There’s a lot of buzz around artificial intelligence in our industry right now — and for good reason. AI can help advisors work smarter and provide more value to their clients. That said, AI isn’t the answer to every problem. But when the questions become more complicated — such as “what is next thing I should focus on to maximize the impact for my clients?” or “what’s the driver of this anomaly?” — AI could be the way to go.

What AI Is

AI complements the work of people by using computers to perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence. But what exactly can it do for advisors?

There are several examples I could outline, but there are two common uses that I think will provide the most clarity around the technology: natural language processing and generation, in which a machine understands what’s being asked via text or voice, and recommendation engines, which take an input or question and provide a best suggestion or answer — think voice identification and virtual assistants. AI can also be used to identify anomalies in data, isolate or identify features and objects inside videos and images, and more.

More specifically, in financial services, AI is being used to power new modes of client interaction via chatbots and virtual assistants, to improve customer service by predicting why a client is calling and to help advisors save time and better serve end-investors by suggesting next best actions.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into what this means for a financial advisor’s day-to-day. Many advisors ask themselves two big questions when thinking about their clients: Who do I need to talk to, and what should I talk to them about? I believe there’s a great opportunity for AI to play a strong role in helping to answer those questions by:

  • Defining natural segments of clients outside of traditional groupings (e.g. age, net worth), which can help create an enhanced experience for investors
  • Coming up with estimates of clients/prospects’ lifetime value
  • Predicting attrition — you might see signs inside the data that say “this person is about to leave”
  • Predicting an upcoming life event, like a wedding or child going to college

A package of capabilities like this will help advisors be more efficient with their time, drive business goals and potentially help to scale their books of business.

What AI Isn’t

AI isn’t trying to replace people.

AI can augment what an advisor already possesses: judgment, intuition and creativity. With AI taking on the more routine tasks, advisors can better use their time by helping clients reach higher-level goals like fulfillment of their life’s purpose or leaving a legacy, which provide greater value. AI can also help advisors identify priorities, grow in their roles and mitigate risk — allowing them to work smarter by allocating those crucial human elements in a way that has the greatest impact on their business and clients.

AI isn’t the new name for data or business intelligence.

Descriptive analytics will continue to be a cornerstone of business management and decision making — but they are not AI. The real opportunity is for AI to complement descriptive analytics to help generate predictive insights and support business decision-making.

On a related note, AI is not a fit for every scenario. In some instances, the thing that is posed as an AI use case could be solved more simply through data analysis or other means. So when should you turn to AI for help? Good use cases for AI solve business problems, have data ready to be applied, have limited downside if the algorithm is wrong and (of course) are ethical.

We believe there is great opportunity for AI to continue to impact how advisors work in ways that will result in more valuable and engaging client experiences, greater efficiency and more robust insights.


Andrew Brzezinski is vice president of Fidelity Institutional.