The needs and aspirations of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) are becoming increasingly complex, driving wealth management firms to adopt new client service models. Leading firms are revolutionizing their approach to client service to offer the most appropriate products and services, unlocking potential value for their clients.

The Shift from AUM-Centric Models

Traditionally, wealth management firms used assets under management (AUM) as a benchmark to determine the products and services offered to clients, assuming it was a good indicator of client needs. Advisors focused their efforts on clients with the most sophisticated needs, typically those with the highest AUM. However, this method often overlooked the nuanced requirements of individual clients.

New clients are typically placed in one of three basic, static practice models based on their assets:

  1. Brokerages (product experts, investment brokers)
  2. Investment Managers (investment advisors, relationship managers)
  3. Wealth Planners (personal CFOs, wealth managers, wealth strategists)

While AUM remains a starting point, it is evident that clients within the same wealth band can have diverse needs and expectations. Factors such as the source of wealth, level of financial involvement, demographics, life events, and risk appetite significantly influence the optimal product and service bundle for each client.

Understanding Client Needs Beyond AUM

Research reveals that service-level expectations are shaped by various factors determined before a client even opens an account. For HNWIs and ultra-HNWIs, core products and services like investment advisory are widely expected. However, the demand for services such as online access and alternative investments varies by region. In Latin America and parts of Asia, for instance, security concerns drive many HNWIs to online channels for account information.

Client needs change significantly over time and must be continuously monitored to unlock the full potential value of the relationship. By adopting a more client-focused approach, wealth management firms can deepen their relationships and better serve their clients.

The Need for Dynamic, Needs-Based Services

Before the global financial crisis, wealth management firms expanded by targeting large pools of retirement savings or regions with fast-growing affluent populations. However, the economic recovery has necessitated a new strategy.

A key driver for change is the rapid evolution of traditional profit pools. As markets mature, wealth shifts from deposits to investments, driven by the need for asset diversification and higher returns. The financial crisis underscored the importance of risk and transparency, leading to an increased preference for onshore wealth management. This shift is influenced by sophisticated local providers and diminishing concerns over cross-border tax arbitrage and privacy.

Adapting to Regulatory and Market Demands

Wealth management firms must navigate diverse regulatory regimes and customize their services for national markets. Additionally, there is growing demand for offerings tailored to various customer segments within countries. Products and capabilities previously available only to institutions, such as structured products, currency swaps, and IPOs, are now accessible to individual investors. Consequently, clients expect more in terms of information, education, guidance, advice, product choice, and service levels.

Banks in most countries are well-positioned to capture growth opportunities in wealth management due to their strong transactional products and distribution networks. However, specialized players are increasingly taking market share by positioning themselves as independent entities not tied to product manufacturers. This trend is prominent in the US and UK and is gaining traction in India and China.

Strategic Adaptation for Future Success

As wealth management markets mature, customer preferences shift from safer deposits to riskier investments (see Exhibit 1.1). Regulatory differences and the need for market-specific services further complicate the landscape.

Exhibit 1.1: As Wealth Management Markets Mature, Customers Shift from Safer Deposits to Riskier Investments

The winners in the post-recovery period will be those firms that develop new pricing and service models to meet the evolving needs of their clients. By embracing these changes and focusing on dynamic, client-centric approaches, wealth management firms can secure long-term success and client satisfaction.


The evolving landscape of wealth management requires firms to move beyond static, AUM-based service models. By understanding the diverse and dynamic needs of HNWIs and ultra-HNWIs, firms can provide tailored, sophisticated services that foster long-term relationships and unlock potential value. The key to success lies in adopting a client-focused approach, leveraging advanced tools and technology, and continuously adapting to regulatory and market demands.