The coronavirus pandemic, which started in late 2019, affected many people's financial situations due to business lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. The rise in unemployment coupled with growing health care expenses caused more people to focus on their finances and seek advice from experts in the financial field. Many in the wealth management industry transitioned to holding meetings with clients online during the pandemic, a trend that was expected to continue. According to a survey by the College for Financial Planning, approximately 71 percent of financial advisers surveyed reported that they had more clients in 2020, during the pandemic, than they'd had before the pandemic. The research group IBISWorld projected a decline in revenue in the financial planning and advice industry in 2020, but a rebound in 2021, due to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and economic recovery.
Despite concerns about industry competition, stock market volatility, and cyber security threats, the wealth management industry is growing. The following statistics from Wealth X, Capgemini, Barron’s, Hurun Global Rich List, Pensions & Investments, and Spectrem Group back up the predictions of a healthy future for the industry (especially in the United States):
- Global assets under management are expected to increase from $104.4 trillion in 2019 to $145.4 trillion by 2025.
- In 2019, the United States and Canada had the highest number (105,080) of ultra-high net worth individuals in the world. This group had a combined net worth of $12.4 trillion. The U.S. has the most UHNW individuals in the world.
- The worldwide billionaire population reached 2,816 in 2020, up from 2,473 in 2015. The billionaires’ total wealth (based on their net worth as of January 31) was $11.2 trillion, according to the Hurun Global Rich List 2020. This was more than the GDP of any country other than the U.S. and China.
- In the United States and Canada, high net-worth individuals had $21.7 trillion in assets at the end of 2019, according to Capgemini, up from nearly $18 trillion in 2016.
- The number of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million reached 11.8 million in 2019. This was the 10th year in a row that this number increased.
- The number of U.S. households earning between $5 million and $25 million (not including primary residence) grew by 47,000 from 2018 to 2019, to 1,397,000 households. And the number of households with more than $25 million increased by 1,000 to 173,000 total households during this same time span.
Job opportunities for personal financial advisors (including those who work as wealth managers) who are employed by companies that manage funds, trusts, and other financial vehicles are expected to increase by 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), or much faster than the average for all careers. Investment products are becoming more complex and constantly increasing in number and variety, which will require the expertise of skilled wealth managers. The DOL reports that the “emergence of robo-advisors…will partially temper demand for personal financial advisors. However, the impact of this technology should be limited as consumers continue turning to human advisors for more complex and specialized investment advice over the next 10 years. Those who obtain certification will likely have the best prospects.” Employment for financial analysts who work for companies that manage funds, trusts, and other financial vehicles will increase by 6 percent (faster than the average).
A growing emphasis on cybersecurity and competition among wealth management firms for clients has prompted growth in other related careers. Private Asset Management (PAM) reports that demand is growing for chief operating officers at smaller firms to tackle tasks that chief executive officers and other top management officials are either too busy or unwilling to handle. More firms are hiring branding and marketing experts to help them stand out from their competitors. PAM reports that the position of chief information security officer (CISO) is becoming more common at large wealth management firms and multifamily offices. “We’re definitely seeing the larger firms introducing new leadership functions,” explained Debra Brown, a senior member of the Investment Management Practice at executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, in an article about the trend in PAM.“The growing use of technology across nearly all markets has not skipped wealth management, [and with this] has also come a greater need for tightened cybersecurity. This has resulted in companies bringing in CISOs to stay one step ahead of the ever-present cyber threat.” Opportunities should also be strong for information security analysts. The DOL predicts that employment in this career field will grow by 31 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Data analytics will continue to play a key role in the wealth management industry. “As the use of Big Data grows, top candidates for financial services jobs must possess not only traditional finance knowledge, but also technology skills,” according to Robert Half’s Salary Guide for Accounting & Finance Professionals. In-demand skills include advanced Excel, data analytics, and financial modeling and forecasting.
Wealth management firms will continue to be needed to meet the needs of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), many of whom do not have a clear strategy for preserving and growing their wealth. In fact, 69 percent of HNWIs in North America do not have a formal financial plan in place to achieve their long-term goals, according to Shifting to the Center: Financial Planning is the Hub of Wealth Management from CEB Tower Group, a data analytics and technology firm.
One major trend that will fuel employment growth for financial advisors is the aging of the planner workforce. The research firm Cerulli Associates predicts that more than 111,500 advisors will retire over the course of the next decade. As these financial planners retire or scale back their workloads, demand is expected to increase for experienced, highly skilled advisors.