The highest-margin part of the financial advice business is safe from being carried out by automated services because customers value the personal touch most in these areas, a global survey has suggested.
Figures from international investment house Legg Mason suggested the move towards automation is not striking a chord with customers, with the ‘pure advice ‘components of financial planning being the ones where the most people favour personal customer service.
These include creating a comprehensive financial plan, where 64 per cent thought human participation was beneficial, buying a pension, where 61 per cent thought it was beneficial, and looking to reduce a tax bill, where 58 per cent felt personal was better.
However, those advisers who focus more on fund and stock-picking face a greater threat from the march of robo-advice.
People were less convinced that humans were needed to research the market or to trade stocks and shares. Just under half of the population valued the human touch with these activities.
Overall, 60 per cent of participants said they believe personal customer service is important to them, and you can never replace that with technology.
Despite perceptions that Millennials, or so-called ‘digital natives’ were less interested in interacting with people, more than half of those in this age group agreed with putting personal customer service over tech - 53 per cent versus 65 per cent for the Baby Boomer generation.
The global survey revealed differences in attitude to advice across the world.
Among the 60 per cent who believe that technology can't replace personalised customer service, the belief is held more strongly by investors in the US and Europe, where 76 per cent and 64 per cent respectively agreed, than in Asia Pacific, where just 52 per cent agreed.
Women were more likely to agree, with 65 per cent of women agreeing that robots cannot replace advisers, against 55 per cent of men.
Respondents to the survey were also asked whether they wanted to know that there was an expert behind the scenes when using investment technology, rather than just an algorithm or decision tree.
The average agreement for this was 67 per cent, with 61 per cent of Millennials agreeing versus 67 per cent of Baby Boomers.
However, despite customers of all generations stating that they value the personal touch, 29 per cent of Millennials agree with the statement "online tools and apps are replacing the need to speak to an adviser" compared to two per cent of Baby Boomers.
This may explain where the rapid growth in financial technology for advice is coming from, Legg Mason said.
The divide is even greater when it comes to carrying out all financial planning on a smart phone and/or mobile device – 25 per cent of Millennials say they are happy to do so but Baby Boomers are the opposite, with a net 29 per cent not happy to do so.
“Given that Millennials are just embarking on their independent financial lives, recognizing this generational difference is vital for investment advisers or managers planning their future strategy,” Legg Mason said in its report.