Fundhouse Insights Latest Articles

Why does a client need you rather than a Robo Adviser?

Published: May 28, 2015 by Rob Macdonald, Fundhouse

The Robo Advisers have landed, and there is one that has opened up office not far from you. Fact. Problem? You may think not. Particularly after reading last week’s article that we posted by Mark Hurley who essentially said that Robo Advisers are not really a threat. But at least two IFA practices in South Africa think differently. They have recently opened up their own Robo Adviser practice. Ostensibly to meet the needs of the younger client, or the more cost sensitive client. But younger clients become older clients. They have friends. You know the story.

Just in case you think this is a fad that might just go away, or that Hurley is right about it not being something to worry about, it’s time to think differently. Ford have just launched their new hands-free self-parking vehicle. A great opportunity to make that quick call before you get out of the car! In the UK self-propelled cars are already on the road. If a car does not need a driver, why does a client need an adviser?

The extent to which technology will infiltrate our lives in the future is in some ways unimaginable. And not. The City of Oxford in the UK is planning for self-flying motor cars by 2065. And when the car is on the road, there will be cells in the surface of road that recharge the car’s batteries as it drives over them. Unimaginable. Yes. Possible? Definitely. After all, the iPad is only 5 years’ old, Twitter is younger, and Snap Chat is an infant that has just spawned potentially the youngest ever billionaire in the US.

So will clients need you in the future? Maybe not. There are already Robo Advisers who look like people, who speak like people, who ask you questions and respond to yours. So what are you going to do to make yourself indispensable? 2065 is not that far off, you may already have clients who will still be working then.

The table below, adapted from Mitch Anthony, considers the differences between what a Financial Adviser and a Robo Adviser can offer.

 

Service Need of Client
Financial Adviser
Robo Adviser
Transaction Facilitation

X

X

Access to savings products

X

X

Access to insurance products

X

X

Access to investment funds

X

X

Facilitate Needs Analysis

X

X

Financial Planning Advice

X

X

Investment information

X

X

Portfolio reporting and analysis

X

X

Market commentary

X

X

Access to research

X

X

Tax planning advice

X

X

Consumer education

X

X

 

As you can see, there is not much difference. This begs the question, why would a client rather do business with you? After all, the Robo Adviser has the potential for infinite economies of scale, which means he or she (you can actually choose), will be cheaper than you. So, to stay relevant, can you simply be the facilitator of financial functions? It seems not.

So what is the way to fend off the Robo Adviser threat? The obvious answer is that the Financial Adviser offers the human element that the Robo Adviser cannot. But how best to harness this competitive advantage over the Robo Adviser?

At a recent Fundhouse Adviser Programme session, Kim Potgieter from Chartered Wealth Solutions suggested one way is for financial planners to do Financial Life Planning rather than just Financial Planning. In essence she argued that by understanding the life of a client better, and very importantly their relationship with money, their financial plan would be more meaningful and relevant to their life.

Many financial advisers argue that they are their clients’ “coaches”, “strategic partners”, “educators”, “guides” and “personal CFOs”. This is a great start in the fight back against the Robo Adviser. The privilege and curse of the 21st Century is that clients who need the services of a Financial or Robo Adviser are likely to be looking for more meaning, purpose and balance in their lives. As Kim Potgieter says, they need their money to connect to their lives. Money after all is simply a means to an end.

So helping clients determine what that they want from life, and how their money will help them get that is where the opportunity for Financial Advisers lies. But this is not simply about doing a financial needs’ analysis. If we’re honest, the Robo Adviser can probably do that more effectively than any human. It’s about understanding a client’s relationship with money. Their experiences of money growing up, their experiences of financial advice, and their view on what their money is for.

It is also about the client’s aspirations for their life, the transitions they need to navigate through each season of life. It’s about having someone they can confide in, seek counsel from, explore with. Someone they can communicate with on an emotional as well as a rational level. Someone whose hand they can shake. Maybe even share a hug, but definitely a laugh. It’s about someone they can have a meaningful relationship with. Your opportunity to overcome the Robo Adviser lies in this. Take it or leave it. Just remember, the Robo Adviser is only a click away.