Wealth management executives are taking different paths as they strategize on how best to overcome the industry's newest hurdles.

Among those challenges: Asset growth, previously buoyed by a bull market, has leveled off for some firms in recent quarters. About one-third of all advisors are expected to retire in the coming years, highlighting the need to train new talent. And competition is likely to only get tougher as robo advisors and other digital startups take aim at the established players.

Some changes are part of the ebb and flow of the business. But where digital technologies intersect with wealth management, there's something new on the horizon.

Bill Butterfield, an analyst at research firm Aite Group, says these transformations are part and parcel of the technological disruption every business has been experiencing. But how these changes play out in the wealth management space remains to be seen.

"You may have advisors not interacting with a client in the same manner, and using a robo advisor in conjunction with the advisor," Butterfield says.
Executives from the leading firms tell On Wall Street they're developing and executing strategies to navigate these challenges. But their strategies differ widely.

Take, for example, robo advisor technology. Edward Jones' Jim Weddle says his firm won't develop its own. "We think we offer value in guidance and advice. An 800-number and algorithm isn't going to replace our folks," Weddle says.

By contrast, Merrill Lynch's John Thiel says his firm is considering how to better incorporate digital technologies into the business. "I think over time you'll see tech become more involved in the process," Thiel says.

Yet no matter what the challenge is – recruiting, training or robos – the end goal remains the same for every firm: ensure that the future will be more profitable than the past. Read through our coverage to see how today's leaders intend to succeed.

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