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Wirehouse Executives’ Promises for 2021

By Miriam Rozen January 4, 2021

During 2020, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Wells Fargo executives made a bucketload of promises about what 2021 will bring.

If the economic outlook improves with a successful vaccine rollout for Covid-19, the likelihood increases that those wirehouse executives will be able deliver on those commitments.

That could be cause for celebration this year for many financial advisors, as a common pledge by the executives has been a commitment to boost technology. Fractional share capabilities are top priority for some, with executives at both Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo Advisors having said previously that adding that capacity was on the agenda for this year.

Executives across firms have said they want improved client onboarding, better videoconferencing services, and more customizable financial planning tools.

To learn which executives from which wirehouses made each of those pledges, click on the slideshow below:

Wirehouse Execs' Plans for the Year Ahead

What They Pledge to Deliver in 2021

Morgan Stanley “By the end of 2021 individual employees of corporate clients will have access to financial coaching, exclusive educational content, and a self-directed brokerage offering, providing them with an introduction to our wealth management services….Wealth management will have 28 to 30% pre tax profit margins.” Source:James Gorman, Morgan Stanley CEO speaking on Jan.16, 2020 conference call with stock market analysts about 2019’s year-end earnings.

Morgan Stanley A “top priority” in 2021 for Morgan Stanley will be increasing its fractional share capabilities. Source: Ben Huneke, Morgan Stanley's head of investment solutions group, speaking in August 2020 to FA-IQ sister publication FundFire.

UBS UBS plans to introduce in the second half of 2021 a suite of new technology tools for its financial advisors, including technology that will allow FAs to more easily onboard their clients digitally. Source: Kirt Gardner, UBS CFO, on conference call with stock analysts after third quarter earnings reports on Oct. 20, 2020.

UBS “During the course of 2021, we do expect to have much more flexibility and deploying services, new products, new solutions to our clients, streamlining workflow, and also some of the complexity around compliance, for example, and onboarding. All of this should help to improve the productivity of our FAs in the U.S., where we already have the most productive in the market amongst our peers. We think that this will help us take that productivity to the next level.” Source: Kirt Gardner, UBS CFO, speaking on an Oct. 20, 2020 conference call with stock analysts after third quarter earnings reports.

UBS UBS is developing a new mobile app tool that will allow clients to videoconference with financial advisors with one click, which will help clients circumvent cumbersome log-ins necessary to use alternative Webex, Google Chat or Zoom videoconferencing methods of communication and make wirehouse’s FAs “omnipresent”. Source: Tom Naratil, co president of UBS global wealth management and president of UBS Americas, speaking at Oct. 27, 2020 BloombergLive webcast, entitled “Technology and the Changing Future of Investing.”

Wells Fargo Wells Fargo Advisors will add fractional share capabilities to its wealth management platform in 2021, so investors who “only have a $100 a week” to purchase securities may do so. Source: Joe Nadreau, Wells Fargo Advisors managing director and head of brokerage and platform services, speaking during an Oct. 20, 2020 webcast organized by Money Management Institute.

Wells Fargo In 2021, the wirehouse will introduce new tools to help FAs offer clients customized, iterative, constantly tweaked financial planning. The tools will be developed and customized by "asking clients questions, getting them to react to statements and, and jobs that they might want to get done with their with their wealth... and putting those together in very systematized way, and then translating that into how we plan for them." Source: Michael Liersch, Wells Fargo, head of advice and planning, speaking to FA-IQ on Dec. 15, 2020.


Bank of America's Merrill Lynch Expenses related to Covid 19 related costs “will come down over the course of 2021” and approach a “pre-Covid run rate.” Source: Paul Donofrio, BofA CFO speaking at a Nov. 5, 2020 BancAnalysts Association of Boston Conference.

Bank of America's Merrill Lynch “I've consistently said the U.S. is in a bull market for financial advice. You know, I think we can maybe amend and extend that a bit at this point to mean 2020 has been a very tough year but I think if we look ahead to 2020s are going to be a phenomenal decade for wealth management.” Source: Merrill Lynch senior executive, who requested no further identification, speaking to reporters on Oct. 14, 2020.

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Tags:  Client retention , Technology , Portfolio management , Behavioral finance , Bank of America , Merrill Lynch , Morgan Stanley , Wells Fargo , Wells Fargo Advisors , UBS

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