Well, if they are not staring you in the face already, let me tell you this – the robots have arrived. Like something out of Dr Who, D2C or B2B2C are here to stay and no matter how uncomfortable you feel about having them in your living room, you are going to have to accommodate them.
I am talking about the plethora of both new and traditional companies selling investment packages and financial plans direct-to-consumers as well as via advisers with front end consumer functionality. It does not seem that long ago when we were threatening to boycott certain insurance companies for selling life insurance directly. Over the last couple of months, we have heard about the D2C plans of Standard Life, Aviva, and Legal & general to name but a few. And yet, here we are now, most of us sitting comfortably side by side with D2C but let’s face it, it is needed.
With robots exterminating our bread and butter business of yesteryear, it is time to say a fond farewell to time spent attracting business that has been generating diminishing reward over recent years. For those who are still feeling threatened by this encroachment I ask you this – do you really want to be chasing clients who want to be chasing robots? We learnt those painful love lessons long ago in the playground. It just took some of us longer to figure it out. Blush.
Of course when you are dealing with robots your online behaviour is monitored and before you know it you are subjected to a meteor shower of personalised targeted marketing and all that goes with it. The well-oiled robot can be a slick sales machine of profitable and coercive force.
A process of zombification also awaits. Similar to the long-standing issue with the personal finance sections of newspapers, the consumer’s decision making process is infiltrated with bias given the persuasive and selective thoughts of “industry experts” or unregulated commentary which, as we are all too well aware, can lead to very poor outcomes for the consumer. This is a whole other topic.
What is more, robots have no personality and are the coldest and most heartless things on earth when markets sink. Throw in the feeling of being hounded by endless online nudges, a bombardment of time share apartment promos and June Whitfield funeral plans that you cannot live without, and surely their next click to find a human adviser to get them out of jail, is never going to be too far away for some people.
The isolating world of the robot will take what we do not want but give back to us people pleading to deal with us. Someone to share the pain, share the gain and most of all, someone to blame should things go wrong.
Mel Kenny is a chartered financial planner at Radcliffe & Newlands