Our Point of View
October 6, 2022

How Anjali Shah is problem-solving for the future

Anjali Shah, head of Innovation Strategy in the Strategy, Digital and Innovation organization at Wells Fargo, discusses the world’s largest transfer of wealth and how customers may want to not only pass down money, but values, too.

headshot of Anjali Shah
Our Point of View
October 6, 2022

How Anjali Shah is problem-solving for the future

Anjali Shah, head of Innovation Strategy in the Strategy, Digital and Innovation organization at Wells Fargo, discusses the world’s largest transfer of wealth and how customers may want to not only pass down money, but values, too.

Around the globe, it’s already begun: the largest transfer of generational wealth in history. Between 2021 and 2045, $84.4 trillion of wealth is expected to change hands, largely moving to younger generations who may have a very different approach to money and banking than prior generations, according to a 2022 Cerulli Associates report.

Anjali Shah is among those researching what tools customers will need to manage, maintain, and grow this generational wealth transfer and how it will change the financial landscape. As the head of Innovation Strategy, Shah and her team dig deeply into key trends like these to identify innovations to improve the customer experience. Then, they connect with experts in the business to translate their findings into real solutions for customers.

We talked with Shah to get her thoughts about this wealth transfer and what Wells Fargo can do to support customers through these pivotal moments in their lives.

Q: What does your team do?

My team tracks the next generation of behaviors, technologies, markets, and business models. We call those changes innovation opportunity areas. We provide thought leadership and innovate/ideate with our business counterparts who know our customers and clients best. As ideas bubble up, we ensure they validate a business need and align with opportunity areas to better serve them. We maintain the innovation pipeline. Once a concept is validated for desirability, feasibility, and viability, it moves through the innovation funnel, either entering a human-centered design sprint or moving directly to the Digital Assets team of experts or a partnership team.  

Q: What trends have you found around this wealth transfer?

Our research shows that customers have a strong desire to pass down not just wealth, but values. That comes across in different ways, whether that is charitable giving, having conversations with their children, or setting up scholarships or education savings. In the same way, the customer who is inheriting wealth has values they want to also recognize, such as environmental, social, and governance investing. We always look at the world from a customer-centered lens.

Right now, high-net-worth customers receive a relatively high level of guidance around the value of protecting their savings with long-term investment planning to optimize it for future generations. If we could democratize this guidance across other wealth segments, we can impact people’s financial futures in a very positive manner. Our partners in Wealth & Investment Management have already begun to implement some of our findings into new tools and services set to roll out next year.

Q: How have you seen values-driven banking in your own life?

I'm a first-generation immigrant. My parents immigrated from India in 1970, and I was raised in Brooklyn, New York. My dad is a retired chemist and wanted to set up a method for his grandkids to keep his values of ‘live and let live’. He has supported no-kill animal shelters for years, and it was important to him to pass that value on with a charitable giving trust solely benefiting vegetarian and animal causes and managed by all his grandkids. That’s why I became passionate about identifying values and mindsets — I see the desire in my dad’s eyes to pass on his values to the next generation.

Anjali Shah’s grandparents and their four granddaughters at a family wedding.
Anjali Shah stands with her husband and children. They are dressed in winter clothing. The city of Cape Town, South Africa is behind them.

Anjali Shah’s parents and their four granddaughters at a family wedding.

Anjali Shah, her husband Palash, and their two daughters on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa, this summer.

Q: What impact is wealth transfer having on customers?

As it relates to generational wealth, there are different dynamics in how people think about inheritance across diverse cultures, such as expectations of supporting a family.

As lifespans grow, there are some trends pointing to passing wealth to grandchildren and skipping children. For children who are directly inheriting wealth in their 50s or 60s, we’re seeing a lot more wealth and comfortable living in a later stage of life. I think the mindset of how people live their life is changing over their lifespan, with growing interest in representing their values in their financial decisions. 

Another ancillary trend of this transfer of wealth is around nontraditional employment.

Many people no longer think, “I have a job for X.” For many, it’s, “I’ve inherited this money, so all I really need from work is health insurance or to cover daily expenses or to put my kids through college.” The “why” of work has changed. That converts into the evolution of how you look at your life, which may be, “I’m going to evolve myself to be a small business owner, or I’m going to evolve myself to be a gig worker.”

Who's inheriting this wealth? Gen Z or younger (16%), Baby Boomer (6%), Gen X (41%), Millennial (38%). Source: 2022 Cerulli report

Q: What keeps you inspired to work on innovation strategy?

For me, it’s because not only can we solve problems for today’s customers, but we can also re-imagine what the future can hold. Our team operates with constant curiosity and has a growth mindset. Ideating and experimenting with the focus on the customer experience is fun and impactful. I worked in corporate development in the software industry for over 20 years, and half of my family could not understand my role. They didn’t understand what enterprise software was, but I can explain the impact wealth and values have not only in your daily life, but to the meaning that your life creates.