10 Defining Themes For The Future Of Wealth Management
A list of new commandments for money management.
A list of new commandments for money management.
J. Pierpont Morgan would be proud that many of the historical tenets of the asset- and wealth-management industry still form the bedrock of how money is managed in modern times. The fund’s 150-year track record is a testament to our industry’s founding principle: While the world may change, clients’ desire for investment expertise and personalised service won’t.
With that in mind, here are 10 key themes that we look forward to helping our clients navigate in the future.
1) Price. Ever since I entered the asset-management industry, sceptics have warned that fee pressure will destroy profitability and detract top talent from the profession. Fees in every industry compress at some point. Successful firms of the future will thrive by either providing commodity-like products at scale for near-zero cost, or delivering hard-to-access insights and exposures that command a premium. Our industry must strive for continuous improvement on both ends of the spectrum.
2) Scale is a matter of survival. With compressed pricing, heavy regulatory controls, and immense spend on data, analytics, and risk-management tools, firms need a relentless focus on operational efficiency, a rigorous control framework, and a disciplined prioritization process around investments for the future. In this context, scale is key. Mergers and acquisitions and outsourcing of sub-scale and noncore capabilities to service providers will enable smaller firms to refocus their efforts back into their most important asset: talent.
3) Actively advising clients. If we learned anything from the Covid-19 crisis, it is the need for sound advice in volatile times. During that time, thousands of actively managed funds outperformed their passive alternatives across asset classes and portfolios. While markets may be efficient, manager selection is key and clients need guidance. The average industry return of a balanced portfolio over the past two decades was 6.4% annually, while the actual experience of the average retail investor was only 2.9%, a stark reminder of how critical hands-on advice is.
4) Impact and purpose. Portfolio managers and research analysts have become essential for investors seeking to make an impact in the world through their assets. Over 80% of surveyed CIOs expressed intent to invest in environmentally and socially conscious companies. Analyzing CEOs and their management teams is no longer just about inquiring about their financial and operational expertise and vision, but also about the impact they make on their communities and the planet. Rising demand for companies that drive positive change will create a virtuous cycle of asset allocation for good.
5) Personalization. Today’s investors want to be intentional, not passive, in investing. They care about taxes and want to overweight companies that can make a difference. They want to avoid whole sectors, or actively own and vote on a company’s strategic plans. Giving clients the freedom to pursue their very specific objectives in a highly customized manner will continue to drive innovation in our industry.
6) Stable and predictable incomes. Millions of investors around the world have come to rely on their investment portfolios as a stable source of income. With individuals enjoying longer life spans and more active lifestyles, especially during retirement years, asset managers need to adapt their strategies to provide for a stable and predictable flow of income every month. Along the same lines, saving needs to start at a young age. Today, less than 40% of Americans have enough savings to pay for an unexpected $1,000 expense in cash. It is our collective responsibility to educate and advise on what is required to cover all of life’s events and milestones.
7) Understanding China. The pandemic has highlighted the interconnectivity of the world and how important China is to supply chains and new innovations. Against this backdrop, it is irresponsible to be a fiduciary of client capital and not have a deep understanding of places like China. It is hard to imagine having a true grasp of competitive global forces without on-the-ground insights of the economies, cultures, and politics of re-emerging global marketplaces. After 100 years of being on the ground in China, J.P. Morgan is poised to become the first foreign asset manager to acquire full ownership of a Chinese fund manager, pending regulatory approval. That kind of commitment will contribute massively to our global research network.
8) Technology drives everything. To adapt to the velocity of progress and change, technology is providing our industry access, speed, and agility like never before. With more technologists than Google and Facebook combined, J.P. Morgan invests over $12 billion annually in technology to help empower our clients and employees to work faster and more seamlessly in ever-changing markets. We need to be forward thinking and have the ability to be a disruptor. Agile, collaborative partnerships between technologists and their businesses will drive innovation and speed to market at an exponential pace.
9) Access. With a global footprint and a full suite of investment vehicles, asset managers must continue to focus on enabling first-time investors to invest in previously inaccessible areas. We are finding ways to provide more opportunities, more choice, and more power to people. Investments once only available to the largest investors in the world are now being accessed by the everyday investor. Democratization of markets should create better outcomes for investors of all sizes.
10) A new flexibility. Our industry adapted quite seamlessly to a previously unimaginable work-from-home scenario. As such, increased flexibility will broaden talent pools and should promote greater diversity. While never losing the apprenticeship nature of our business, we should continue to find new ways of working with one another to generate even greater success.
In coming years, the industry’s winners will remain obsessed about their fiduciary responsibilities. As stewards of capital, the ability to leverage technology and scale to deliver the same extraordinary experience for every investor, with $100 or $100 million, is now within reach.
Reprinted by permission of Barron’s. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 14, 2021.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual
Food prices continue to rise at a rapid pace, surprising central banks and pressuring debt-laden governments
LONDON—Fresh out of an energy crisis, Europeans are facing a food-price explosion that is changing diets and forcing consumers across the region to tighten their belts—literally.
