St James’s Place enters the smartphone era with the first mobile app

St James’s Place will launch its first mobile app this month as the UK’s largest wealth manager races to catch up with the technology demands of its clients as it joins the smartphone era.

The move by the FTSE 100 group, which manages £142bn in assets, comes 11 years after the Royal Bank of Scotland became the first major bank to launch a full-service mobile app.

Traditional businesses in the UK’s $2.1bn wealth management industry have faced a growing challenge in recent years from high-tech start-ups, including robo-advisors and apps of investment.

While SJP’s favored face-to-face customer service approach has proven resilient, the company said the Covid-19 pandemic has helped bring about an overdue shift in its use of technology.

“The app is really something Covid has caused us to turbocharge,” said Ian MacKenzie, chief operations and technology officer at SJP. He said the new service would “bring us up to speed”.

“Wealth management and financial planning, we all recognize, may not have been cutting edge,” he added.

The company, which started developing the app last year, has been testing it with a few thousand customers since March and plans to launch a full rollout to its 830,000 customers this month. The app will allow clients to see personalized performance numbers for all of their investments at SJP and will help reduce the need for paper mailings.

The Gloucestershire-based wealth manager’s technology push lags that of several rivals, even among more traditional financial groups. Coutts, the wealth manager owned by NatWest and used by the Queen, already offers a smartphone service. 260-year-old rival Brewin Dolphin launched its app in 2019 while Evelyn Partners (formerly Tilney, Smith & Williamson) rolled out its app this year.

“Am I worried that we’re late to the party?” No, not at all,” MacKenzie said. “I think what we’ve done is take the time to understand what our customers want. There is a multi-generational appetite for digital. We see people in their 60s or 70s who have embraced the digital journey, largely because of the pandemic. »

SJP said the app will remain optional for customers, who will still receive paper documents if they choose.

Technology upgrades have proven to be a painful issue for companies in the wealth management industry, frequently resulting in delays and cost overruns. The rising demand and costs of technology are one of the drivers of a wave of consolidation in the sector, which has seen incumbents such as Brewin Dolphin and Charles Stanley absorbed into international groups, and many smaller companies have merged into deployment agreements.

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