The securities industry can be regarded as the first sector in the financial industry to have embarked down the path of modularization. Mutual funds was the first major area involved in this first step toward modularization. Mutual funds are now mainstream products of banking and wealth management. The banking industry should not overlook the following episodes.
The mutual fund business model can be broken down into two process areas: 1) selecting investments or investment destination (portfolio building), and 2) sales of the created mutual funds. In the former, the products (portfolio) are designed and created (produced), while the latter involves the sales of investment firm securities (mutual fund beneficiary certificates), with sellers undertaking the office processing such as customer transaction reports.
In the closed model era of brokers and mutual fund firms, the norm until the 1960s, mutual fund firms would outsource sales to securities companies (full service brokers). This resulted in mutually beneficial consignment-based relationships between the investment trust companies and securities firms that endured for a long time with a fixed fee structure (investment sales commissions paid from the customer to the securities company) and securities trading fees (paid by the mutual fund company to securities company). These sales formats have since diversified.
No-load funds entered the market starting in the 1970s, spurred on by the liberalization of commissions for the brokering of securities, sluggish demand in the stock market, and the emergence of discount brokers that did not offer investment advice. This era was characterized solely by diversification of sales methods, and was entirely absent changes to the closed model that covered planning, manufacturing, and sales.
However, change descended on the market in the form of the mutual fund supermarket revolution. With the launch of Mutual Fund OneSource in 1992, Charles Schwab offered multiple funds that customers could purchase without paying a commission, but for which Schwab’s mutual fund management arm collected an annual management fee based on asset balance. Metaphorically speaking, this approach was akin to companies putting mutual funds on the shelves of a supermarket and charging commissions only for the products sold. The interface between mutual fund companies and securities companies opened up, and the creation and sales components were decoupled and functionally modularized.
More change is on the horizon. An era is coming in which the banking industry should orchestrate a shift to a structure that hinges on modular demand to respond to new needs fostered by digital technology and the new demand of the emerging digital generation.
Industry players should be ditching vertically integrated direct sales, or so-called keiretsu, which are tantamount to direct sales routes; instead, they should establish delivery models that are more dynamic and open. Omnichannel initiatives are not only opportunities for firms to launch or shut down these channels, but also to revisit and reconsider their optimal delivery model. Moreover, collaborating with non-financial sector players, including start-ups, opens the door to the possibility of accessing vast and new untapped market frontiers.
Robo-advisor initiatives can be expected to accelerate the speed of advances in modular demand structure. Presumably, coming delivery channels will seek to optimize information and investment expertise, driven by approaches that respond to the needs of investors by providing automated advice and harnessing bankers as human support mechanisms.
To be continued – Click here