Despite a tumultuous recent history, the wealth management industry is healthy today and its future is even brighter, said Greg Fleming, president of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.
This is still a business that investors like, said Fleming at SIFMAs annual Private Client Conference, held in New York on Thursday.
Fleming noted that assets, particularly fee-based assets, had grown since the crisis. And financial advisors are increasingly helping clients with a wider range of needs, from mortgages to tailored lending. Fleming expects these beneficial trends to continue, and that future advisors will have to adopt a more holistic approach to their practices. Morgan Stanleys advisors, Fleming said, are readying themselves for this new future.
Clients are looking for advice for everything. The full range of potential needs, he said. Our financial advisors recognize that the FA of the future will look at their business in a more holistic sense.
Though promising, the future will bring challenges, too, Fleming admitted.
Women remain underrepresented among the advisor ranks, he said.
We at Morgan Stanley are trying to highlight the many successful women financial advisors that we have. We want that to be visible, Fleming said.
Generational shifts will challenge the wealth industry, too. Millennials form the most tech savvy generation and are more willing than older generations to use social media, meaning that advisors will have additional tools to connect with clients. Yet Millennials are also more skeptical of the stock market, Fleming acknowledged.
I highlight all this because this client base will bring very different views to investing and seek very different advice from our industry, he told SIFMA attendees.
But Fleming remains optimistic about the future of the industry, in part because of improvements in the U.S. economy. He noted that employment is rising, corporate balance sheets are healthy and mergers and acquisition activity is up.
There are lots of positives in the US economy, he said.
Fleming also said that Morgan Stanley carefully watches volatility in the markets and the Feds impact on that, particularly with regard to the tapering of the Feds bond buying program. Markets had calmed since the financial crisis, Fleming said. Overall, markets have settled from a volatility standpoint.
Wealth management firms will thrive in this new environment, Fleming argued.
There are major changes coming in terms of the client base, how we reach them and how we service them, he said. I am confident that the industry will successfully restructure for the future.