Would you take financial advice from a robot?
Everyone is talking about it in the financial services industry. “Robo-Advice”; with many financial advisers worried that they could be out of a job within 5 years if developments in artificial intelligence take off.
One scenario would be that you log in on your phone or tablet to a Robo-Advice portal and answer some questions. Name, address, date of birth. How many kids you have, their ages, your mortgage, savings, investments and pension plans. Your financial priorities, goals and aspirations. You complete a risk questionnaire. Then you press “submit” and wait.
Out come your results and the advice you’ve been waiting for. “Do this, do that, pay off this and invest in that. And stop spending so much money on eating out!” As an added benefit, you might save money on fees, as your Robo-Adviser would be super-cheap! And if you acted on your Robot’s advice today, you might even qualify for a Parker pen!
Speaking at a technology convention in London this month, the director of innovation of a major technology provider said, “Robo-Advice is the future and this technology could see financial advisers being made redundant. The reality is that you don’t need to interact with a real person. A robot could do it all for you at a fraction of the cost. Cognitive computing is a form of software that mimics the human brain and is able to weigh up problems which don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer. This form of computing is already being developed by IMB, Google and Facebook.”
Fascinating stuff! However, Hardip Klear, IFA at Sterling & Law counters, “Whilst there may be an appetite for DIY financial transactions in the UK, my experience from working in Kent tells me that ordinary people would prefer the advice of an expert, that expert being a real person. Making complex financial decisions can be an emotional experience and having a trusted and experienced adviser who can answer your questions, listen, empathise and relate to your financial problems is invaluable.”
She continues, “Most people could, if they wanted, go online and complete their tax return on their own. But they don’t. They use an Accountant. Writing a Will, using another example, should be quite easy. But getting it wrong could be costly. So people go to a Solicitor. I think the Moneysupermarket generation may use Robo-Advice for some of the simpler financial transactions, like buying car insurance. But it could be the robots facing redundancy as people’s finances grow and become more complex.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. In my experience, the most valuable part of the relationship between client and adviser is the relationship itself. In addition, people sometimes need to be persuaded to buy certain financial products, like life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection. Or convinced to pay more into their pension, by helping them to visualise life in retirement. You won’t get that from a robot. And you certainly won’t get the rapport and sometimes friendship that develops between a client and their adviser.
So am I worried about being replaced by a robot? Of course I am! My Firm are actively exploring Robo-Advice and investigating to see if it could work alongside our team of highly qualified independent financial advisers. In the end, real person advisers may have to raise their game in order to compete with a new army of shiny robots. Competition as they say, is always a good thing. Bring it on!