Robo-advice: Are you 0110101 joking?

By Tim Searle, chairman of Globaleye

Added 6th June 2016

“Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.” Those immortal words from Hal, the computer in Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ had massive ramifications for the spaceship’s crew member and could be a portend (albeit fictional) for the way robo-advice may be taking us.

Robo-advice: Are you 0110101 joking?

Try using those lines when dealing with a client; it is likely to be a short-lived relationship. 

I appreciate that I am swimming against the tide on this matter and all the trends point towards robo-advice featuring and possibly replacing the traditional delivery of financial services.

Why is this? Have we lost our faith in human interaction? Has the trust gone so much that we would rather take essential and sometimes complex advice from Metal Mickey? Do we really think that the artificial intelligence of a C3PO can process the labyrinth of the solutions and devise an algorithm to ensure the needs of a human are actually met?

I think we are kidding ourselves and if science fiction is to be believed, then every successful robo-adviser has been designed to replicate a human; the Terminator, I Robot and Bishop will testify. So why not just use a human because, to plagiarise a Coke phrase, “it’s the real thing.”

No replacement

I subscribe to the notion that robo-advice will feature in the role of financial advice but will not replace it.

Even with the millennials looking to put their entire lives online, I think that the need to devise complex lifestyle financial planning solutions can only be done with flesh and bone (not synthetic either).

Sections of a financial plan and/or transactional elements including aggregation, reporting, research, triggers, trading can all be done with the support of robo-advisers.

However, it is the human that blends and orchestrates these aspects into a singular solution that has the ability to adapt on the nuances of the very human client.

This is our view and we have invested in IT to make us (the humans) look good, to enhance the client experience, to remove mundane tasks, to increase productivity, find new markets, build communication channels, mine and store data. And in the words of Max from Flight of the Navigator: Compliance!.

Human vs android

I am sure this subject will continue to debate for years to come and no doubt some readers would love me to be wrong. That said, I know those who appreciate our special brand of financial planning will find it difficult to assume it can be replaced in its entirety and see robo-advice as a complement to the very human process.

We are already disgruntled with automated phone answering systems and if robo-advice solutions and not deployed appropriately then I fear this will secure a similar outcome.

Moreover, robo-advice has a pre-determined set of responses to lead the human to a solution that the robo adviser is designed to give and ultimately sell. Robo-advice needs a purpose and there has to be a commercial end game if they are to remain relevant.

Humanoid over android is our mantra but we cannot ignore the “rise of the machines” with a view to them serving us and securing fair outcomes for our clients who as far I am aware, are also human still.

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