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Phil Wickenden: Lessons from Star Wars on embracing technology

Phil WickendenDo or do not. There is no try.

As with so many deep-sounding aphorisms, it’s really just somebody playing with semantics. But there is a point. The previous lines were:

Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different!

Yoda: (irritated) No. No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.

Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.

That is Yoda is encouraging Luke to commit fully. If he is still convinced that there is a difference, he will fail. He must be certain that he can achieve it, or he will not be able to.

Phil Wickenden: We are loyal to the whole package, not just the price

How can he be certain of something he can’t know? Well, logically he can’t, but he can use a variety of mental tricks to convince himself anyway.

The brain isn’t a good tool for sorting logic from illogic, and truth has only a passing connection with what you can convince yourself of.

So “no try” just means “no half-hearted attempts; only conviction can succeed”, which most people wouldn’t disagree with.

Phil Wickenden: Genuinely caring can give a business the edge

But theory and practice are two very different things. With discussions around how technology will soon be disintermediating advisers and decimating other parts of the value chain – and the weekly announcements of (mostly larger) players entering the robo market or developing solutions – it is interesting to see how advisers are split. Not unlike Yoda’s segmentation model there are:

1. The do-ers
2. The do not-ers
3. The triers

The fact that camps two and three are vastly more populated is understandable given: a) the level of uncertainty; and b) the disruption to business as usual required, not to mention the commitment.

But just as technology helps us to get a taxi, watch television when and where we want or find a hotel with our preferred mini bar snacks (don’t get me started on Toblerone’s re-imagination), personalised technology is now bringing financial planning to the masses in other parts of the globe, not least the US.

The industry’s only long-term choice is to embrace it or face obsoletion, because the younger generation is demanding it. Millennials are living their lives online and that’s where they will go for advice (as they define it, not how we or the regulator defines it), at least in part.

Yes, good financial advice (real life planning) depends on things that technology can overlook, like intellectual capital and an understanding of nuance. And the future will likely require a hybrid approach — part human, part robot.

The choices are not binary: it is not do it yourself or do it with me but, for most, somewhere in between.

Phil Wickenden is managing director at Cicero Research



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