All of us want to know what the future holds. It’s why there’s an age-old fascination with fortune tellers, and at least partly why science-fiction stories are so popular in modern times.
But predicting the future is hard; usually, trying to identify what is going to happen ends with a letdown. I don’t know about you, but I’m still disappointed we haven’t seen the flying cars that movies like Back to the Future put into our heads more than thirty ago.
And when it comes to financial services, advisors and consumers alike are asking, “what does the future of financial advice look like?”
The main question on consumers’ minds is if advice will become totally digital, instead of led by a human advisor. It’s something our industry has been grappling with for a few years now: Will robo-advisors replace advisors?
On the other hand, advisors are looking to understand how their technology will advance to make them more efficient and better able to create a client experience that keeps them relevant to consumers as those digital-only options increase.
Ultimately, I believe it’s a little easier to predict the future of fintech than to identify when Elon Musk will give us flying cars. The future of fintech will be a combination of human-driven advice and tech-enabled experiences. No matter how far the technology advances, it will not completely rule out humans; advisor-led advice will continue to play a critical, important, and necessary role in financial services.
In this article, I’ll explain why I believe the human element will always have a future in fintech.
Tech-first Experiences Don’t Hold Up Over the Long Term
Wealth management is a unique industry.
It’s difficult to replace personalized financial advice with a completely digital experience because so much of a person’s life and goals are wrapped up in their finances and their feelings.
Unlike other industries, like home or auto insurance, that allow you to open an app and get your possessions covered with a few simple questions (or as little as 15 minutes, right?), financial situations are much more complex, unique, and varied.
Robo-advisors have proven the truth of the situation. While they all began as low-cost, digital-only solutions, more and more of them have begun to add human advisors for their clients to contact.
Essentially, robo-advisors are getting closer to adopting the traditional financial advisor business model than human advisors are to adopting a robo-advisor model.
And there’s a good reason for that shift. At least one projection for what annual client retention rates may be at robo-advisors has calculated that the rate may hover around 80 percent, signifying that clients quickly recognize that they can’t get the full-service experience and confidence that they want when they use a digital-only solution.
When it comes down to it, consumers choose an advisor because they value trust and personalized service, and those are qualities that a tech-only solution simply is not able to provide right now.
Financial Advice Is Moving From A “Service” Business To A “Decisions” Business
If technology and software applications won’t lead the future of financial advice, then human advisors must step up and own client relationships to an even greater extent than they currently do.
A large part of the responsibility of owning the client relationship is about creating a great client experience.
Because “client experience” is such a widely-used phrase, it may help for me to define it here. Client experience refers to any kind of interaction a client has with your firm or any event that shapes their perception of who you are. It could take the form of an email, in-person meeting, virtual meeting, or the technology that you use like a client portal.
Keep in mind, though, that a good client experience, and the technology supporting it, does not necessarily mean that the client encounters that technology. Advisors can create better experiences for their clients through the use of technology that gives themselves and their staff more flexibility over how they spend their time and focus.
For advisors, technology has taken over mundane and routine tasks like uploading trade orders, monitoring portfolios for rebalancing, account aggregation, and other tasks that often fill up a never-ending to-do list.
As advisors spend less time on the routine aspects of their business, they can put that time toward client relationships and maintain a quality experience as they scale their firm. In this sense, the technology enabling those relationships is invisible to the client.
As new technology has arrived and other, “game-changing” technology like robo-advisors haven’t had the apocalyptic effect some once predicted, it’s become clear to me that the financial advice industry is not necessarily tech-first; however, it can accurately be described as tech-enabled. The technology available to advisors today is there to help guide more informed conversations.
As consumer attitudes change and they expect more from their financial professionals, advisors will need to look to incorporate tech into their practice that will help them go beyond client service, and take a step beyond mere conversations to focus on helping clients with complex decision-making.
Complex Decisions Require Human Advice
Probably the biggest reason why I’m confident that the traditional human financial advisor has a central future role in financial services is because when clients need to make complex decisions, there is a high cost of being wrong.
When life throws a big decision at us—buying a dream home, moving to a far-flung locale, helping our children choose the right college—many times we don’t get a second chance or a do-over.
If we look at a pure robo-advisor experience, it’s easy to see how they fail when it comes to feeling confident during a big decision moment.
Plugging a few numbers into an online questionnaire doesn’t give a high degree of trust and confidence when you’re planning how you want the next twenty years of your life to look.
Human advisors can use that kind of tech, however, as a supplement during real conversations.
We already see this with financial planning software and other technology that helps advisors make projections in order to inform their advice. But beyond a pure robo, a human advisor has the ability to take all the other factors into consideration, not least of which is the emotional impact these decisions will have on their clients.
When we get stuck on a decision, we don’t want to pull out our phone and ask Siri for her advice. We want help from people who can look us in the eye while they help us make those tough choices. Advisors do this by helping their clients manage expectations and keeping their emotional discipline in balance.
This whole process doesn’t end with a conversation, of course. It ends with the decision. Guiding clients through the conversation and coming out the other end with a decision that they feel good about and comfortable with is the key. Technology that helps advisors show clients the opportunity before them, or the gaps in their plan, helps to make those conversations easier to work through.
The tech-enabled human element of financial advice is in helping clients see, through the use of supporting technology, that the decision they’re making is the right one. This is what the solutions we build at Asset-Map can uncover.
The Role of Asset-Map in Decision-Making
The best advisors focus on client behavior, helping their clients to manage expectations and focus on long-term decision-making over chasing short-term performance swings.
The role of technology in that relationship, as we’ve seen, is to help the advisor more fully understand the client’s entire financial picture and enable them to offer the best advice possible.
As technology advances, it will continue to create new ways to support and enhance the advice and relationships created by human advisors.
Asset-Map’s solutions create a one-page visual representation of a client’s entire financial life—from liabilities to managed and held-away assets, to insurance policies and more. This simplified visual helps your clients see and understand their financial picture so they can make better decisions with another trusted human about what matters most.
Are you ready to see how Asset-Map can help your clients with their most important decisions? Click here to sign up for a demo.