A generally accepted notion regarding innovation is that it should be done with an open mind – no restrictions, no guidelines, and no templates that could limit the free flow of ideas. While this is certainly true on an idea-by-idea level – it becomes much harder when we consider the vast amount of technologies, social trends and economic changes that simultaneously influence our lives and businesses. To help navigate this ever-changing landscape and to be able to better define our ideation process, we have developed an innovation map.

This map outlines the main innovation themes we deem most relevant for banking, and specifically, wealth management. These themes represent the cornerstones of our innovation process and have a major impact in determining which ideas and projects we focus on. Before we dive into our four main themes, let's take a quick look at the research process we use to identify them.

In the first step, we try to understand the so-called megatrends: long-term movements and shifts in society that have a significant impact on what the world might look like in the future. Examples range from "individualization" to "new work", all the way to "security".

The second step involves identifying catalysts – key technologies that act as enablers or accelerators for a multitude of new services and business models. "natural user interfaces", "blockchain" and "artificial intelligence" are just some of them. In order to take the right decisions regarding our focus, we need to assess both the potential impact as well as the maturity of these catalysts.

Finally, we combine the megatrends with the catalysts and put them into a client context. This allows us to better understand and cater to our current and future needs. Due to the complexity of this task and its sheer scope, we constantly challenge our findings with different partners in academia and elsewhere. It is thanks to this quality control mechanism that we have a high degree of confidence in using these themes as a basis for our innovation.

So now that we have a better understanding of the underlying process, let's explore each of the four themes in more detail.

New advice

This is probably the least disruptive area we are working on – but it is powerful and relevant. It tracks shifts in client behavior and expectations regarding accessibility, personalization and transparency. This theme allows us to proactively tackle the difficult and delicate discussion of human vs. machine. Where do we think machines will take over and replace us? More importantly: in which areas do we believe that personal interaction with human beings remains indispensable?

Imagine that all our clients get tailored, personalized advice: Anytime, anywhere and perfectly applied to their current situation and emotional state. Imagine they interact with robots, as well as with personal advisors, in line with their preferences. Ideas that enable them to fulfil this vision form part of this theme.

New trust

Trust is the basis of any working relationship. It involves mutual respect and discretion and it recognizes a person’s need for privacy. Some people might think that privacy is no big deal and they have nothing to hide. But in our digital world we believe privacy is one of the key topics for any human being. That is even more true for wealthy individuals. Not only is the amount of personal data rising exponentially. Boosted by artificial intelligence, ever more sophisticated algorithms are able to create sharply defined profiles of individuals.

Imagine customers have undisputed control and authority over their identity and data. They can take conscious decisions about what data is shared with a third party and under what conditions, including the ability to monetize it. Imagine they have different identities for different marketplaces. We are working on multiple fronts to enable our clients do just that – all part of "new trust".

New choices

Since the financial crisis, clients are far better informed about financial matters than ever before. They want maximum transparency on financial providers, services, and products. They want to be able to easily compare and select whatever they want from whoever they think offers the best choice. Financial providers who cannot meet all these expectations must be ready to open up and collaborate in order to meet an expanding and sophisticated range of customer wishes. Bigger companies and start-ups – fintech and beyond – might be just the right partners to create tailor-made offering for individual clients.

Imagine that empowered customers can assemble their own customized wealth services by pulling together the best solutions from the best providers. Imagine banks open up their value chains, exchange data and co-operate with third parties, financial and beyond. Being part of this vision is the ultimate goal of "new choices".

New wealth

UBS Wealth Management's Chief Investment Office defines wealth as: "…the stock of assets that generates future income." Today we think of measurable financial assets primarily in terms of cash, shares, bonds and funds, or very tangible ones such as real estate or commodities – and these will undoubtedly continue to be important. However, going forward, other less measurable and less tangible assets might become important too. What about health and education? And if we do not only consider assets, but also income along those lines – what about time? What about passion and happiness? What about positive contributions to society? In the future, wealth management might go beyond financial wealth, beyond individual clients, and beyond risk return.

Imagine we could help our clients with their biggest problems and worries, help them to protect what is most important to them and to fulfil their greatest passions. Imagine we could offer them opportunities beyond financial topics they have always been looking for. This is our vision and we are actively exploring this space through a number of innovations based on this theme.

We currently focus on these four main areas. With targeted ideas and compelling projects we are trying to push beyond what's possible or available today, in order to provide our clients with the best possible service.