors. He said that the industry needs to change rapidly or face a huge loss of jobs. Citing evidence that almost 60% of advisor jobs may be lost to automation. He argues that portfolio construction and rebalancing are now super cheap commodities and that advisors should instead focus more on managing client behaviour, which will be a continued niche.

FINSUM: This was a pretty grave warning for advisors. We are not sure the outlook is so bleak.

(New York)

Morgan Stanley’s wealth management can be described as nothing other than an unmitigated success in the fourth quarter. The numbers are in, and the data show that the unit is minting cash as the broker enjoys the transition from commission-based to fee-based accounts as provided by the fiduciary rule. Revenue increased a whopping 10% and the profit margin rose from under 10% the previous year to an eye-watering 26% in 2017.

FINSUM: We realize the importance of fiduciary duty, but how is a transition to much more expensive fee-based accounts—which are hugely boosting net profits to big firms—in the ultimate best interest of clients?

(New York)

Like Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch is in the middle of a big bet on its wealth management unit The broker has decided to focus less resources on hiring senior advisors and more on training younger staff. Accordingly, its staff costs have shrunk despite growing its advisor base by 2%. By some accounts the early signs for the experiment are good, but it will take a long time to see how well it plays out.

FINSUM: The whole industry has a bit of an inheritance problem right now, since there are herds of baby boomer advisors who are set to retire in the coming years, and as yet, a dearth of young advisors to take their places.

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