Google has an AI assistant that can schedule haircut appointments for you. Tesla and General Motors are both producing cars that can drive themselves.

Of course, in the advisory space, robo-advisors (many of which eliminate human advisors from relationships with clients) have been slowly bringing on more assets and now manage over $200 billion.

As we’ve seen with the robo-advisor “revolution,” artificial intelligence will benefit people, but it won’t replace them. It all comes down to one simple reason: AI lacks human intelligence and the ability to identify and interpret emotions.

In the years to come, advisors’ value will become inseparable from their emotional intelligence and how they can help clients think through difficult situations.

A Changing Role

Years ago, an advisor’s real worth was largely tied to their asset management skills. There are still several firms that tout their fund selection as their differentiator.

But the time of asset management being an advisor’s core value is past. The advisors of the future will deal more with emotional therapy than diagnosing the correct asset allocation in a portfolio.

An algorithm can set allocations and rebalance a portfolio. Only a human advisor can translate unspoken goals, mitigate fears and keep clients on a path to success even in the midst of difficult things like death or divorce.

Artificial intelligence can’t guide a person through difficult times when they are most likely to make poor financial decisions, but that doesn’t mean AI has no role in the advisor office of the future.

AI-Human Relationships

Advisors who succeed won’t be in competition with AI, they’ll be in collaboration with it to enhance their client relationships. The most natural place for an advisor’s technology to make an impact is in supporting their client experience.

To leverage tech to its fullest, though, advisors need to fully document their client experience. Once that exercise is complete, they can then use their technology to automate their integrations and workflow processes.

Those automated workflows are then supported by advisors acting when necessary to bring human reason and rationale into a situation.

By automating aspects of the relationship, advisors can alleviate the stress of “keeping up” with most clients. Then, when human intelligence is needed, they have the time and ability to step into that situation and add their true value.

Improving EI

Even with the best workflow automation, however, advisors won’t make a true impact without an emotional touch. But what is the best way to develop emotional intelligence? The simple answer is to always be learning and growing as a person.

Advisors must know their own motivations, attitudes and the “why” behind their work. Similar to the medical field, they need to engage in true care for their clients.

Much of the work needed is based on soft skills, and it all ultimately comes back to a firm’s core values. Going deep into emotional intelligence as a core value component will be a shift for many advisory firms, but it is a necessary one.

When firms stop growing, it’s often because they rely on what’s always worked in the past — and stagnation is the result.

The future role of advisors will be to build a living and human client experience, one that is unique for each person. As clients change, advisors must adapt as well and put their focus on embracing the human — or emotional — side of their business to succeed.


Jarrod Upton, MBA, MS, CFP, is chief operations officer and senior consultant at Herbers & Co., an independent growth consultancy for financial advisory firms. He can be reached at jarrod.upton@herbersco.com.