Robo-advice  

The future for technology in advice

This article is part of
Guide to how advisers are using technology

The human touch

Mr Brosch also adds: “Human interaction will – I believe – remain a constant. Technology will help to underpin, but it won’t replace, financial advice.”

Research by US-based Hartford Funds backs up Mr Brosch’s prediction.

Its survey of 116 US-based financial advisers, the results of which were published in July last year, show advisers prefer face-to-face meetings with clients.

The research reveals 73 per cent cited face-to-face as their favoured method of communication with clients and prospects, while only 12 per cent of advisers found video options, such as Skype and FaceTime, useful.

But the same survey found advisers expect the frequency of communication they have with clients to increase over the next five to 10 years. This suggests they may have to adopt technology, as Julie Genjac, managing director of strategic markets at Hartford Funds notes.

“As advisers thread the needle and both communicate more frequently and meet in-person, it’s essential that they embrace firm-approved digital alternatives (like video chat) that allow for more regular, face-to-face interactions,” she says.

John Diehl, vice president for strategic markets at Hartford Funds, suggests there will even be some clients who are best served by technology – perhaps those who do not have a “very complicated financial picture”.

“Their financial life is not extremely complex,” he observes. “Technology may be employed to help them derive what some of the best first steps are to take.

“As a person’s life becomes more complicated – where there is more risk from making mistakes – they often express a desire to reach out and talk to someone.”

Stuart Wilson, corporate marketing director at more2life, agrees: "It’s likely that we’ll also see an increase in the use of technology by advisers, but the value and importance of providing face-to-face advice will remain, particularly with older equity release customers."

Finding a balance

But how can an adviser firm even know whether it should go fully digital, or not? 

The answer is advisers are, in all likelihood, increasingly adopting technology into the advice process without even thinking about it.

Terry Huddart, head of proposition at the lang cat, proffers: “Just because a lot of firms are pushing towards a fully digital model, doesn’t mean it’s the answer for everyone. 

“Although the range of software and options available to go digital is growing ever richer, there’s never any real substitute for being with a client face-to-face for most models and situations. 

“This doesn’t have to turn into a battle between old school versus new school. Instead it’s about each firm finding the right balance for them – there’s more than one way to help a client sleep better at night.”