Whether we want to admit it or not, technology is engrained in many aspects of our daily lives: from ordering a takeaway via Deliveroo to checking your bank balance using an app.

It is therefore no surprise to see glimpses of technological change in the financial advice sector. Themes include the emergence of a new generation of robo-advisers and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to deliver efficient solutions for clients.

The question on everybody’s lips is: will technology kill face-to-face advice?

At DISCUS, we believe that technology will revolutionise the delivery of financial advice, but it won’t do away with the need for face-to-face advice. Ultimately, we hope that advisers will reach a point where they can use technology to take care of some of the ‘administrative heavy lifting’ which goes on in the background and takes up a lot of their time.

Automating part of the advice process would enable advisers to spend more time with clients, which could provide a boost to revenue because this is where it is possible to really add value. So, if anything, technology can create a greater focus on face-to-face advice.

 

Eliminating the fact-finding headache

It’s quite easy to identify parts of the advice process that are ripe for automation. For many advice firms fact-finding is a very manual process, which is time-consuming and costly. With time, we hope the sector will move towards a fully automated process. You will be pleased to hear that this would involve no rekeying and would allow advisers to draw on real data.

What’s more, it would take away the potential for biases and would significantly cut down the hours spent by advisers and paraplanners, freeing up their time to focus on revenue-generating activities.

There are other ways that technology can improve the advice process. Firstly, advice firms can draw on biodata, which is the information held across websites, to personalise advice. This could be done at the beginning of the process and on an ongoing basis as the relationship develops over the years.

Secondly, AI could drive efficiencies in your business. After all, these systems are less error-prone and don’t require a vacation! You may find that it makes sense to use a robo-advice proposition for certain aspects of a client’s affairs, or to draw on AI to improve portfolio efficiency and investment decision-making.

It’s interesting to note that a sample of industry professionals were asked where robo-advice is likely to add the most value at the 2018 Wealthtech conference. The most popular answer, attracting votes from more than half of respondents, was ‘intervention’, which covers predictive alerts and calls to action based on market activity. The second most popular answer was suitability assessment, attracting 28% of the votes, followed by investment selection at 19%.

 

It will be fascinating to see how things evolve in the advice sector, as it feels that we are just at the start of this journey. I believe that AI, machine learning and biodata can provide advisers with better data on their customers and this, in turn, can enable them to run their businesses more efficiently and to build relevant solutions for clients.

Against this backdrop, face-to-face advice can continue to sit at the heart of an advice business, enhanced by the use of technology.