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Gen AI in Wealth and Asset Management

Navigating Path to AI

No regret-moves for Gen-AI in the wealth and asset management industry. Why you can learn to stop worrying and love generative AI?

Many discussions on Artificial Intelligence (AI) end up mentioning one movie, The Terminator. Scary AI-powered machines are coming to take our jobs and rule our lives. It’s a cliché. The stunning appearance of ChatGPT and the idea of ‘generative AI’ (Gen AI) sparked seemingly endless dystopian visions of a world run by machines. As one of our clients quipped – “Please make sure AI doesn’t become sentient”.

Yet, the truth is, for now, Gen AI is a facilitator of new ways to approach every aspect of business in the Wealth and Asset Management (WAM) business. But, like any other technology, you have to adopt, and then adapt it to match your strategy. To do that you’ve got to put the right strategy and structures in place to leverage its true power.

The concept of AI isn’t new. Generative AI is new. It’s more than ‘new’ – it’s a breakthrough that many commentators have long been predicting. It’s here, and it’s getting more powerful all the time.

For me, the case for Gen AI is simple: it’s a tool that will help you do more, do it better and faster, and gain insights you didn’t expect (as well as those you did and wanted to confirm). If that’s a mouthful, then just think of one word “productivity”. 

Focus on the business problems that are important, not on the technology itself

So, the discussion around Gen AI isn’t about the technology itself, it’s about what issues the WAM sector needs to address and solve so that it can stay relevant, and be more efficient and profitable, in a rapidly evolving macro-economic landscape over the next decade. Indeed, Gen AI can address many of the fundamental questions facing the Wealth and Asset Management Industry. For example:

How can we use Gen AI to democratise access to financial advice and products to foster better financial inclusion?

Making financial advice more available and transparent via digital channels could be made even more accessible with Gen AI. If knowledge is more accessible, then more people can engage with the sector and get a richer experience from it. For me, that would be truly ground-breaking. And, of course, I work for Salesforce, so I believe that getting closer to the customer and engaging with them in creative ways, using Gen AI to facilitate that relationship, is the key move you need to make right now.

How can the WAM sector open new markets and engage with clients who either don’t want the old-style WAM approach or don’t understand it?

Though Gen AI can work at speed to make sense of information and present insights, options, and strategies, it’s the human element that really counts, your relationship with your stakeholders, especially clients. The new breed of investors expects a substantial digital element to their relationship with a wealth manager or advisor. Almost every other aspect of their daily lives is, after all, mediated in some form by a digital tool. The point is to balance the use of Gen AI with the personal relationships you have with clients.

These are broad brush areas. For me, even on a day-to-day operational level, Gen AI can turbocharge productivity. Think call summaries for your relationship managers, think first draft responses framed for service centre agents, think auto-creation of knowledge articles based on trending cases, think copywriters in marketing getting first drafts done faster, summarising information for advisors, streamlining technical / product documentation etc. Salesforce just introduced Einstein GPT as a part of my mailbox, and I am looking forward to having a blast – cutting down the time it takes to frame and type emails. 

The sector is already thinking positively

A recent Bloomberg-sponsored roundtable of experts provided a refreshingly positive outlook on the uses of gen AI in the WAM sector:

  • Providing the ability to cope with huge amounts of data and pinpoint insights in language that not only experts can understand, but which clients can too.
  • Making intelligent/digital assistants more responsive and easier to communicate with, so that clients can self-serve when they want to whilst knowing that they can talk to a real person armed with better information.

Some of the experts stressed that Gen AI will help to improve financial education, provide new ways to reach clients and drive innovative marketing. It can also open up pathways into Wealth and Asset Management for those who don’t believe the sector even cares about them or wants to help them manage their money. At a time when financial inclusion is a big societal issue, Gen AI can open doors and change minds. That’s an important benefit which we need to make the most of.

WAM leaders are starting to think positively and practically about Gen AI. I’m hearing people talk about it as a ‘game changer,’ especially in areas like portfolio management, risk assessment, financial analysis, and forecasting. Of course, that might make Financial Advisors and Relationship Managers a little nervous, but the ‘human angle’ will always be vital to WAM. What Gen AI will do is complement their skills and experience, helping them do more business and transition to higher value-added tasks. The key is fostering deep relationships with clients.

No-regret moves for Gen AI in Wealth & Asset Management

All that sounds good, but how do you start? Beyond the first step which is having clarity about your business problems, I believe there are a few no-regret moves that business and technology owners can take to make their organisations Gen AI ready. I have classified them into 3 buckets – Strategy, IT and Operating Model.

Strategy:

  • Define Approach and Communicate: Define and communicate your posture towards Gen AI. This essentially involves assessing the level of risk vs. how Gen AI fits into the overall business strategy
  • Experiment and identify a set of use cases that could be deemed high impact and high feasibility to experiment with Gen AI. If it’s a problem for you to identify use cases – think productivity. Which are your top business areas where you want to drive greater productivity and choose those. To my mind identifying a few ring-fenced use cases and giving select department heads goals around Gen AI seems like a no-brainer. If you have a 100-person marketing department could the CMO have a target to generate 1 copywriter’s worth of productivity through Gen AI – that sounds plausible. Similarly, for Head of Service, Head of Sales…
  • Risk framework: The risk and compliance team must create a solid framework with clear guidelines for how you want to adopt, adapt, and utilise AI in all its forms. Ensure that your data is organised and freed from its silos; create a sound data model.


IT:

  • Upgrade technical architecture to be Gen AI ready. The key here would be to integrate Gen AI models into internal systems and enterprise applications
  • Develop data models that enable access to enterprise data by Gen AI models


Operating Model:

  • Set up a Gen AI task force. There are many variations of this. It depends on your organisation’s appetite, size and complexity. However, even for the smaller enterprise, it would make sense to identify an exec sponsor, pool a few cross-functional resources, examine the impact of Gen AI on the business, launch experiments and evaluate the impact of Gen AI experiments – with regularity
  • Build skills and partnerships. Execute a plan to imbibe Gen AI skillsets into your team. This will almost necessarily involve partnerships with your existing vendors and suppliers to supplement skills and understanding of the impact of Gen AI.

The moves above, I believe are the basic ones. The approach above is about enhancing existing ways of working. Equally if your ambitions permit, there is a case to reinvent your business model around AI. 

Generative AI – The facilitator is ready and willing

So, Gen AI isn’t The Terminator. I believe it can be a game-changer for the WAM sector. Its power can be focused on transforming the way you approach productivity enhancements, portfolio management and optimisation, scenario planning, risk assessment, and financial analysis and forecasting. It’s an aid to your professional expertise, not a replacement for it. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management which is one of the early adopters in this field of using Gen AI also outlined that they see this as a means to augment advisor performance and not replace it. It will complement your experience and skills. Ultimately, WAM is a people and data business, and Gen AI will enhance your role as a trusted advisor to a broader pool of people eager to make their money work harder with your guidance. And just in case you’re wondering – no, this article wasn’t written by Gen AI. 

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Kapil Bhatia
Kapil Bhatia

Kapil R. Bhatia, is a Senior Regional Vice President at Salesforce who leads the Wealth and Asset Management business for Salesforce in UK and Ireland. He has worked across various Enterprise Verticals in the UKI over his past 7 years at Salesforce. Prior to that he spent 12 years in consulting in the US and MEA advising C-level clients on Growth strategy, and transformation. Outside of work he doesn't sky dive or DJ but rather enjoys more mundane activities like staying fit, reading and spending time with his family.

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