If you can't beat them, join them.
That's the attitude of a growing number of big banks, which have been locked in a battle against an unlikely competitor: web-based financial advisors. Slowly but surely, those foes appear to be winning by default as they force banks to adapt to the brave new world of giving financial advice online.
Wall Street has been stuck in what one executive recently said was "the Dark Ages" of wealth management services that haven't kept pace with technological change. With a generational wealth transfer of $30 trillion under way, how consumers respond to the overall shift to digital money management is set to play a big role in the future — and the bottom line — of some of Wall Street's most prominent financial services firms.
While big banks have been slow to confront the challenge posed by up-and-coming online fund managers, or robo-advisors, that may be changing. As a result, companies like Bank of America are responding by bolstering their existing web-based capabilities.
"We are constantly looking for ways to make the financial lives of our clients better," said Aron Levine, head of Merrill Edge at BofA.
"We see an opportunity for an automated portfolio management offering that could complement the advice and guidance offered by our financial solutions advisors," he said. "It's too soon to discuss any specifics, but any offering would be a natural extension of our existing platform."