View more on these topics

McKenna: The future’s bright

The human interaction sought by face-to-face advice may face genuine competition by technology-based solutions and articificial intelligence


The Future is Already Here session at last week’s third Top Gear event by The Platforum show-cased a series  of technologies which could radically alter the traditional financial services industry. 

The Platforum managing director Holly Mackay gave me the brief of bringing together a group of technology suppliers which could really challenge conventional thinking and demonstrate that what many in our industry consider science fiction is actually science fact and set to dramatically transform the way our industry works. In just under an hour, the three organisations presented technology which addresses the vast majority of the reasons trotted out as to why advice cannot be automated.

These are all technologies which could be embraced by the traditional financial services industry and harnessed for the benefit of both consumers and the industry.

Artificial intelligence experts Yseop highlighted the limitations of the human brain and scientific analysis that suggests humans can only monitor a limited number of factors simultaneously. By way of alternative, it demonstrated how smart machines can monitor vast numbers of financial products, funds and client circumstances to provide an intelligent support service. Such technology can create and manage highly complex decision trees involving literally thousands of variables, including the ability to identify when a client is giving conflicting information and the capability to guide them step-by-step towards making the decisions that will achieve the best outcomes. This can actually turn regulatory change into a commercial advantage by building services that can rapidly adapt to rule changes. 

Technology and vision care specialist VSP Global, which has been working with the application of many wearable technologies in the insurance industry, including Google Glass, explained how these emerging services have the potential to totally reinvent the traditional approach to underwriting.  Eye scanning techniques can provide early onset notification of a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. In this context, the eyes are quite literally the window into an individual’s health. 

Such techniques can also provide the ability to assess the health of both cardiovascular and nervous systems and can be used to build an extensive picture of an individual’s future well-being.

nViso killed one of the sacred cows of the advice industry in a Top Gear presentation which brought to life the full extent of the possibilities for automated advice. Almost without exception, when advisers question the viability of online advice, one of the first common arguments put forward is that machines cannot pick up non-verbal clues or understand human emotion. nViso founder and chief executive Tim Llewellyn demonstrated how facial biometrics can be used to measure human emotion and what customers are really feeling.

Using a process measuring facial expressions, micro-expressions, head and eye movement and bloodflow, the software monitors 170 points in a facial image.

Using technology in this way can overcome social desirability bias – the tendency of respondents to answer questions in a way that, consciously or subconsciously, they believe is socially acceptable or popular with others. This could have very obvious benefits in areas such as risk profiling and factfinding to ensure an accurate representation of the consumer’s true feelings.

Overall, this event showcased a series of individual technologies which, if brought together, could deliver exactly the sort of scalable and affordable digital advice propositions that FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley has been calling for. It was fascinating during the Q&A session at the end of the presentations how all three companies, none of whom had met previously, were already seeing in ways in which their combined technology could create empathic algorithms that could measure how and when to deliver prompts to consumers about their personal finances that would be timed around when they could be demonstrated to make the best financial decision.

This  session showed reasons to be optimistic about what technology and financial advice can deliver to consumers but also highlighted how any business not radically rethinking its business model is simply waiting for its own demise.

Any extended summary of each of the presentations mentioned above can be found at

Ian McKenna is director of Finance & Technology Research Centre



Barclays sued in US over ‘dark pool’ trades

A US lawsuit has been filed against Barclays for fraudulent “dark pool” trading practices. The lawsuit, filed by the New York attorney-general Eric Schneiderman, alleges that Barclays misrepresented the kinds of investors that were trading within its dark pool. Schneiderman says: “The facts alleged in our complaint show that Barclays demonstrated a disturbing disregard for […]


Which? warned advice move puts consumer trust at risk

Advisers say consumer champion Which? risks losing consumers’ trust by engaging in commercial activities such as mortgage and protection sales. Money Marketing revealed this week that Which? is to begin advising clients of its mortgage advisory branch on protection products, starting in autumn 2014. Previously advice was outsourced to independent adviser LifeSearch. However, advisers say […]


FCA chief Martin Wheatley ‘disappointed’ at lender responses to MMR

FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley says he is disappointed at the way lenders have responded to the mortgage market review. The Daily Mail reported last week that although Wheatley agrees it is reasonable for lenders to decide what level of risk they are prepared to take, some have gone too far. Wheatley (pictured) said: “It […]


Govt warned Defined Ambition guarantee costs ‘unacceptable’ to members

Providers and IFAs have warned the Government plans to offer more certainty in pensions income could erode the value of individual pots so much that scheme members find it “unacceptable”. Later today the Department for Work and Pensions will publish a bill to legislate for so-called Defined Ambition pensions. A summary of the responses to […]


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up


    Leave a comment


    Why register with Money Marketing ?

    Providing trusted insight for professional advisers.  Since 1985 Money Marketing has helped promote and analyse the financial adviser community in the UK and continues to be the trusted industry brand for independent insight and advice.

    News & analysis delivered directly to your inbox
    Register today to receive our range of news alerts including daily and weekly briefings

    Money Marketing Events
    Be the first to hear about our industry leading conferences, awards, roundtables and more.

    Research and insight
    Take part in and see the results of Money Marketing's flagship investigations into industry trends.

    Have your say
    Only registered users can post comments. As the voice of the adviser community, our content generates robust debate. Sign up today and make your voice heard.

    Register now

    Having problems?

    Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3712

    Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am -5.00pm