More than robo: Wells Fargo offers its take on digital investing
Jon Weiss of Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management explains how Intuitive InvestorSM blends technology with personal advice to provide a convenient and low-cost entry to the markets for new and emerging investors.
This week, Wells Fargo Advisors is nationally launching its Intuitive InvestorSM tool — a digital offering for new and emerging investors that combines automated investing technology with personal advice. We’ve asked Jon Weiss, Wells Fargo’s new head of Wealth and Investment Management, about Intuitive Investor and the role of technology in investing. Weiss has built a 37-year career in financial services spanning capital markets, advisory, and investment banking.
Q: What’s most significant about the Intuitive Investor automated digital investing program from Wells Fargo Advisors?
What excites me most is the opportunity to bring our company’s investing expertise to an even broader audience. Intuitive Investor was designed to meet today’s younger investors where they are — online. And it delivers what they want — a convenient, low-cost way to participate in the markets and pursue wealth over time. It goes further than what we’ve seen in our business up to this point by offering sophisticated insight from Wells Fargo Investment Institute, phone-based financial advice, and integration with Wells Fargo banking services.
I think of it as an investment program that will appeal to my own two kids, who are just starting out in their careers and getting established in their lives. It will help to give them a head start on pursuing their goals for building solid financial futures and establishing relationships with Wells Fargo that can grow as their needs inevitably change.
Q: It sounds like Wealth and Investment Management is positioning to serve an entirely new customer base. How does this fit with your existing services?
Emerging investors may sound like a new focus for Wealth and Investment Management, but they aren’t a new focus for Wells Fargo, which serves a diverse range of consumers across its banking business.
Our dedicated full-service Wells Fargo Advisors financial advisors and Wells Fargo wealth managers are a strong asset for the company, and we continue to invest in new resources, training, and technologies that help them strengthen their relationships with affluent clients.
We also remain sharply focused on delivering better experiences for all clients as their needs and preferences change. We see a long-term growth opportunity to forge relationships with tech-savvy, next-generation investors early in their investing lives, and to deepen their relationships with Wells Fargo over time. Intuitive Investor delivers a simpler, more streamlined investing service for clients who value a convenient digital experience that’s blended with phone-based advice.
Q: Intuitive Investor joins a crowded digital investing market. Why do we need another?
There’s no question that technology and the internet have reshaped consumer expectations, and affected the way businesses think and operate — why we’re seeing the ascent of digital and automated investing programs, and why the market certainly is competitive.
In fact, in the next four years, Aite Group predicts the number of digital advice clients to rise nearly 850 percent, to 17 million.* Wells Fargo Advisors’ move to bring this investing capability to millions of clients through Intuitive Investor represents an important milestone in the mainstreaming of this technology, and a natural extension of the services we’ve been providing to clients for years.
Intuitive Investor builds on the legacy of Wells Fargo’s $1.9 trillion Wealth and Investment Management business — deeply rooted in helping clients succeed through sound investment acumen and personalized planning.
The advice models that drive asset allocation inside of Intuitive Investor were created by Wells Fargo Investment Institute, the same think tank producing the investment strategy and advice for clients served by our advisors and wealth managers. We believe sound advice is tied to a client’s financial goals, risk tolerances, and time horizons, and the team at Wells Fargo Investment Institute approaches asset allocation as a disciplined portfolio-management process.
Across Wells Fargo, we’re listening attentively to our customers and building better experiences, such as cardless ATMs and the ZelleSM peer-to-peer payment service, to help them manage their banking finances conveniently and securely. Intuitive Investor is the latest way Wells Fargo Advisors is positioning to serve clients in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them.
Q: For Intuitive Investor, you chose to work with a third party rather than build your own digital investing offering. Will Wells Fargo collaborate more in this way to innovate?
Wells Fargo’s approach to innovation is ultimately guided by the needs and expectations of our clients. We have an industry-leading team internally that plays an integral role in enhancing our ability to innovate. We also have the ability to partner when that makes the most sense.
We have very high standards with any offering we bring to the market, including Intuitive Investor, which is why we evaluated a number of options and third parties in the automated-advice space before reaching our decision. We chose to collaborate with SigFig (a San Francisco-based wealth management technology company) to deliver a competitive and compelling investment program to our clients.
Q: What are the three biggest external trends impacting your business right now?
Changing demographics, evolving investor preferences, and a shift in the regulatory environment are the trends affecting our business the most.
