3 Questions with Mike Foy of J.D. Power/ Wealth Management Practice

Mike Foy

FintekNews is pleased to offer our weekly feature column 3 Questions. Each week, we feature a thought leader within a unique sector of fintech and ask them to answer just 3 questions for our audience in their vernacular. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Mike Foy from the Wealth Management Practice at J.D. Power, a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics, which enable the firm to help its clients drive customer satisfaction, growth and profitability.

NAME:  Mike Foy
TITLE:  Senior Director, Wealth Management Practice
COMPANY:  J.D. Power
WEB ADDRESS:  www.jdpa.com

How did you personally become involved in fintech?

As an undergraduate double major in English Literature and Philosophy, fintech was quite possibly the last thing I could have imagined having anything to do with. But when I started my career 20 years ago in the traditional wealth management business at Merrill Lynch, I quickly learned how critical a role technology was going to play in enabling financial advisors to effectively serve their clients, in particular around building relationships through enabling frequent, meaningful communication. Later I transitioned to a digital marketing firm that developed a proprietary software platform allowing FAs to easily personalize and measure impact of communications to clients and prospects via digital channels including email, web, and social media.

In my current role at J.D. Power, I lead a practice that provides executives at wealth management firms with data-driven insights around how to deliver an exceptional experience to both investors and advisors, ultimately driving retention, growth and advocacy. An ever increasing part of that involves the effective deployment of technology.

What area/s of fintech do you believe will grow the most in the coming 5 years?

At the risk of stating the obvious, in the wealth tech space robo-advice still has enormous growth potential, but I think a lot of it will be in the B2B2C space in terms of how it can augment the productivity of human advisors rather than putting them out of business.

Understandably there’s been a lot of focus to date on the automation of portfolio management, asset allocation and re-balancing, but other aspects of an advisor’s job can also potentially be done more efficiently by technology, including things like basic risk tolerance assessment and financial planning as well as marketing automation and support for new communications tools like in-app chat, compliant texting and virtual meeting capabilities, all within the digital advice platform. Ultimately all these things can help free up more of an advisor’s scarce time that they can shift to higher value complex tasks.

What are the biggest problems facing the fintech industry in the future?

A key barrier to adoption of something like a pure play roboadvisor service is trust, which works on a couple different levels. Many individual investors aren’t as concerned about maximizing their fee-adjusted portfolio returns as they are about capital preservation, and they can sleep better at night believing that a trusted advisor is keeping an eye on their hard-earned wealth. Even with all the scandals of the past decade or so that trust is still largely intact. Many people feel about financial advisors they way they feel about Congress, as a group they’re disliked but people view their own representative as the exception.

On the flip side, there’s a fear that has been exacerbated by events like so called flash crashes and the rise of algorithmic trading about the dark side of technology and the limits of human control. Roboadvisors don’t have a track record yet for how they will react under unanticipated conditions. Firms will need to do a better job of providing transparency about how they work, as well as ensuring there’s a known human being behind the technology to answer questions or override the robot if things go haywire.

Mike Foy is Senior Director of the Wealth Management Practice at J.D. Power responsible for the company’s syndicated research studies on both investors and financial advisors. He also leads efforts in developing research-based solutions that drive measurable results for clients within the wealth management industry in North America.