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Practice Management > Marketing and Communications > Social Media

Robo advice that’s a ‘Snap’

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Chances are that if you have heard of Snapchat, it’s because you have a teenager who uses the app to send friends goofy selfies or videos, which then disappear within seconds after viewing.

However, thanks to a Reuters story, the rumor mill is churning that Snapchat is about to enter the robo-advisory world, though the company has yet to officially confirm this development (but they aren’t denying it either).

How and why would a decidedly social app delve into financial advice? First, let’s look at Snapchat’s demographics. In comparison to all the other leading social networking sites, Snapchat is the 10,000-pound gorilla in terms of users in the 18-34 year old age bracket, aka millennials. Seventy-one percent of their users fall into this category compared to the next closest app, Vine, with just 51% — Facebook, Twitter and others are well below these numbers. 

Millennials are the primary users of Snapchat and this has been the oft-cited group of potential investors that are the most difficult for advisors to reach.  

Recently, Bank of America/USA Today released the latest installation of their report on the financial habits of millennials. In addition to findings such as 41% of millennials are “chronically stressed” about money, the survey asked them which categories they felt they had expertise (multiple responses were allowed). The results:  34% replied “social media”, 23% said health and wellness, 17% in personal finance and a paltry 5% responded with “investing.” 

To summarily answer the “why” part of the initial question:  Snapchat’s users are primarily millennials. Millennials are saying that they have much more expertise in social media than investing. The powers that be at Snapchat seem to believe that they can find ways to assist their number one demographic with investing techniques that speak directly to them.

Reuters quotes experts like Reginald Browne, head of ETF trading at Cantor Fitzgerald, who thinks that this approach to the delivery of financial services is “amazing and potentially disruptive, especially in its ability to engage a Millennial consumer set that’s still emerging.”

Additionally, like many free social networking offerings, Snapchat is searching for diverse ways to generate revenue and better monetize its business model.

But the “how” is the more interesting part of the story. Like many ‘information-leaks-before-official announcements’, the details are slim and speculative. Reuters says only that “Snapchat is understood to be at the front of a queue of tech firms developing Robo-Advisory technology” which will allow users to create “customized investment strategies for retirement planning” and allow them to “click-and-invest directly into financial products via their mobile phone applications.” 

With 100 million daily active users, Snapchat has the consumer base in place to begin its robo-advisor experiment. But just because you build it, will they come? It will likely depend on whether they develop an easy-to-use, intuitive system that fits perfectly with their consumer base, or adapt an existing robo platform accordingly. 

Regardless of the specifics, access is key. As Cantor Fitzgerald’s Browne notes, “The landscape for financial services has been heavily democratized by the rise of the ETF, now social media platforms have the opportunity to democratize the accessibility and delivery of those products and advisory services.”


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