Consumers have a need for insight, guidance and advice.
People who want to put money aside for short-term or long-term goals have a need for insight, guidance and advice. The challenge for financial institutions is to meet all three of these wishes. This not only requires sufficient data, but also the courage to take risks. Providers who are willing to fill the gap can, however, tap into an attractive market.
Every consumer has wishes and needs for today, as well as for the future. To be able to afford them, it will often be necessary to set aside resources. Those who are currently employed will spend a large proportion of their income on daily living expenses, but will (provided there is enough income) also have nest eggs, or savings, for unforeseen expenses in the short term, post-retirement income, asset accumulation for later, and perhaps even for estate planning or the transfer of assets.
The determining role of data
Various financial service providers offer platforms to help manage these resources. Those platforms are often transaction-based. Consumers can usually open an investment portfolio for a specific purpose, and sometimes receive automated advice for this. These are the current “robo platforms”. Other platforms are suitable for the next step: several savings for different goals. The extent to which this advice can be automated depends on the amount of data available. This differs by country. In the Netherlands, we are still at the ‘single nest egg for one goal’ stage, because these are the only data available on the platform. We do offer financial planning, however, but the results are not monitored automatically because the required data is not available for reporting. The client or adviser needs to carry out monitoring manually. Conversely, in the US, not only are a lot of data available, but they’re constantly being updated. This means that automated financial planning is achievable in the US.
It is a development that is progressing in steps: from insight through guidance to advice. Where insight gives an idea of a client’s situation, guidance signals the opportunities for solving potential difficulties, while advice is to select the best ways of achieving the client’s goals, and to use that as the basis for delivering a solution.
Is automated advice a step too far?
The burning question is: what role are providers willing and able to play in this? Various companies (including pension funds, private bankers and financial planners) are currently investigating how they can provide clients with insight into their entire financial situation, including all assets and liabilities, and all income and expenses. Based on this insight they can offer guidance and advice, but providers are also wondering if they actually can and want to take that responsibility. Banks are leaning towards guidance, but are still delivering few off-the-shelf solutions that translate into a specific product. This is partly due to stringent regulations, but primarily because of a fear of the risk of claims. In other cases the providers may not yet have their systems sufficiently set up to risk giving advice, and are therefore limiting themselves to implementation.
Providers must not miss the boat
Whatever happens, consumers have a strong need for solid advice. We will, therefore, be seeing more earnings models being set up in line with the three-pronged strategy (insight, guidance and advice) identified here. Providers who only offer insight or guidance will miss out on a source of income that can be tapped into by parties who also deliver advice. The moment at which automated financial advice is possible is fast approaching. Those who wish to take advantage of this must ensure that they do not miss the boat.