The future of advice is already here

Natalie Holt, journalist with Money Marketing Photo by Michael Walter/Troika

In grappling with new technology, there is quite a lot of jargon to get to grips with: taxonomy, emotion recognition and dynamic segmentation are just some examples I have come across over recent weeks.

But behind the buzzwords are ideas that could radically change the way advice is given.

For example, who wants to sit through a risk questionnaire when you can sit in front of a webcam tracking your emotions?

Or for that matter, a system that promises not just to predict clients’ life events, but also identify which clients are closest to sacking you as their adviser is surely a great tool to have as part of an adviser’s armoury.

In just a few years, the conversation has moved on from the perceived threat of robo-advice, to an altogether more nuanced discussion. Instead of an either/or on the question of man or machine, increasingly systems are being designed to work with advisers rather than against them.

There are numerous way this stuff can be deployed: as a means of engaging a younger generation of “new wealth”; a way for younger advisers to initially interact with clients; a method of “know your client” like no other; a robust audit trail for why clients made the financial decisions they did.

With the move by some firms into life planning and financial coaching, the analytics these tools can deliver can offer a real point of differentiation and help clients further pinpoint how their life goals match up with their financial objectives.

And as the Financial Advice Market Review rumbles on, regulators are looking to technology to help advice firms deliver a service that is cost-effective while at the same time adequately managing the risks involved.

But for some, this is all just a bit Big Brother – mining client data and watching their facial twitches is all a bit much, and what is more, represents an unnecessary complication of the advice process.

Like with all technology developments, there may be early adopters who see how these new systems will fit neatly into their firm.

But having built up an advice service geared around the personal touch, there are also advisers who are understandably wary about wedding their business to something so radical.

We are glimpsing into the future of advice – and not of all it makes for comfortable viewing.