We’re witnessing a dramatic demographic shift. Our affluent clients have grown successful as they’ve reached retirement age. As baby boomers begin drawing from their retirement accounts, their children are getting married, buying homes, and having children of their own. We know from a recent Wells Fargo survey that nearly 70 percent of millennials say they want to conquer their anxiety about money, and just one-third are satisfied with their financial lives. As the generations shift, the ways people want to engage with us do, too.
The rise of online consumerism has created very different expectations, and that’s driving us to deliver investment services that fit the needs of all of our customers’ lives. They want to invest the same way they shop, plan a vacation, and pay bills. And they want to have options that are simple to use and low in cost. As technology becomes increasingly a part of the way our clients interact with us, I believe Wealth and Investment Management is in a position to stand out because of our legacy of powerful, high-impact financial advice.
Finally, regulations are driving further uniformity and consistency, and this is where our strengths in advice quality, goals-based planning strategies for clients, and technology innovation can give us an advantage, in my view.
Q: Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan has talked about the growth opportunities represented by the investment management business and its relationships with and services for customers. What role does Intuitive Investor play in this?
We continue to see long-term success in growing our existing client relationships at Wells Fargo through offering convenient and relevant services that help people make more informed financial decisions.
One key thing I’ve already learned in Wealth and Investment Management at Wells Fargo: While our company is widely known for its banking services, Wells Fargo is less well-known to those same customers as a place to invest. Even though our $1.6 trillion retail brokerage firm, Wells Fargo Advisors, is among the top three largest in the U.S. by advisor headcount and our wealth management business administers $544 billion in client assets, there’s still an awareness gap. To deliver strong, goals-based advice to more consumers, we have to bridge that gap.
Our existing affluent business has grown as our long-term clients have been successful. Through convenient and affordable offerings such as Intuitive Investor, we can now fill a competitive need for new types of clients seeking an online investing experience — an important step to introducing new customers to our robust Wealth and Investment Management services. As we cultivate multi-generational relationships across Wells Fargo, some Intuitive Investor clients will likely find our full-service advice more appropriate as their needs and goals change and evolve.
Q: You officially became head of Wealth and Investment Management in August. How does the launch of Intuitive Investor fit in with your plans for growing the business?
I inherited a strong, diversified business. Since then, and in my discussions with leaders, I’ve seen the enormous value we bring to our clients. We have some of the strongest businesses in the industry providing high-impact advice and investment strategies. When I look at those businesses, and combine them with some of the insightful analysis and industry-leading capabilities of Wells Fargo Investment Institute, that combination is really powerful. We have stable, comprehensive retail brokerage and wealth management businesses helping clients plan for their long-term dreams and preserve and grow their family legacies. And our asset management and institutional retirement businesses play a critical role in helping millions of Americans prepare for retirement.
When I think about the future, I am excited about the opportunities we have to partner across our own group and company to innovate, and deliver new products and services for our clients and Wells Fargo.
Wealth and Investment Management has helped bring valuable retirement, wealth management, and investing services to Wells Fargo’s banking customers. In the coming year, we will be expanding our work with other parts of the company to bring Wells Fargo’s full breadth of products and services to Wealth and Investment Management clients.
I believe our strong foundation in helping clients with goals-based planning has led to enduring relationships and positive outcomes for our clients. Focused investments in technology and operating even more efficiently can help us grow further.
Innovative data analytics, for example, are helping our team members in Wells Fargo Advisors, The Private Bank, and Wells Fargo Asset Management uncover new insights and trends for fostering deeper relationships with customers. The arrival of Intuitive Investor opens the door for new types of investors to access the markets. As we look ahead, I believe we have an opportunity to know all our clients better, and ultimately serve them better, because we understand their needs.
* “ U.S. Digital Advice: Consolidation, Fee Disruption, and the Battle of the Brands.” Aite Group. 2017.
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The Intuitive Investor brokerage account online or as part of Allocation Advisors may not be suitable for all investors. Please carefully review the Wells Fargo Advisors advisory disclosure document for a full description of our services. The minimum account size for this program is $10,000. Intuitive Investor℠ brokerage accounts are offered through Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC.
Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company.
Wells Fargo Advisors is the trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC, Members SIPC, separate registered broker-dealers and non-bank affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company.
Banking services and deposit products are offered through Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (Member FDIC), a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.
Wells Fargo Investment Institute, Inc. is a registered investment adviser and wholly-owned subsidiary of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
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