Are automated financial advisors past the identity crisis?
Automated financial advice offerings have been present on the market for a while now, and there have been both success stories (like, in case of Wealthify and Betterment) and failures (like in case of Investec and UBS, who recently discontinued these services). All along, the debate on whether automated financial advice would entirely replace the human, traditional advisors have been troubling many minds within the wealth management industry. As the offerings developed and the industry got to know the strengths and weaknesses of robo advisors, fewer traditional providers believe the new technologies are going to replace their businesses. Robo-advisors are nowhere near replacing the human connection that the physical advisors may establish with their clients, which is especially true for HNWIs. However, where automated financial advisors seem to be a viable alternative, is in the space of large groups of underserved clients such as younger people or those determined to invest sustainably.
Interpretability is a crucial concern for machine learning offerings within the finance
According to the recent article by the British Financial Conduct Authority, machine learning “black box” models may pose a threat to customer experiences within the financial industry. The British regulator suggests that customers would like to know the reasoning behind, for instance, the loan approval process, so that it would be possible to change their behaviour accordingly. Moreover, there are legal requirements for the explanation of the decision-making behind the automated solutions (the GDPR in Europe). In addition to the points listed by the British regulator, we would add that comprehensive interpretation of machine learning models within the financial industry is likely to find its place among the orderly risk management activities should the future of finance be defined with a deeper adoption of such models.
Do the challenger banks come to market with the right message?
Revolut, Starling Bank and Monzo are widely regarded as challengers to the current banking incumbents. Indeed, it is reasonable to give them some credit for their understanding of the digital natives, the absence of decades-old IT infrastructure and the ability to move fast under rapidly evolving regulatory and technological environments. However, would these factors suffice to convince the customers to change their financial services provider and move most of their funds to a player that has never gone through a recession? We believe they would, given the challengers improve the actual services they provide and properly communicate how they would differentiate themselves from the incumbents with centuries of experience. There are many opportunities to do so: the challengers could improve the underlying risk profiling of the customers for more sophisticated personalization of the services, they could update their financial advisors with up-to-date approaches to portfolio management, and this would establish them as meaningful innovation advocates who are worthy of trust.