In mid-2016, EMI partnered with Boston Research Technologies to conduct a national survey of investors aimed at understanding their attitudes towards robo-advisors. The survey captured input from over 700 respondents, distributed across age and wealth segments.
As shown in the infographic below, EMI’s analysis of the survey data paints a picture of the robo-advisor opportunity that doesn’t neatly align with the concept of it being an entry-level offering for the young mass affluent. In fact, interest in robos correlates more strongly with attitudinal segments than with age or wealth segments. This has a lot of implications for lead generation and nurturing programs, and product positioning and messaging. Moreover, the strong desire for “someone to talk to” and for a platform that is not difficult to use suggest a need for support and guidance that deviates from the “self-service” (and low-cost) vision for robos.
A key theme from the InVest 2016 conference was that robo-advisor platforms and traditional human advisors are more complementary than competitive, creating fertile ground for deals between fintechs and traditional advice providers. With the flurry of start-ups and new services launched by established players, the chaos creates challenges for investment marketers in crafting the offer and sending a clear message. Here are three steps to support success:
1. Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted
Stay on top of disruptions and innovations. Establish a competitive intelligence program to stay up-to-date systematically. Monitoring competitive gaps and table stakes accelerates effective product development and improves marketing decisions and agility. Look at individual competitors for best practices, but don’t miss the forest for the trees.
2. Don’t get lost in the noise
In a market moving this fast, even one new partnership, acquisition or innovation can shift the competitive landscape. From digital-only solutions to giving human advisors a digital edge, the variety of value propositions is dizzying. To stand out, providers need to strike a chord with investors–deliver something they want, and communicate it with clarity.
Then sing it out across all customer touchpoints. Drive it through product design. Make it the center of messaging.
3. Marketing for sales really matters
A common breakdown we see is that marketing messages are not carried through–or even to–the sales channel. If you’ve got a sales channel, use it–because it’s expensive. That means powering your sales professionals (in other words, your advisors) with the best marketing weapons you’ve got. Crisp and compelling messaging, and strong competitive selling points win prospects and retain relationships at risk. But keep it simple and make it easy. Advisors are allergic to complexity. Digital presentation tools enable agility and foster consistency.
It’s up to marketing to provide a tangible single point of truth for sales.
EMI shared findings of first-ever national survey on “What Investors Want…And Don’t…From Robos” at the In|Vest 2016 conference in NYC in June. The emergence of digital advice and how it will transform wealth management was center stage throughout the event. These 3 themes emerged from our research…and the discussions:
1. Robos & traditional advice: can’t we all just get along?
Growth in the direct-to-investor model is slowing and research suggests most investors prefer some combination of digital and human help, which has caused advisory firms and robos to reframe how they view each other. Like the classic movie plot when rivals find common cause and develop mutual respect as they team up to beat the real enemy, robos and advisors are largely moving past their initial competitive postures and increasingly seeing themselves as complements, serving different clients’ needs in different ways. Large, traditional investment and financial advice companies with established distribution networks, client bases and brand reputations will continue to acquire and/or partner with fintechs to broaden their capabilities, create scale and improve their digital experience. Deals like those between UBS and SigFig, and BlackRock/FutureAdvisor and BBVA are indicative of this trend.
What it means for you: 3 steps marketers should take to navigate the choppy waters of digital wealth management
2. Go digital or go home.
As Bill Crager of Envestnet said during the “Value of Advice in a Robo World” session, “there will be winners and losers – and it’s becoming clear that to be a winner, having a great digital experience is required.” The success of direct-to-investor robo advisors indicates a clear appetite from clients for digital accessibility, and subsequent research has shown that even those who want a human advisor still value some type of digital interface and functionality. Clients want to be able to access their advisors (and the benefits they provide) whenever and wherever they want. To meet that demand, the advisor channel needs to figure out how digital should “plug in” to their offer in a way that works best for both advisors and clients. So while digital-only robo-advice isn’t overtaking human advice, having a great digital experience is quickly becoming table stakes.
3. More hybrid robo versions than Terminators – but which one is best?
Investors don’t want to choose between a low cost, accessible robo solution and a more personalized, reputable human advisor – they want the benefits of both. However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what the right mix or packaging should be. Our investor research revealed a variety of preferences for how investors want the tech and human elements to come together (what should the human do vs. the digital platform) and how hands-on or -off the experience should be (do it yourself vs. do it for you). Providers will need to be mindful of what their clients and prospects want from an advice solution and make sure they are refining their offer and messaging to meet those needs and differentiate themselves.