Adviser tech chiefs: Robo takeover hasn't happened and it never will

Adviser tech chiefs: Robo takeover hasn't happened and it never will

The advice market is getting used to using more technology more but robos will never replace the human touch in advice, the technology chiefs of Schroders Personal Wealth and Saunderson House have said. 

Speaking at the Global WealthTech Summit this week (November 3), SPW's head of digital and client technology, Snehal Patel, said certain groups of wealthy investors will always need a personalised service regardless of advances in technology. 

She said: “If we look at the spectrum of investors, you've got your ultra high net worth individuals, high net worth individuals, they will have complex needs, complex portfolios, they are still going to need that level of custom, personal advice and technology cannot really replace that. 

“I believe there will still be a need for a hybrid approach there in terms of being able to cater to these high net worth individuals and then across the spectrum, mass affluent market, there's huge potential to get them to self-serve a little bit more with the use of robo-advisers.”

She explained the shift to hybrid will be welcome and using technology in areas such as onboarding portals and e-signatures will enrich the client’s experience.

“How do we use technology in the right place at the right time for the right reasons?”, she said. “If it is to enable advisers to do their jobs really well and get them to focus on that and take the administrative mundane tasks away by automating that, great, but if we're looking at replacing all advice, I don't see that happening in the next three to five years.

“There will always be a need for both human advisers, and definitely a place to self-serve.”

Likewise, Nick Rosser, head of information technology at Saunderson House, said robo-advice was unlikely to take over. 

“I can remember when it first sort of started, we banded around, there was this massive concern that advisers will no longer be needed and robots were going to take over artificial intelligence,” he said. “We're moving into that generation and it hasn't happened.”

He added: “There's been a number of businesses that have been specifically created to achieve that and they've had mixed success - I would say it's fair to say in my view.

"Is there a marketplace for it? Absolutely. But is it going to replace that human touch for something, which for a lot of people is an incredibly personal thing when we talk about that wealth?

“Whether it's their pension wealth or general ISA allowance, whether it's more complex investment structures, they build a relationship with a person and a brand in order to make sure that they are receiving appropriate advice on something which is incredibly personal to them. I don't think a robot can ever replace that.”