Those of you familiar with the work of science fiction writer Isaac Azimov will know that the robots of his world are governed by three rules.
These rules – that a robot may not harm a human being, must obey orders given by a human, and must protect its own existence if this does not infringe the previous two rules – are ultimately aimed at preventing a robot uprising.
As advisers will know all too well, their own interactions with robots and technology – whether it be robo-advice, digital processes, or other innovations – are subject to rather more than three rules. But they might yet be at the mercy of an uprising nonetheless.
The coronavirus pandemic – and the lockdown that has been implemented to stem its spread – have forced many into previously unimaginable situations. For advisers this means video meetings, e-signatures and online documentation. The revolution is finally taking hold, and most intermediaries will be relatively content with how it has played out so far.
Removing the need to travel from pillar to post to meet clients is one of the many ways in which advice businesses could become more efficient as a result of this lockdown.
Yet, to paraphrase another fictional adage, with great efficiency comes great responsibility.
Will more a more efficient advice process lead to cheaper advice? It is too early to say. Will the regulator ask questions if it sees advisers cutting their costs by becoming more efficient, but not passing that on to clients? Now that is something to put money on.
The Financial Conduct Authority has made clear in recent years it wants to expand access to advice to as many people as possible, and exert as much pressure as it can on the cost of investing.
So it will be of benefit if advisers are proactive rather than reactive.