Global Wealth 2020: The Future of Wealth Management—A CEO Agenda

Wealth Managers Must Accelerate Change to Navigate Market Disruption

Shifting Customer Demands, Intensifying Competition, and Recovery from the COVID-19 Crisis Will Challenge Wealth Managers to Transform to Ensure Future Success, Says Report by Boston Consulting Group

BOSTON—Wealth managers must take action on multiple fronts in order to navigate ongoing market volatility and build fresh capabilities that will enable them to create sustainable competitive advantage over the next decade, according to a new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The report, titled Global Wealth 2020: The Future of Wealth Management—A CEO Agenda, is being released today.

BCG’s 20th annual study of global wealth management takes a 20-20 view of the industry, looking back over the past two decades as well as ahead to 2040. Its review of global market sizing, which encompasses 97 markets, provides a detailed retrospective on wealth growth over the past 20 years—and its resilience through downturns—and evaluates the potential long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

BCG has also created a vision for the future of wealth management, examining how the industry’s value proposition and offerings will change over the next two decades, how forms of interaction will evolve, and which new business models will emerge. Finally, BCG offers wealth management CEOs a comprehensive agenda for protecting the bottom line, prioritizing the areas in which they hope to win in the future, and building appropriate supporting capabilities. 

“Effectively serving the world’s wealthy is going to get far more complex in the years ahead,” said Anna Zakrzewski, a BCG managing director and partner, coauthor of the report, and global leader of the firm’s wealth management segment. “As the demographics of wealth shift, so will the needs and expectations of wealth clients. With all the choices available, clients don’t necessarily want more—they want better. In addition, the disruptive forces that emerged at the beginning of the century are accelerating. And as digitization lowers barriers to entry to wealth management as a business, competition will intensify and offerings that once provided differentiation will face commoditization.”

Global Wealth Growth. According to the report, a striking feature of wealth growth over the past two decades has been its extraordinary resilience. Despite multiple crises, wealth growth has been stubbornly robust, strongly recovering from even the most severe tests. Today, more wealth is in more hands, and the wealth gap that separated mature markets and growth markets at the beginning of the century has narrowed dramatically. Globally, personal financial wealth has nearly tripled over the past 20 years, rising from $80 trillion in 1999 to $226 trillion at the end of 2019.

The CEO Agenda. In the report, BCG outlines three potential scenarios for post-COVID-19 growth: “quick rebound,” “slow recovery,” and “lasting damage.” Regardless of which scenario emerges, wealth management providers are likely to face more pressure, and many of them were already in challenging positions before COVID-19. Client needs and expectations are changing at an accelerated pace, competition is intensifying, and cost-to-income ratios have been significantly higher than prior to the previous financial crisis (77% in 2018 compared with 60% in 2007).

Although some wealth management providers have made advances in recent years in adapting their businesses to the changing environment, nearly all still have considerable work to do. CEOs must treat 2020 as a pivotal point. BCG’s recommended agenda for wealth management CEOs features three key imperatives:

  • Protect the bottom line by pursuing smart revenue uplift, optimizing the front-office setup, streamlining compliance and risk-management processes, and improving structural efficiency.
  • Win the future by developing more-personalized value propositions, enhancing ESG and impact-investment offerings, designing challenger plays, and leveraging ecosystems and M&A. 
  • Build capabilities by gaining better client understanding, attracting top talent, investing in digital and data, and designing a state-of-the-art technology platform.

“The last twenty years have witnessed many peaks and valleys,” said BCG’s Anna Zakrzewski, “and the next twenty will likely bring the same. Although some of the necessary initiatives may not be new, there is much more progress to be made. By acting decisively now, wealth managers have an opportunity to build on their current momentum and position themselves optimally for the future.” 

A copy of the report can be downloaded Global Wealth 2020: The Future of Wealth Management—A CEO Agenda.

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or

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