Their fears are not misplaced, or unique to the industry. Just as technology hollowed out American manufacturing and eliminated the middle-man in commerce, it’s driving significant disruption and disintermediation on Wall Street.
New technologies are squeezing out mediocre financial advisers, regardless of whether they work in wirehouses or fiduciary registered investment advisers (RIAs).
Automation is forcing even talented advisers to significantly alter their approach. But technology no longer represents a competitive advantage, just mere table stakes.
Powerful tools are necessary, but not fully sufficient, to compete. Skilled people are more important than ever.
No industry’s workforce is immune from the corrosive effects of technology. Not even technology.
While Millennials flock to coding bootcamps, computer programming itself stands susceptible to automation.
As Mark Cuban recently noted, artificially intelligent machines will soon be able to write better software than humans. As technology becomes omnipresent, creative thinking, strong interpersonal skills and experience will once again be in high demand.
An experienced financial adviser creates a financial plan based on both the client circumstances and their unique emotions shaping decisions.
Why matters. Technology-driven analytics allow advisers to better understand client behavior, but only empathetic and seasoned humans can see the whole picture. Medicine provides a good analogy.
Artificially-intelligent software can now spot tumours and blood clots, but can’t replicate human judgement developed from years of experience interpreting data.
Technology makes good advisers better, but not all have been able to adapt. Fidelity research shows only 40 per cent of advisers are eAdvisers, or ones predisposed to technology adoption. (They also found eAdvisers had more assets under management per client and earned higher compensation.)
Millennials, in particular, demand full transparency and instant access. For young people just getting started, robo-advisers often make sense. But when looking to start a family, buy a home or open a business, a person’s financial situation becomes much more complex.
A six-question risk questionnaire is not sufficient to capture the average person’s financial needs.
Robo-advisers are also 'summer insects', meaning they’ve never experienced a turbulent market. While 73 per cent of those surveyed last year by the US Financial Planning Association and Investopedia were satisfied with their robo-adviser experience, 40 per cent said they would be uncomfortable using one during times of extreme volatility.
Meanwhile, 19 per cent of financial advisers surveyed by LinkedIn believe the largest threat to fintech is “human discomfort with automated financial services”.
Humans use judgement and reason. Machines follow rules. While artificial intelligence holds great promise (63 per cent of fintech professionals cited it as the key technology most worth watching), its application is too unpredictable to fully entrust with a family’s financial nest egg and peace of mind.
Big-box legacy financial advisers introduced automated investing services while robo-advisers added a human touch after conceding their algorithms alone were insufficient. Neither has struck the perfect balance.
I believe nothing in the marketplace can match the benefits of an experienced, un-conflicted, technology-enabled bionic financial adviser.
Elliot Weissbluth is the chief executive and founder of US financial services firm HighTower.