Why Robo-Advisors Will Have Issues Maintaining the Trust of Their User Base
Robo-only advisors have recently been very successful at raising new capital and focusing their resources on winning over millennials. Therefore, we find it timely to discuss the client’s historical need of a financial adviser. While the understanding of clients’ risk tolerances that robo-only advisors provide is undoubtedly an important part of investing, it remains only part of the picture. Of equal importance is taking into account the risk tolerance of investment markets and how this may impact the client’s financial profile. Regardless of how much risk a person can afford to take, no one wants to enter an unstable market environment only to discover that he or she did not adequately account for his or her entire financial situation.
The Singularity of the Individual
Robo-only advisors can judge a client’s risk tolerance very accurately if the client understands his or her goals, priorities, and situation very well. But how often is this truly the case? Clients often require more complex guidance as they crystallize their aims. A robo-only advisor is incapable of providing this type of guidance. It is not a stretch to believe that the narrow range of environments in which robo-only advisors excel will be a mitigating factor of their success.
It is understood that robo-only advisers are built by very intelligent people, but it appears that these engineers have forgotten the informal definition of an engineer: Someone who performs precision guesswork based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge. In their present structure, robo-only advisors are not equipped to blend the client’s risk with market risk, both of which are dynamic. Because of this, there is ample reason to think they will have issues maintaining the trust of their user base.
Drawing on my past experience investing in the technology sector, I realized that the objective of technology is to spare people from performing mundane, repetitive tasks. Most innovation drives an increase in productivity by mechanizing repetitive functions that people do by hand. Think about TV dinners: Hot meals are time-consuming and costly to make, but because of the development of microwavable dinners, you simply have to unpackage a meal and pop it in the microwave to have a hot dinner ready. Viola!
However, this type of standardization only works when cooking and eating are viewed as tasks or chores. Tastes change, and most people don't want to eat the same thing over and over again (Unless it’s pizza — everyone loves pizza). People seem to crave “homecooked” meals, despite the ready availability of microwavable meals. When it comes to food, most of us crave quality and variation. TV dinners fail to account for some people’s desire for customization and craftsmanship.
Technology has proven highly effective at mechanizing the repetitive functions that hinder our day-to-day lives. It fails, however, at dealing with the exceptions to the rule. Human input, thought, and effort are required to handle tasks that are fluid, unpredictable, and complicated. Unlike people, robo-only advisors cannot easily adapt to new situations, hindering them in any environment that is not static and controlled.
Investing is built on singularities. Every individual has his or her own risk tolerance, return objectives, tax consequences, and family situation that need to be matched to the risks within the markets. The robo-only advisors’ strategy of forcing every investor into predefined buckets no matter the market environment may function when working with millennials, who are in the early years of saving and have adequate time to recover, but it trivializes the priorities and the circumstances that make us all unique.
Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: April 17-21
Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on IRIS.xyz, April 17-21, 2017
Click the headline to read the full article. Enjoy!
Like so many others in the industry, I was wrong. For years, I was certain that the bull market was nearing its end. I thought the market was over-extended, and that, surely, the wild equities run was coming to an end. But everyone else was bullish, and perhaps rightfully so. And while I’ve watched equities continue on their spectacular rise, I do think now is the time (really!) to put a hedge in place. Here’s why. Here’s how. — Adam Patti
The realities for fixed income investors have changed. How is this being reflected in markets? Bond investing has become increasingly difficult over the past decade. Markets have been heavily distorted by ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing, as well as by extreme risk aversion in response to the global economic crisis and the eurozone debt crisis. — Nick Gartside
Is being a financial advisor worth it? I am an optimistic person and I encourage other people to keep a positive mental attitude (shout-out to Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone). However, by taking a good, hard look at the negatives in life, we can successfully pivot towards the positive aspects that will help us achieve our goals. — James Pollard
How do you treat one of your most valued, existing clients? Here’s a list of some things that come to mind. — Andrew Sobel
According to many advisors I speak with, the only clients that leave are those who have died. And while attrition may not be a big problem in this industry, I have to assume that at least a few clients change advisors without doing so via the funeral home. — Julie Littlechild
I was talking with an advisor last week about how to get into conversations about what he does. He was relaying the story of going jogging with a friend who could be a good client but is, more importantly, connected to a large network of people who fit this advisors ideal client description. — Stephen Wershing
Big picture thinkers are not unicorns - rare and mystical. And they were not born with the innate ability to think big. They do, however, pay attention to the broader landscape and take the time to think, analyze and evaluate. — Jill Houtman and Danny Domenighini
Your reputation is who you are and how you show up, Monday to Monday®. Many of us take our image and reputation for granted. Give careful thought to the kind of reputation that you would be proud of Monday to Monday® and that would resonate with your purpose and priorities. — Stacey Hanke
The generational changing of the guard is a fact of life as old as time. Young replaces old in responsibility, importance, control and culture. Outside of the family, the workplace is perhaps where this is seen most regularly by most people. — Shirley Engelmeier
Next time you hear your prospects give you price objections, it’s not because of the price. The give price objections because they don’t know the full value proposition that they’d be paying for. And it’s not based on their need, or your features and functions. It’s based on the buying criteria they want to meet internally. — Sofia Carter
Last week we wrote about the economic rationale behind going independent vs. moving to another major firm as an employee. As a follow-up topic, we thought it prudent to analyze transition packages attached to big firm moves and peel back the layers of the onion to show the components of these deals. — Louis Diamond
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