Europe 

European IFA body reckons robo-advisers won’t replace you

European IFA body reckons robo-advisers won’t replace you

An industry expert has reignited the debate questioning the feasibility of robo-advice replacing human intermediaries.

David Charlet, chairman of the European Federation of Financial Intermediaries and Advisers (FECIF), raised questions about robo-advisers offering financial advice in the latest edition of the trade body's monthly editorial.

He said: "Is it possible for the only people in that game who are expected to remain human, at least for the next couple of years (the retail investor), to put his or her money in one (robo-advice) firm, for the welfare of the entire economy, without any risk?

"Is it possible for them to be educated in finance, when they don't want to be in many cases – they just need advice and have only a few Euros to spare?

"They may not be opposed to advice from a robot but may well prefer advice from a person to whom they can explain their personal and emotional situation, perhaps because their Dad is dead or their wife or husband has gone?

“Is it possible that the work of the adviser or qualified intermediary should always cost less and less despite the costs of his life and his firm’s running costs increasing?”

He argued that although there are benefits to an automated system, the reality is that it is not problem-free.

Although it is quicker, Mr Charlet said an automated service such, as robo-advice, can sometimes be more difficult to manage than human staff.

However, he added that in a climate of constant regulation change, intermediaries are needed more than ever.

He said: "Whether robot or human, our activities are still needed by retail investors and firms, and our market share is growing every year.

“We help them to better understand and practically adapt to the ongoing new regulation, for the interest of our firms, our European economy and our clients.”

Mel Kenny, chartered financial planner for London-based Radcliffe & Newlands, said although there is a place for robo-advice, it is unlikely to replace human advisers.

He said: "Robo-advice is there for simple situations and needs. Often life can be quite complex leading robots to malfunction.”

aamina.zafar@ft.com