Morgan Stanley hiring hundreds into wealth unit to train technophobe advisers

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By Olivia Oran

<span class="articleLocation”>Morgan Stanley is hiring hundreds of
tech-savvy specialists at its wealth management branches to
train advisers on the firm’s new digital tools, the bank’s
co-head of wealth management Andy Saperstein said in an
interview.

The digital adviser associates will help advisers get up to
speed on new products, such as software that recommends
customized investment ideas and apps that let advisers text or
video chat with clients. They will also help advisers promote
their presence through social media, Saperstein added.

The effort is part of a broader technology push by Morgan
Stanley, which has been investing heavily in new digital tools
and products, many of which will be rolled out later this year.

Although the tools will not necessarily generate revenue,
they will help financial advisers do their jobs better, Morgan
Stanley Chief Executive James Gorman said in January. They may
also attract and retain customers who prefer digital options.

“We’ve realized that our ability to invest resources in
tools and technology is only as good as the advisers’ ability to
implement this into their practices,” Saperstein said on Friday. “We need to figure out ways to support advisers in that change.”

The digital specialists will be trained at Morgan Stanley’s
Purchase, New York wealth headquarters. They will then move to
branches throughout the U.S. beginning this summer. They may
eventually be incorporated onto adviser teams, Saperstein said.

Morgan Stanley’s digital revamp reflects a broader industry
effort to keep wealth management relevant to younger Americans,
who are accustomed to conducting their financial lives online
and may not see the need for professional advisers.

The average age of a wealth management customer
industry-wide is 62, according to data services company
Pricemetrix, while the average age of a financial adviser is 51,
according to research firm Cerulli Associates. Only 11 percent
of advisers are under the age of 35.

As traditional brokerages get older, several
wealth-management startups have been launched, offering
automated, low-cost investment advice geared at younger clients.
These so-called “robo-advisers,” like Wealthfront and
Betterment, manage clients’ money using algorithms and allow
clients to see and alter their investments online, bypassing
human advisers.

Morgan Stanley plans to introduce its own digital-only
investment platform later this year, geared primarily toward
children of existing clients. It is also using technology to
automate some of the rote processes in branches, like opening
accounts, to free advisers to spend more time with clients.

Morgan Stanley has made a number of key hires to build out
its digital department, including Naureen Hassan, who joined as
chief digital officer for the wealth business from Charles
Schwab & Co Inc last year. It has also hired several technology
executives from Bank of America’s Corp Merrill Lynch
wealth unit.



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