Wealthiest Clients Streak Ahead In Digital Comms Use; Instant Messaging, VOIP Areas To Watch

Wendy Spires Group Deputy Editor January 22, 2013

Wealthiest Clients Streak Ahead In Digital Comms Use; Instant Messaging, VOIP Areas To Watch

New figures from the latest iteration of the Futurewealth report suggest that the wealthiest among the world’s up-and-coming affluent population are even more digitally savvy than their less affluent counterparts – a finding which comes amid widespread moves by wealth managers to up digital engagement with clients.

Having surveyed almost 3,500 wealthy individuals around the world, the report found that individuals with a net worth of over $4 million spent 28 hours a week on average using digital communication channels (such as email, social networks and instant messaging). As a whole, the participants in the study racked up a still-significant average of 19 hours a week on digital communications.

The Futurewealth Report: Stepping into the Communication Age, which was published jointly by SEI, Standard Chartered Private Bank and Scorpio Partnership, is part of a string of reports aiming to map the attitudes of the world’s up-and-coming wealthy, with respondents having an average net worth of $1.9 million.

The report’s authors contend that the world’s wealthiest individuals are using digital channels significantly more than traditional ones, such as face-to-face meetings and telephone calls. Indeed, last week figures from the report were issued which suggested that this trend is going to significantly gather pace in the medium term: 35 per cent of the HNW individuals surveyed for the Futurewealth report said they expect to be using digital communication tools “much more” in five years’ time.

Looking at specific types of digital communication, the report found that again there was a marked tendency for wealthier participants to be taking the lead with channels like instant messaging and VOIP (voice over internet protocol) calls. (We could note here that wealthier clients, particularly entrepreneurs, are often early adopters of new technologies). The report found that respondents with a net worth over $4 million spend close to five hours a week using instant messaging systems, compared to an average of 1.6 hours among those with less than $500,000. The wealthier segment also spent three hours a week more on VOIP calls.

As might be expected owing to the region’s status as a technology trailblazer, clients in Asia-Pacific were found to spend far more time in digital dialogue than their counterparts in Europe and even the US (where, of course, many of the leading tech and social media firms hail from). On average, Asia-Pacific clients devote four hours a week to social media and instant messaging – close to double the time spent by those in Europe and the US.

Keeping pace 

The fact that all manner of digital communication channels are becoming increasingly embedded in wealthy individuals’ personal – and business – lives means that wealth managers are going to have to invest heavily if they want to keep pace and interact with their clients in the way in which they prefer. Several studies have shown, for example, that email is the preferred communication channel for the majority of wealth management clients in some regions. That said, the Futurewealth report also found that 26 per cent of the world’s wealthy expect to increase their use of traditional communications channels over the next five years. Digital channels will therefore supplement rather than replace traditional modes of communication, the report’s authors have said. They also point out that a good “rule of thumb” is that the more active the investment, the more proactive and immediate the information flow to the client needs to be. Wealth managers are therefore going to have to think carefully about which communication channel they use for each instance of communication.

“Wealth managers must not over-emphasize the importance of face-to-face contact with their most prized clients,” said Catherine Tillotson, managing partner at Scorpio Partnership. “Our findings show that the wealthiest individuals want a more dynamic relationship; they want to be able to engage with their wealth provider using the same tools that they are already actively using in their everyday lives.”

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