Dr. Christoph Künzle, CFA, is a senior lecturer at the Institute for Wealth & Asset Management (IWA) at ZHAW and a director at Deloitte in Zurich. There he focuses on strategy consulting for wealth managers and publishes regularly. He has 20 years of professional experience in the financial industry and profound knowledge of corporate strategy, digitalization, and transformation. Previously, he worked in asset management leadership roles in Switzerland and South America. His career began in strategy consulting in Munich and London, where he advised leading private equity managers.
We spoke with him about what digital wealth management is, what the current trends are, and why this topic is relevant for everyone.
What does wealth mean to you personally?
It’s a huge topic. Because it has many dimensions, which fortunately everyone is allowed to optimize for themselves in their lives: health, family, friends, spirituality, leisure time – and of course material goods. If you’re referring to money, I’ve had a privilege so far: I’ve always had so much of it that it never became a problem. I never owned too little nor too much.
The advancing of digitalization is gradually lowering the financial barriers to entry into wealth management. This leads to tailored services for everyone!
What is your definition of digital wealth management?
Wealth management as comprehensive management of assets is actually a Swiss tradition, and yet there is something exclusive and elitist about the term: Primarily, it is understood to mean tailored services for wealthy clients. However, the advancing of digitalization is gradually lowering the financial barriers to entry into wealth management. This leads to tailored services for everyone!
How can digital wealth management be democratized?
Today, banks provide critical wealth management services digitally. As a result, their costs have fallen, in some cases significantly. As a result, even less wealthy clients can be serviced in a tailored and individual manner – and still profitably for the banks. This development is also evident in related industries. I’m thinking of private markets, for example.
Which innovations play the most significant role in this area?
I am not aware of any actual “killer app” in wealth management. The omnipresent smartphone plays a crucial role: it enables wealth management anytime, anywhere. Shortly, I see the cloud as a big driver of innovation and transformation in wealth management.
In addition to democratization, I am observing a significant change in customer profiles: Our legacy industry will become younger, more diverse, and trendier in the future.
What trends in Swiss wealth management interest you most?
I observe trends mainly in the areas of automation, digital client interaction, or differentiated wealth management. I’m interested in true personalization based on client data and preferences. It’s strange: When I order something in online retail once, the next time I will receive product suggestions relevant to me. Why is this not yet the case in wealth management?
How will digital wealth management develop in the future? Is it possible to make predictions?
In addition to democratization, I am observing a significant change in customer profiles: Our legacy industry will become younger, more diverse, and trendier in the future. I hear, for example, about test branches à la Apple Stores, where young bank employees in jeans and sneakers address female clients by their first names. For me, Alpian is an excellent example in the direction of this “New Wealth Management.”
What motivates you to teach digital banking as a lecturer in continuing education as well? Is there an educational mission that you have set for yourself?
The digital transformation poses major challenges for bank executives. Unfortunately, I sometimes observe a questionable “throwaway mentality” in Swiss wealth management, especially concerning executives in the second half of their careers. It is important to me to make our students fit for the challenges of a digital working world. One key element in lifelong learning.
What wisdom do you pass on to students you teach?
Since I also work in management consulting, students often ask me for hot tips when looking for a job. On my career path, I’ve done well by focusing on my interests and strengths as much as possible. Or as the great Warren Buffet summed it up, “Choose the job you would choose if you didn’t need a job.”
When it comes to money, does digital pose more of a security risk or does it provide additional security?
Security concerns are as old as the Internet. I think digitality in itself neither creates nor threatens security. In combination with other security pillars – such as regulation, corporate governance, or cybersecurity – I have no concerns about investing my money digitally. I am not aware of any successful hacker attacks on Swiss banks.
How old were you when you invested for the first time?
My father is still a passionate investor today, so I was kind of born into investing. As a child, I was delighted to receive chocolate or small gifts that my father brought home from shareholder assemblies. Since my 18th birthday, I have had a securities account as a stock saver. I still hold some of those stocks today and will probably for the rest of my life.
What should every child already learn about wealth management in school?
Many people are uncomfortable with the subject of money. If we succeed in breaking some taboos in education at an early age and create a more natural relationship with money, we will have already achieved a lot. I don’t have any concrete investment tips. But I would like to share the following stock market wisdom with Alpian’s younger clients in particular: It’s not about “timing the market”, but about “time in the market“.
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Alpian will launch its products and services shortly after its banking license enters into full force and will be available to the public in the third quarter of 2022.