A Rule For The Industry

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Amar Pandit

A respected entrepreneur with 25+ years of Experience, Amar Pandit is the Founder of several companies that are making a Happy difference in the lives of people. He is currently the Founder of Happyness Factory, a world-class online investment & goal-based financial planning platform through which he aims to help every Indian family save and invest wisely. He is very passionate about spreading financial literacy and is the author of 4 bestselling books (+ 2 more to release in 2020), 8 Sketch Books, Board Game and 700 + columns.

I read a very interesting Bloomberg post Two Rothschild Bank Clans Fight Over Clients, Power and the Family Name. The explanation of this headline – The Swiss and French branches are both leveraging the family name to win a bigger piece of the lucrative global wealth management pie. The odds are rising that the best way forward would be a merger.

“One of Ariane de Rothschild’s bankers returned from the Middle East a few months ago with some troubling news for her Swiss private bank, Edmond de Rothschild Group.

A prized multi-millionaire client told him another representative of the firm had come calling-only, the business card the customer showed him had the logo of Rothschild & Co, a rival Paris-based entity run by Ariane’s estranged cousins-in-law.

It wasn’t the first time a client had confused the Swiss firm with its French competitor, but it was becoming an increasingly common problem. The two firms carrying the storied Rothschild name are the only remaining banks with links to the renowned family of financiers that emerged from Frankfurt’s Jewish ghetto more than two centuries ago to become one of the world’s richest and most powerful dynasties in the 19th century. After decades of operating in relatively different business areas, they are now engaged in a turf battle for a bigger piece of the highly lucrative $250 trillion global wealth management industry.”

The Paris based firm is the smaller of the two with around $100 billion in assets but growing by opening new offices. There are a few observations to be noted – They are now targeting the same set of clients. It’s getting super competitive. They are both trying to leverage the name. But even at this size they are considered small against global behemoths such as UBS, Morgan Stanley, etc.

An analyst from the industry makes a comment in the same post – “There is a need for consolidation, notably for small wealth managers ($100 billion is considered small) due to the increase in costs and regulation. A rule for the industry now is that they need size.

In the modern financial landscape, the competition for high-net-worth and affluent clients is becoming increasingly fierce. The same is true in India. There is a fierce competition for your clients. The story of the Rothschild’s banks exemplifies this trend seen across the industry: the need for scale. As they navigate a shared clientele and overlapping markets, it becomes clear that even with a storied name and a strong foundation, there is immense value in consolidation and collaboration.

For independent financial advisors and distributors, the takeaway is vital. Size matters, and achieving scale is becoming increasingly important for several reasons:

Resource Allocation: Larger firms have more resources for research, technology, and talent, which can lead to more informed investment decisions and higher quality client service.

Regulatory Compliance: With the cost of compliance rising, bigger firms can spread these costs across a larger asset base, mitigating the impact on profitability.

Competitive Offerings: Size enables firms to provide a wider array of products and services, which can be tailored to meet the specific needs of diverse clients.

Risk Management: Larger firms can better manage and diversify risk due to a broader investment base and more sophisticated risk assessment tools.

Market Reach: With more capital, firms can expand their market presence, opening new offices and entering new segments that were previously beyond reach.

Innovation and Research: Big firms can invest more in innovation, creating proprietary tools and investment products that give them an edge in the market.

Brand Recognition: A larger presence enhances brand visibility and recognition, which can be crucial in attracting and retaining wealthy clients. However, as I wrote in last week’s post “The Illusion of Branding: Why This is the Real Game Changer”, it is possible for you to build your brand in a certain niche.

Collaboration and strategic partnerships offer a practical pathway to scale for advisors and distributors who may not have the resources to grow organically at the necessary pace. By partnering with larger firms, you can instantly gain the benefits of scale.

Consider the Rothschild scenario as a case in point: despite their heritage and expertise, the challenges of client confusion and competition are prompting discussions about a potential merger. This is a strong signal that in today’s marketplace, collaboration and consolidation are not just strategies for growth but necessities for survival and success.

In your practice, seek out partners whose offerings complement your strengths. Utilize fintech solutions that can automate and scale your operations. Remember, the goal isn’t just to grow, but to enhance your ability to serve your clients and compete for the best clients in a hyper competitive environment.

It’s not just about the Size – Indeed, the evolving narrative within the wealth industry tells us that while achieving scale is crucial, it’s not solely about size. Being large provides certain advantages, but the capacity to be nimble, adaptable, and innovative often holds more value in a market characterized by rapid change.

This is where the importance of having the right partner becomes evident. A strategic partnership can provide the agility necessary to pivot and adapt in response to market conditions, regulatory changes, and evolving client needs. Here’s how the right partnership complements scale:

Nimbleness: Smaller firms often have the advantage of making quick decisions without the red tape that can encumber larger institutions. A good partner understands this and leverages it for faster product development and service delivery.

Adaptability: The financial world is in a constant state of flux. The right partnership allows you to adapt by sharing insights and resources, ensuring you remain at the forefront of market trends and client preferences.

Innovation: The partner must have a demonstrated track record of real innovation. There is a lot of rhetoric about innovation by many promising to cater to MFDs but most of these players lack a track record of innovation. A collaborative partnership with the right partner can foster an environment ripe for innovation, drawing on diverse experiences and perspectives to solve complex financial challenges creatively and efficiently.

Personalization: Personal touch and customized service are where smaller firms excel. With the right partner, you can maintain this high level of personalized service while expanding your offerings.

Technology: Leveraging technology can provide scalability benefits without the need for massive size. The right partner can introduce advanced fintech solutions that streamline operations and enhance your client experience.

Expertise: A partner with complementary skills can fill gaps in expertise, allowing you to offer a broader range of services and cater to more complex client needs.

Client-Centric Growth: Growth should not come at the cost of client satisfaction. The right partnership will prioritize client outcomes, ensuring that the scale does not dilute the quality of the your-client relationship.

In your own practice, focus on building alliances that allow you to maintain the essence of what makes your service unique while expanding your capabilities. It’s about finding the balance between the breadth of resources and maintaining the agility that allows you to provide exceptional service and delighting clients.

As we draw lessons from the Rothschild’s potential consolidation, it’s clear that the goal is to create a platform that serves clients’ evolving needs in the most effective way possible. This might mean growing larger, or it might mean growing smarter (becoming a regional giant). But invariably, it means growing together with partners who share your vision for client-centric, agile, and innovative value propositions. To compete effectively, you must now think beyond the borders of traditional growth and consider strategic partnerships and alliances that can provide instant scale and a more robust competitive stance.