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.
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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.