Nationwide trials in-branch automated advice service

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Nationwide is testing its automated advice proposition after entering the FCA’s robo-advice unit.

The building society is one of nine firms who were accepted to work with a new team within the regulator focused on developing automated advice earlier this month.

Nationwide has described its plans as “guided advice”. Customers will go through an automated process which can deliver a personal recommendation, but they will be assisted by financial planning managers or other in-branch staff and may be referred for full face-to-face advice depending on their needs.

Nationwide director of financial planning, protection and investments Larry Banda says the building society has not set a deadline for the service’s launch, but is looking to speed through the process by testing it with financial planners at Nationwide branches.

Banda says: “We have goals we want to get to but what’s clear to us is if you look at the experience of other companies that have been involved in automated advice is the importance of having an iterative, fast moving test and learning environment, rather than being bound by strict deadlines.

“We make sure we are informing our solutions through testing with branch networks’ financial planning managers.”

He says Nationwide may hire further advisers as the project progresses, but has enough financial planners in its branches to manage the new service.

Branch staff may not necessarily recommend products through the automated system.

Banda says: “It’s not just about whether they should or shouldn’t buy an investment product.

“For savers, of course we find there are times it is right for them to go into an investment proposition, but we are not starting from an investment-first approach because we are not a bank and most of our customers are savers. We have the opportunity to use automation to impact the opportunities for savers.

“I’m not really bothered what other banks are or aren’t up to. We have a very different proposition.”

Banda says working with the FCA has been effective for Nationwide so far.

He says: “We are one of the companies that bought into the advice unit, which we are very pleased about. We have had an initial meeting which was very positive.

“We believe we will be able to work with Michael Lawrence [from the FCA’s advice unit] and his team extremely well as we deliver our automated solutions over the next few months and years.

“It was an excellent opportunity to share our strategy as currently articulated and where we believe it can end up.”