This could be the tipping point for online investing

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It’s not a matter of convenience; it’s a matter of credibility.

That’s the big takeaway from a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis of more than 1,000 high net worth individuals who have $1 million or more to invest.

A whopping 52 percent of high net worth individuals are worried about being taken advantage of by wealth managers and 55 percent worry they’ll lose money, according to the survey. And this could translate into a new opportunity for the budding class of robo-advisors out to compete with Wall Street.

“Unfortunately, the vast majority of wealth managers today are failing to service the breadth of their clients’ needs,” said Michael Spellacy, senior partner at PwC.

Distrust of human malfeasance could translate into an enormous advantage for online wealth managers like Betterment and Wealthfront, which use automated investing to tailor users’ accounts to their risk tolerance and performance goals. Younger consumers of wealth management services are more likely to adopt a digital product, the PwC survey said.

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More than 60 percent of the survey’s respondents, who were 45 years of age and younger, said it was important that their wealth manager had a “strong digital offering.” That compares to about 45 percent of investors aged 45 and older.

The so-called robo-advisors may run into trust issues of their own. The study said 61 percent of respondents believe apps use their personal data.

“There’s a significant level of concern among high net worth individuals about the security of their information,” Spellacy said.

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Big banks are taking notice of the digital shift, and are pairing off with online wealth managers accordingly.

In May, UBS invested in SigFig Wealth Management, an online advisor, and partnered with the start-up to develop tech and investing tools. Goldman Sachs, which has increasingly been building out digital offerings, earlier this year acquired Honest Dollar, a Texas-based retirement planning service, in a transaction where the terms were not publicized. And, last year, BlackRock bought FutureAdvisor, another online wealth management service. Some of it comes after institutional players struck out on their own to build online products that disappointed clients.

“You’ve seen dabbling, by most major players, to build [online wealth management products], unsuccessfully,” Spellacy said. “We expect to see significant levels of consolidation.”

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