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In a recent survey assessing the digital transformation maturity of over 2,300 wealth managers, IFAs, private banks and robo-advisers, only 20% were classified as leaders, with 27% as beginners and 53% as implementers.1

With over a quarter of firms (27%) just beginning their journey, and over half (53%) somewhere along the way, a large portion of the industry will be considering how to make their planned or inflight transformation a success. We have previously discussed the role of digital in delivering customer value, and identified the top digital use cases for digitalising wealth in this context. We conclude this series with how to successfully transform wealth management businesses.


1. Consider organisation-wide impact

It’s easy to assume that transforming a function, capability or business line will deliver the intended benefits, but this isn’t always the case. Wealth managers need to consider how change will affect the wider organisation to mitigate against any unexpected consequences and to fully realise the benefits. All organisations will have different nuances but, in most cases, it’s useful to assess transformational impact through the following lenses.

  • End-user: How is the client experience (in this context staff or an external customer) impacted as a result of the transformation and what needs to happen to ensure those changes are effectively understood, championed and embedded?
  • Operating model: How are the wider organisation’s capabilities, people, processes and systems affected by the change? Remember that an operating model is like a Rubix Cube, if you change one part, another is likely to be impacted.
  • Ways of working: How will working styles and dynamics, principles, guidelines and tools affect teams in their day-to-day work?

2. Bring your staff along for the ride

A reason why transformations can fail is limited staff engagement, often leading to unassailable implementation challenges. If staff are not bought into the change or included in the process, they are unlikely to adopt the necessary behaviours required to support the transformation.

An example of this might be where a technical solution that underpins a transformation meets the business case, but leadership fails to engage and involve key relationship managers and operations staff impacted by the change. This can leave them feeling as if the change was being done ‘to them’ rather than ‘with them’. In such scenarios, it’s likely that the transformation will unravel within months of transition to business as usual.

To give your transformation the best chance of success, consider the following.

  • Bold ambition: Setting a purposeful and compelling vision for the change will help inspire staff and generate excitement. Use leaders to endorse and sponsor the vision where possible.
  • Design line-led change: This should be led by the business rather than executives. Leaders are more likely to live and breathe the change and aid its permeation if accountability is embedded lower down the organisation.
  • Empathetic leadership: Showing empathy throughout the journey is a powerful way to develop trust. Change can often feel threatening and leaders must recognise that staff might be feeling anxious and apprehensive about the future. Those leaders that address feelings head on, through open dialogue and transparency, are more likely to be left with a workforce that understands and wants to be part of the journey.

3. Implement value incrementally

Most wealth managers start to conceptualise their digital transformation from a position of relative digital immaturity, with a list of strategic changes that could be implemented across the entire organisation.1 Businesses with limited financial resources should, however, prioritise those initiatives that will address their most fundamental challenges and concentrate efforts on making those a success.

We suggest an agile approach to implementation. Embrace a test-and-learn method and accept that solutions will not always be perfect the first time. Simple principles can help deliver iterative value creation.

Principle Example – client onboarding
Group work packages that can be implemented in isolation are often the best use cases for delivering iteratively. The ‘direct client’ onboarding process can be digitised, while keeping the process for intermediaries offline.
Identify your minimal viable product (MVP) and double down on development (max ~two/three sprints). Digital onboarding form with basic functionality such as tick box and free text information.
Test and learn using client feedback to guide the key improvements required. Client feedback: “overall, digitisation is better than the old offline process, but we’d like to manage the onboarding documents digitally too”.
Iterate MVP in following sprint(s). Develop enhanced functionality to upload passports or utility bills.

Although an initial release can be basic, value is delivered early and preliminary feedback informs later enhancements. Repeating cycles like this across priority areas might seem like small steps forward in isolation, but when looked at cumulatively, they progress wealth managers towards delivering greater client value and enhanced experiences through digital.

4. Embed with a rigorous change management approach

One of the biggest mistakes a firm can make is not allocating sufficient time, resource or budget to developing a coherent change management approach and a delivery team to embed the transformation. Some organisations consider change management and communications as abstract and something that can be covered off as a by-product of the overall change initiative.

This can lead to failure in the form of:

  • delayed ‘go live’ as a result of not having clearly defined accountabilities and responsibilities
  • increased cost due to a delayed transition to business as usual
  • lower adoption than planned, resulting in reduced benefit realisation and return on investment
  • misaligned expectations through poor communications and engagement.

We recommend setting up a dedicated change function or team to act as the engine that drives adoption.

change function accountabilities


While no transformation is the same, and the considerations for firms will always need to be tailored to address specific circumstances, these themes and principles are a useful starting point to add value and make your transformation a success.

Alex Cossor

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