This is happening even though inflation as a whole is falling thanks to lower energy prices, presenting a new policy challenge for governments that deployed billions in aid last year to keep businesses and households afloat through the worst energy crisis in decades.
New data on Wednesday showed inflation in the U.K. fell sharply in April as energy prices cooled, following a similar pattern around Europe and in the U.S. But food prices were 19.3% higher than a year earlier.
The continued surge in food prices has caught central bankers off guard and pressured governments that are still reeling from the cost of last year’s emergency support to come to the rescue. And it is pressuring household budgets that are also under strain from rising borrowing costs.
In France, households have cut their food purchases by more than 10% since the invasion of Ukraine, while their purchases of energy have fallen by 4.8%.
In Germany, sales of food fell 1.1% in March from the previous month, and were down 10.3% from a year earlier, the largest drop since records began in 1994. According to the Federal Information Centre for Agriculture, meat consumption was lower in 2022 than at any time since records began in 1989, although it said that might partly reflect a continuing shift toward more plant-based diets.
Food retailers’ profit margins have contracted because they can’t pass on the entire price increases from their suppliers to their customers. Markus Mosa, chief executive of the Edeka supermarket chain, told German media that the company had stopped ordering products from several large suppliers because of rocketing prices.
A survey by the U.K.’s statistics agency earlier this month found that almost three-fifths of the poorest 20% of households were cutting back on food purchases.
“This is an access problem,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at insurer Allianz, who previously worked at the United Nations World Food Program. “Total food production has not plummeted. This is an entitlement crisis.”
Food accounts for a much larger share of consumer spending than energy, so a smaller rise in prices has a greater impact on budgets. The U.K.’s Resolution Foundation estimates that by the summer, the cumulative rise in food bills since 2020 will have amounted to 28 billion pounds, equivalent to $34.76 billion, outstripping the rise in energy bills, estimated at £25 billion.
“The cost of living crisis isn’t ending, it is just entering a new phase,” Torsten Bell, the research group’s chief executive, wrote in a recent report.
Food isn’t the only driver of inflation. In the U.K., the core rate of inflation—which excludes food and energy—rose to 6.8% in April from 6.2% in March, its highest level since 1992. Core inflation was close to its record high in the eurozone during the same month.
Still, Bank of England Gov. Andrew Bailey told lawmakers Tuesday that food prices now constitute a “fourth shock” to inflation after the bottlenecks that jammed supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise in energy prices that accompanied Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and surprisingly tight labor markets.
Europe’s governments spent heavily on supporting households as energy prices soared. Now they have less room to borrow given the surge in debt since the pandemic struck in 2020.
Some governments—including those of Italy, Spain and Portugal—have cut sales taxes on food products to ease the burden on consumers. Others are leaning on food retailers to keep their prices in check. In March, the French government negotiated an agreement with leading retailers to refrain from price rises if it is possible to do so.
Retailers have also come under scrutiny in Ireland and a number of other European countries. In the U.K., lawmakers have launched an investigation into the entire food supply chain “from farm to fork.”
“Yesterday I had the food producers into Downing Street, and we’ve also been talking to the supermarkets, to the farmers, looking at every element of the supply chain and what we can do to pass on some of the reduction in costs that are coming through to consumers as fast as possible,” U.K. Treasury Chief Jeremy Hunt said during The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London.
The government’s Competition and Markets Authority last week said it would take a closer look at retailers.
“Given ongoing concerns about high prices, we are stepping up our work in the grocery sector to help ensure competition is working well,” said Sarah Cardell, who heads the CMA.
Some economists expect that added scrutiny to yield concrete results, assuming retailers won’t want to tarnish their image and will lean on their suppliers to keep prices down.
“With supermarkets now more heavily under the political spotlight, we think it more likely that price momentum in the food basket slows,” said Sanjay Raja, an economist at Deutsche Bank.
It isn’t entirely clear why food prices have risen so fast for so long. In world commodity markets, which set the prices received by farmers, food prices have been falling since April 2022. But raw commodity costs are just one part of the final price. Consumers are also paying for processing, packaging, transport and distribution, and the size of the gap between the farm and the dining table is unusually wide.
The BOE’s Bailey thinks one reason for the bank having misjudged food prices is that food producers entered into longer-term but relatively expensive contracts with fertilizer, energy and other suppliers around the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in their eagerness to guarantee availability at a time of uncertainty.
But as the pressures being placed on retailers suggest, some policy makers suspect that an increase in profit margins may also have played a role. Speaking to lawmakers, Bailey was wary of placing any blame on food suppliers.
“It’s a story about rebuilding margins that were squeezed in the early part of last year,” he said.
Self-tracking has moved beyond professional athletes and data geeks.
Content moderation rules used to be a question of taste. Now, they can determine a service’s prospects for survival.