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What can financial advice learn from Amazon?

What can financial advice learn from Amazon?

Amazon seems on course to leverage its technology, wealth of big data and clever, tailored marketing to take on financial services.

Meanwhile, the technology being used by small, start-up savings apps is starting to attract more and more customers who like the ease of use these provide.

With giants such as Amazon potentially set to enter financial services, and start-up fintechs democratising investing, what should regulated advice firms be doing to adapt and thrive?

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Ian McKenna, founder of fintech consultancy F&TRC, told the latest FTAdviser podcast: "It is fascinating to see the way the microsavings companies have crept up on the mainstream advice community.

"These have accumulated more than 2mn customers in the past few years and one is the largest originators of the lifetime Isa. These are transforming the way traditional financial services companies take money from the customer. 

"Traditional companies make customers work around their processes and setting up standard direct debits".

But, according to McKenna, this is not really reflective of the way in which most household finances work - and certainly not for the 'next generation' of savers.

He added: "These newcomers are allowing people to save, little and often ... We have a lot to learn from these firms."

Joining him on the podcast was Hugo Bedford, chief executive of JM Finn. He said: "A better use of technology and robo advice means we can see services being offered to a much wider audience." 

He also praised the consistency and infrastructure of the digital experience.

"It is difficult to challenge the Amazon side of being able to deliver an experience that includes price, offering comparisons, suggestions and the platform itself. For the banks this could definitely be a good proposition in terms of products."

However, Bedford said there were significant differences for wealth managers and financial planners, including the depth and breadth of the customer service experience.

He said: "There is a level where you can have the likes of Amazon - or companies with that sort of methodology - operate and will work well. 

"There will be tools on our phones that can optimise the management of our money, but this can only take you to a certain level. The evidence still shows people like to speak to a person they know and who knows then, and who they can trust."

According to both, that personal touch - especially around complex financial planning needs and when markets or the economic backdrop becomes so volatile and sectors converge - and this is what technology and AI cannot provide the kind of trust and service that humans can.

To listen to the full podcast, click on the link above.

simoney.kyriakou@ft.com