It’s a good time to be in the wealth management business. As more than one leading executive noted in our annual issue, the state of the industry is the best it has been in years. Profits are up, asset flows are steady and the industry is not plagued by the instability and uncertainty that many firms faced during the financial crisis and its aftermath.

“When one considers the changes we’ve made due to the financial crisis, we are better positioned for stronger future health than we have ever been,” says Haig Ariyan, co-head of wealth management at Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management Americas. “And I think that applies to the industry as a whole with regard to meeting regulatory reforms and client demands.”

But the executives are not resting on their laurels. Such issues as increasing diversity in the advisor ranks, recruiting young talent and upgrading technology have moved front and center. While these topics may not appear to be as existential in nature as the turmoil of the financial crisis, they are just as critical to every firm’s future success.

“What I’m talking a lot about with advisors now is the changing landscape,” says Mary Mack, president of Wells Fargo Advisors. “Think about how you and I do everything differently in our lives now. How do you get medical advice; how do get advice on buying a new car? I don’t think it’s different with our clients.”

Encouraging young talent to enter the profession is essential to replace aging advisors. Many executives also told On Wall Street that they were focused on improving their technological capabilities, not only to meet the client expectations of today but those of the future as well.

Alois Pirker, research analyst at Aite Group, observes that wealth management firms, having achieved stable growth again, are now thinking about their clients’ digital experience and making investments that may not have been a top priority a few years ago.

“I think if you look at other industries, like movie rentals, business models have shifted radically in the last 10 years. The same has happened to wealth management,” Pirker notes.

He adds, “Ultimately, [technology] touches all aspects of your firm, including how the advisors are interacting with your clients.”

Greg Fleming, president of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, says his firm recognizes the importance of technology. “We’re reflecting that in our business and we’re investing in it because we want our clients to have as good a digital experience as at any other firm,” Fleming says.

 What’s clear from On Wall Street’s interviews with the top executives from the wirehouses and regional broker-dealers is that they are focused on ensuring that the future of their firms is just as bright as its present, if not brighter.

“Everything we do [to grow], whether organic or by acquisitions, has to make sense,” says Stifel Financial Corp. CEO Ron Kruszewski. “We’re not growing for growth’s sake. We’re growing because it makes sense, and it’s adding to shareholder value.”

Read through our Q&As and go to our website for exclusive Web-only content to see how wealth management’s top executives are striving to stay on top.

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