Remember the milkman?
When is the last time you communicated directly with anyone to discuss the milk needs of your family? It’s probably been a long time.
Why? Because the business changed; grocery stores began appearing in every community and the process of buying milk changed forever. Milk became a commodity.
The latest trend in our industry is that of the robo-advisor. This has become enough of an issue that advisors across the country are starting to stand up and take notice.
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Online firms like Wealthfront, Betterment, Jemstep and others have built a new mousetrap for anyone willing to invest in this new-aged idea. Driven by market analytics, these firms stand to revolutionize the advisory business in much the same way that refrigeration changed the milk business.
Market knowledge was once exclusive to the well-heeled broker. Access to highly-guarded information of markets and investments has now become the commodity. Using market information as fuel, computer programmers run machines that relentlessly drive the cost of building a portfolio closer and closer to zero. The savvy investor benefits by paying lower and lower investment advisory fees. So where do we fit in down the road?
Successful dually-licensed advisors have been frantically building their fee-based investment businesses, in order to offer less biased advice to a clientele who has grown tired of product salesmen. Clients have been hearing and responding to a message that has them eager to pay a percentage of assets for the management of their accounts. But what happens when those very fees are discounted by the machines that build well-diversified portfolios for lower fees? Does the fee business not suffer a fate similar to the travel agent, auto insurance, and milk delivery businesses?