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Advisors, Investors Still Hesitant on Robo-Advice, Polls Show

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Though news about robo-advisors is widespread, most financial advisors do not see these digital capabilities as a high priority, according to a study released Tuesday by Practical Perspectives. Likewise, a study released Tuesday by Allianz Life finds that few baby boomers and Gen Xers are confident about relying on tech-dominated financial advice.

In fact, just 7% of advisors polled consider robo-advice to be a high priority vs. other near-term business plans, according to Practical Perspectives. In addition, more than eight in 10 advisors are aware of robo-advice, but most do not have specific plans or schedules for the introduction of such capabilities.

Meanwhile, in Allianz Life’s “Generations Apart” report, nearly seven in 10, or 69%, of investors in both the Baby Boom demographic group and Generation X say they “don’t really trust online advice, making personal relationships more important.” Moreover, more than three-quarters, or 76%, agree that “there’s so much selling online that it’s hard to trust [this type of] financial advice.”

“Advisors are divided on the potential impact from robo-advice and want more clarity on whether it is a fad to be avoided or a long-term opportunity to be embraced,” said Howard Schneider, president of Practical Perspectives and the author of the group’s report, in a statement.

“Few advisors have made robo-advice a high priority, but many are curious to learn more about best practices and ways it could be used to attract new business and provide support to clients,” explained Schneider.

(The report is based on input collected online in January from more than 850 financial advisors and RIAs working with full-service, independent and other firms.)

According to Schneider, few advisors expect they will offer purely digital robo-advice solutions to clients. In fact, most expect personal service and contact to be part of any and all future offerings.

Plus, there appears to be no consensus on the robo-advice model that will become dominant in the field; many advisors anticipate that digital clients, in fact, “will ultimately migrate to full-service relationships,” he says.

RIAs account for most of the current practitioners offering robo-advice and are generally more receptive than other advisors to delivering digital advice, Practical Perspectives states.

The report also finds that Schwab, Vanguard, Betterment and Wealthfront are the online platforms most widely recognized by FAs; advisors are most concerned with the platforms’ new account opening and client service applications; and they view custodians and broker-dealers as preferred sources for robo-advice solutions.

More Ambiguity

“Robo-advisors are generating a lot of buzz in the personal finance world, but when it comes to fully relying on them, both Gen Xers and boomers hesitate and instead recognize the value of a real person giving personalized advice,” said Katie Libbe, Allianz Life vice president of consumer insights, in a statement. “Both generations say they’re concerned about retirement, so it’s crucial that they have access to financial professionals who address their specific needs beyond asset allocation and accumulation, and shift their recommendations as personal circumstances change,” Libbe explained.

More than a third (35%) of respondents in both demographic groups say they have some interest in working with a robo-advisor (46% Gen X, 24% boomers), Allianz’ survey finds. But just 10% state that they would be comfortable having their relationship with their financial advisor exist entirely online.

The Generations Apart study also reveals that 57% of both generations spend between one and three hours a day online outside of work, making the Internet a likely place to seek financial information.

The research indicates that 40% of respondents “regularly” visit financial websites, with 13% making daily visits and 22% doing some trading and/or investing online. Such interactions appear to impact their opinion of professional financial advice, with 42% of respondents indicating that “there’s nothing a financial advisor can tell me that I can’t find out online.”

However, when asked about the value financial advisors bring, both generations point to support that is tough or impossible to obtain online via robo resources. This includes activities such as “helping me plan, set and achieve long-term financial goals; making sure I have enough money to last as long as I live; and helping me understand the big picture of my money (spending, saving and retirement).”

“With more robust technology available today, people are getting more comfortable with some aspects of online financial planning, but Americans also still see the value of working with a trusted advisor to help them plan for retirement and shape their financial future,” said Libbe.

“Most advisors are aware of robo-advice but many have yet to spend time exploring or understanding how they might leverage this solution going forward,” Schneider added.

— Check out Will Active Share Be the Robo-Advisor Killer? on ThinkAdvisor.


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