Those advisors and industry observers who downplay the importance of the digital advice players, aka robo-advisors, like to point to the relatively low level of assets held by the robos, and that the average account is far smaller than most advisors’ minimums for accepting new clients. Those skeptics might want to rethink their arguments, however, based on the findings of Capgemini’s annual World Wealth Report.
The U.S. version of the global report surveyed HNWIs — individuals with investable assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residences, collectables and other non-liquid assets — and particularly for HNWIs under age 40, what the report calls “automated advisory services” were very appealing.
Of the under-40 cohort of respondents, 87% of U.S. HNWIs expect “all or most of their wealth management relationship to be conducted digitally” over the next five years, while 48% of those HNWIs over 40 have that expectation.
As part of the survey conducted with RBC Wealth Management, wealth managers were asked how many of their clients would use an automated advisory service, while HNWIs were asked “would you ever consider having a portion of your wealth” managed by a robo-advisor. While the wealth managers said only 18% of their clients would use a robo, 34% of wealthy individuals said they would use an automated service. And of all the wealth segments in the survey, it was the ultra-wealthy clients who were most interested in using a digital advice platform: 38% said they would do so, compared with the 34% overall figure.
When broken down by age cohorts, the willingness to use a digital advice platform was most pronounced. When asked in the Capgemini-RBC Wealth survey “Would you ever consider having a portion of your wealth managed by an automated advisory service?” only 18% of respondents over 60 said yes, while for those under 30, the percentage was 87%, and for all those under 40, 69% said they would.
The respondents were also asked what percentage of their wealth they’d consider “transferring to an automated advisor,” and the differences among ages was pronounced again. Only 19% of those 60 and over said they would transfer “at least 50%” to an automated platform, but 77% of those under 30 said they’d transfer at least half their wealth to a robo, and for all those respondents under age 40, 63% said they would move at least half of their wealth to an automated advisor.
One reason why the younger wealthy might prefer digital advice: they express less confidence that their wealth managers — individual advisors and their firms — understand their needs. In another troubling sign for existing wealth managers, those younger wealthy people also exhibited a much higher “propensity to leave” their existing managers.
The report’s authors argue that wealth management firms “must act now to offer an automated advisory capability, not only to respond to HNWI demand and competing offerings, but to begin to develop a culture of innovation” that will be expected by the younger HNW. Moreover, the report argues that currently robo-advisors “just reach the tip of the iceberg in terms of industry disruption,” with “a full wave of disruption expected to follow soon” which will move beyond rudimentary portfolio allocations to “impact more important areas such as advice.”
— For more on the findings of the Capgemini 2015 World Wealth Report, see: 12 Fastest Growing U.S. Cities for Millionaires: Capgemini 2015 Report