Digital investment offerings meet clients at home
Enhancements to Wells Fargo Advisors’ digital investment offerings give investors ease of convenience amid challenging times.
When the compounded calamities of 2020 started to impact markets — with quarantines limiting in-person business and a market downturn offering investors notable opportunities to buy and trade stocks — investors turned to their smartphones and tablets.
Around the same time, Wells Fargo Advisors had introduced enhancements to their digital investment offerings. Intuitive Investor® and WellsTrade®, with recently announced enhancements, were in place to meet clients where they were — at home.
“It was a little bit of the perfect storm in this space,” said Joe Nadreau, head of Wells Fargo Advisors Independent Brokerage and Platform Support. “The enhanced offerings provide additional options and another great on-ramp for clients to begin investing.”
WellsTrade, a self-directed investing product that allows investors to make their own trades, started offering free online stock and exchange-traded fund, or ETF, trades in December 2019, eliminating trading fees for clients who enjoy the convenience of trading these securities online. And Intuitive Investor, which uses algorithms to support investment decisions, backed by access to a financial advisor, halved the minimum investment amount from $10,000 to $5,000 in April, and also lowered the annual advisory fee from 50 basis points to 35 basis points.
With these investment offerings available, Wells Fargo Advisors was already participating in the substantial growth of the digital wealth management industry, which is expected to swell to $7 trillion in assets under management by 2025, according to Investopedia.
Then, the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 accelerated that growth industrywide, and the recent enhancements were in place to capture the momentum, providing clients with added convenience and benefits. In recent months, clients have opened more accounts, asset volumes have spiked, and interactions with Wells Fargo Advisors’ investment products and online capabilities have seen a notable bump. In some cases, activity jumped two- to three-fold over the same period in previous years, all made evident with the more aggressive acceleration in the pace of adoption for digital investment tools overall and Wells Fargo Advisors’ well-timed placement of more competitive offerings.
“We’ve seen a huge uptick across the platform, with online usage up by more than 25% compared to the same time last year,” said Wells Fargo Advisors Business Leader Paresh Mutha, “but the fundamental thing we are seeing is that our clients are doing more in the online space than they have in the past. People are engaging more deeply with capabilities like messaging, payments, digital asset movement, and online investment research.”
Not only did new clients find the products when and where they needed them, but existing Wells Fargo bank clients were able to easily harness the capabilities of Wells Fargo Advisors’ online digital investing platforms, including the ability to easily move money from bank accounts into Wells Fargo Advisors investment accounts.
“The enhancements to digital access for the investment products not only made them more convenient to use, they made a crucial difference for customers who needed digital access to invest in historic market opportunities,” said Lisa Pezzani, product manager on Wells Fargo Advisors’ digital investing team. “We talk about meeting clients where they want to be. These investment offerings achieve that while giving the opportunity to deepen engagement.”
WellsTrade allows self-guided investors to directly trade stocks, ETFs, and no-load mutual funds online or from a mobile device, with easy money transfers between Wells Fargo accounts. Intuitive Investor is designed for a more guided digital investing experience with the option to reach out to an advisor remotely.
Intuitive Investor, a newer product introduced in 2017, was enhanced to be more broadly accessible to clients. With a lower minimum investment of $5,000, not only is it more attractive for new investors, it allows for IRAs under the U.S. government’s annual limit. Since the minimum was updated, Intuitive Investor has seen a substantial uptick in accounts opened, according to Pezzani.
“We have moved to an environment in investing where our clients are increasingly using digital capabilities to interact and collaborate with their advisors. We want to continually be there to help our clients navigate through some of the tougher life decisions and life events, and keep them on track for their goals. In doing that, there are benefits for all.” — Joe Nadreau, head of Wells Fargo Advisors Independent Brokerage and Platform Support
“The timing of the WellsTrade and Intuitive Investor product enhancements was convenient for many Wells Fargo clients,” said Angie Lai, a Wells Fargo Advisors business leader on Nadreau’s team with Mutha. “Consumers were looking for investing options that gave them the opportunity to quickly open and transact on their account conveniently without leaving the house.”
Brandon Watson, a financial advisor on Wells Fargo Advisors' digital investing team who works with many Intuitive Investor and WellsTrade clients firsthand, said that clients are responding to the enhancements to the offerings very well, especially those who are just beginning to understand how the offerings work.
While the algorithms monitor accounts and rebalance them, if necessary, to align to clients’ goals, Intuitive Investor clients also have access to advisors like Watson to answer their questions or get help with their accounts. Both Intuitive Investor and WellsTrade also offer online access with a single sign-in for a complete view of clients’ Wells Fargo accounts, as well as access to research tools and market news.
Watson said, “Some investors also like the option WellsTrade gives them of being able to log in themselves and manage their own portfolios. But one of the big things people like, if they are unsure if they want to use an automated or a self-directed approach, they can call, and an advisor can help them decide.”
The enhanced digital investment offerings are also serving to make Wells Fargo Advisors more competitive among its industry peers, Pezzani said.
“Our competitors are realizing the same things we’ve seen,” Pezzani said. “In order to remain competitive, we had to make our offering more accessible and address pricing and account minimums. The landscape was just changing.”
The next step, according to Nadreau, is to focus even more on meeting clients where they are. Planned enhancements to digital investment products include notifications based on patterns of investment and spending behavior and an even deeper focus on full-balance sheet planning.
“We have moved to an environment in investing where our clients are increasingly using digital capabilities to interact and collaborate with their advisors,” Nadreau said. “We want to continually be there to help our clients navigate through some of the tougher life decisions and life events, and keep them on track for their goals. In doing that, there are benefits for all.”
All investing involves risk and potential loss of principal. There are no guarantees that an investor’s goals will be realized.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is a banking affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.
Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC (WFCS) and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC, Members SIPC, separate registered broker-dealers and nonbank affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company. WellsTrade® and Intuitive Investor® accounts are offered through WFCS.
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