Scottish WidowsJun 1 2018

Scottish Widows 'actively looking' at offering robo-advice

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Scottish Widows 'actively looking' at offering robo-advice

Scottish Widows is considering ways to move into giving robo-advice, it has confirmed.

The firm’s financial planning expert, Catherine Stewart, said the firm was looking at providing the service as part of a group-wide effort to digitalise its offering, though no concrete plans had yet been made.

She said: “Robo-advice is definitely an area we are actively looking at and we’d probably move forward with some testing to see how does it land, where do we [need to change] things.” 

Lloyds banking group said at its results presentation in February it wanted to capitalise on the fast growing pension market having successfully repositioned the business over the past seven years and would invest £3bn in building a comprehensive "omni-channel approach" to serving its customers.

It would also invest in "digitising more customer journeys end-to-end" as well as building up its financial planning workforce across its branches and building on the way it works with intermediaries, the firm said.

But it denied at the time that it was thinking to build up its own advice proposition, saying it was more interested in working more closely with advisers it already has relationships with.

Lloyds is one of a number of banks working with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as part of its advice unit, a project aimed at increasing access to low-cost advice.

The bank is targeting a 15 per cent share in the corporate pensions new business market by 2020 (it currently has 10 per cent) by integrating the Zurich workplace platform, which it acquired last October.

It will also seek to build on existing corporate client relationships, predominantly through Scottish Widows, for retirement provision.

Lloyds stopped providing advice to those with less than £100,000 to invest in 2012 and later faced a £28m penalty for the way staff were incentivised to sell retail products.

But its chief executive Antonio Horta Osorio was adamant in February the bank would not repeat failures of the past.

Paul Stocks, financial services director at Dobson & Hodge, said providers should get their customer support right for their existing clients before they start making inroads into new areas.

He said: "I feel the banks lurch to wherever they think the money is and then leave that space if it becomes difficult or doesn’t work out in the short term.

"Many banks exited advice post-RDR leaving their clients high and dry. Some are now back in that space again and one has to ask the costs involved in putting such decisions into effect."

He also questioned the effectiveness of giving robo-advice.  

He said: "I’m yet to see first hand whether robo-advice can go too far beyond simple tax wrapper or risk profile selection without potentially opening up greater risks to investors."