CHICAGO – Wells Fargo President Mary Mack says there's been a paradigm shift in client expectations over the past fifteen years because of the evolution that took place in travel, shopping, taxi and other service industries.

The emergence of online companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Uber dramatically redefined those services and influenced how clients do business, she explained.

"While all of this was happening across the landscape, and was changing our expectations and our investors' expectations, we were engaged in merger and acquisition activity, and recovering from the financial crisis," Mack told attendees at SIFMA's Private Client Conference on Wednesday.

Investors today, she said, expect an Amazon experience.


Firms and their advisors will need to embrace new technologies in order to meet clients on their terms, she said. But embracing new technologies doesn't mean replacing human advisors, she added.

Mack asked attendees to think about how people get advice across a range of needs. She cited her own recent experience; she developed a sore throat ahead of an expected speaking engagement. Her first reaction? Do a self-diagnosis using WebMD.

She tried a homemade remedy she read online: gargling apple cider vinegar. Of course, it didn't work as advertised.

"What did I do? I went to see a doctor," she said. "Long story short, because I went to an expert I was able to be where I needed to be when I needed to be there."


Likewise, advisors need not fear being replaced by robo advisors because clients will still seek out a professional when they wanted trusted advice. She pointed to Wells Fargo's experience adapting its consumer banking business to technology trends; for example, its customers can now do their banking online from anywhere using any device. Yet they continue to go into the branch when they have more complicated needs, she said.

It's an experience from which the wealth management industry can learn.

"Really what we are about is personal relationships and personal advice," Mack said. "Starting a career; retirement; the exciting birth of a child or putting your life back together after the death of a loved one. Those are the moments when our financial advisors make a deep difference in the lives of their clients."

The key to future success, she said, is to "think about our delivery model in order to be there when and where our clients need us."

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