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AI Is Not a Priority for the Largest Advisory Firms: Pershing Poll

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There’s a lot of talk about how artificial intelligence will transform the financial advisory business along with many others, but according to the 2019 Elite Advisor Poll, adoption of AI and other new “cool” technologies by advisory firms is not a priority.

Less than 10% of respondents to the poll of top executives at the nation’s largest advisory firms, conducted by BNY Mellon Pershing, are investing in such new technologies.

AI will be like robo-advisors, providing “transformative” technological abilities but not replacing traditional advisors, says Christina Townsend, director of advisor platform strategy at Pershing.

(Related: Where Harry Markowitz, Father of Modern Portfolio Theory, Is Invested Now)

But firms are investing heavily in technology. A supermajority of executives (80%) polled said they plan to increase investments in technology this year, with more than half (45%) identifying the creation of a better client experience as a top goal for those investments.

Implementing such new technologies or solutions, however, is a major challenge for advisory firms, according to the Pershing poll. Thirty-seven percent of firm executives identified technology implementation as their No. 1 challenge, trailing only hiring and developing talent, cited by 41% of respondents. Respondents represented some of the largest RIA firms, with a median AUM of $1.8 billion and average AUM of $9 billion.

The biggest hurdle for adoption of new technologies: individual advisors, cited by 44% of respondents. “Advisors are not adopting technology as much as they would like,” said Townsend, referring to the executives polled. “How do you change the behavior of advisors?”

That responsibility rests with management, said Townsend. “Management has to put a stake in the ground that they will be doing something different, moving forward” on new technologies and measuring their use. “Old habits die hard.”

The Pershing poll asked advisory firm executives about their priority list for investments in technology. While only 8% included AI and other new technologies on that list, 62% identified integration applications for connecting with clients (customer relationship management) and custodians and for account openings. Twenty-seven percent said they were focusing on building client portals or websites.

“Building the right technology framework is a challenge for many firms — especially as a growing number of them are looking to create a unique experience designed specifically for their optimal client,” said Townsend in a statement. To that end, Pershing is expanding its team of technology consultants that works with advisory firms, whether they use Pershing technology, third-party solutions or proprietary programs.

— Check out Pershing Advisor Solutions CEO Mark Tibergien’s latest column, What’s My Line?, on ThinkAdvisor.


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