It’s already well past halfway through the year and planning for 2021 and beyond is in full swing. Our F2 Strategy Research team connected with an elite group of leading wealth tech decision-makers in the industry to discuss how they plan to pivot into a new age of strategic planning during a pandemic that looks to ultimately change the way we run our businesses for years to come.  

On a High Level: Most firms will increase their tech spend as they work out ways to enhance their digital client experience, embed digital into the foundation of business growth and fix problem areas when it comes to project execution.  

Below are the 5 big trends that are coming out of these early stages of planning:

Trend 1: Tech Spend Increases to “Keep Up” Rather Than “Get Ahead” of the Competition Next Year

 

In 2021, 81% of firms expect to increase their tech budget more than 5% over 2020. Post COVID-19 boards have clearly committed to spend more on tech, but it's the reason why they are spending more that’s surprising. Many firms say the main driver of their increase in tech spending is primarily based on keeping up with competition and client expectations versus exceeding them and achieving growth. In addition, the predominant focus on tech growth is on improving experiences including improving digital, frictionless client/advisor experiences, integrating platform and ensuring scalability/growth support.

Unlike in years prior, increased tech spend is now critical to survival of the company. Firms must spend wisely and have good council to maintain relevancy. 

Trend 2: CTO Transitions from Order Taker to Strategic Leader

This is the moment that the role of CTO will become a strategic leader. Firms are working out how to articulate the need for tech as a business case. It is clear they need to show the value of tech beyond traditional ROI like never before. Historically, firms have struggled to align tech to the client experience. Other industries are ahead of financial services when it comes to aligning with client expectations and could be sources of inspiration.

Trend 3: Firms See Digital Experience as Cornerstone for Innovation

Planned priority areas show future client experiences will be increasingly digitally interactive and on demand. Firms expect tech enhancements to lead to more diverse and global client bases. It’s important to note, history shows, after a disruption comes a period of transition; therefore firms should act now to improve marketing and branding to prepare for the transition or risk being left behind.

Trend 4: The Biggest UnknownWill the Economy be a Roadblock to 5-Year Visions? 

The economy. What lies ahead is anyone’s guess. Firms, still reeling from the sudden instability caused by the pandemic and it’s largely unknown long-term impact, question whether it makes sense to plan five years out anymore. This economic uncertainty is a potential roadblock to appropriate staffing, large investments in tech and the capacity to take on multiple transformative projects. In addition to the economic uncertainty, firms see other concerns that could derail 5-year visions including the future regulatory environment, M&A and changes to competitive landscape and unanticipated disruptive technology.

Trend 5: No Lack of BlameFirms Fixing Many Problem Areas to Improve Project Execution

While reasons why project execution misses the mark vary by firm size, across the board, firms cite the need to address poor training and adoption. Firms also say communication and transparency between tech groups and business groups are the keys to improvement in project execution. In addition, speed is lacking—only 14% of firms fund tech projects within two weeks; 47% take 3+ months. The question is, can agile firms do it better? And if so, what should everyone learn from them?

Want more on this topic? We’ve created an infographic highlighting the survey’s top trends. Download it here. In addition, our next survey results on the topic of CRM, Prospecting and Proposal Generation will be released later in the month.