Deutsche Bank has made significant investments in technology this past year, but remains unclear on whether its client base in the U.S. would prefer robos over actual advisors, one of its top executives says.

Chip Packard, who co-heads the U.S. wealth management unit for Deutsche, discusses technology, automation as well as the firm's recruiting efforts in this Q&A with On Wall Street. Packard was interviewed before sources indicated Deutsche was in talks with Raymond James to possibly sell the firm's U.S. private client group to the super regional.

HOW HAVE YOUR EFFORTS BEEN GOING IN ADDRESSING DIGITAL SERVICES FOR ADVISORS?

I would say technology is just another challenge that the industry faces. How do you harness technology, how do you use technology efficiently, how do you meet client expectations about how to use that technology.

All of those things are critical, and we have made significant investments, and we continue to make tactical investments, too, to improve the delivery of information, the quality of the dialogue, the liability of the data — all of those things that are really important to a client relationship.

[Technology is] something that we’re very committed to, and we’re starting to develop more apps and processes to deliver that to clients.

WILL YOU BE USING ROBO ADVISORS?

I would say that it’s not clear to us that the ultrahigh-net-worth client segment that we serve in this region is demanding robo advisors to replace advisors.

Instead, we’ve seen a continued demand for more transparency, more up-to-date information and higher-quality data that’s readily available across more platforms.

We’ve seen those types of needs and demands from clients in the UHNW segment, along with the continuing appreciation or need to have a relationship with a wealth manager. ... I can see a lot of our clients demanding some of the solutions they might receive from a robo advisor, such as enhanced data analytics and reporting capabilities, within the context of a broader wealth manager relationship, where a lot of those pieces can’t be filled by a robo advisor.

Now, we have a global business, and there are other things we do in other parts of the world where it may or may not be more relevant.

For us in the U.S., we’re more focused on technology solutions that we can deliver, and [being] increasingly competitive in using technology as a competitive advantage.

YOU WANTED TO GROW HEADCOUNT BY 15% THIS YEAR IN THE PRIVATE BANK, AND YOU’VE GROWN BY 20%. HOW DID YOU ACCOMPLISH THAT?

We’ve had success in attracting professionals who want to be a part of an UHNW organization, who want to make an impact on an organization, which is a priority within a global bank, and an organization that’s growing and winning business from the market.

[There is] a lot of satisfaction from doing something like that, as opposed to working in a larger place that maybe has already been built.

WEALTH MANAGEMENT FIRMS ARE CHALLENGED TO FIND NEW RECRUITS TO REPLACE RETIRING ADVISORS. WHILE DEUTSCHE IS CONSIDERED A BOUTIQUE, IT HAS EXCEEDED ITS OWN EXPECTATIONS WHEN IT COMES TO RECRUITMENT. HOW IS THIS HAPPENING FOR YOUR FIRM?

We’re excited about the momentum we have on the hiring side, because that’s one of the challenges the whole industry faces, which is talent — how to develop talent, how to retain talent and how to hire talent.

One of our key ambitions [this year] was to grow headcount by 15% among relationship managers globally in wealth management.

We’ve grown about 20% here in the U.S., so we’ve been keeping pace or even growing faster than the rest of the world, which is an indication also of the bank’s commitment and willingness to invest in this franchise in the Americas region.

We talked [to On Wall Street] last year about our plans to hire and some of the hires we made.

We continue to hire what we consider are some of the best teams in the industry,  with a focus on growing regions such as the West Coast and Southeast.

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