Financial advisers in 2019 are far less fearful about technology replacing them than they were just a few years ago.
In a new report, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards' Digital Advice Working Group — a group of a group of senior business executives, industry professionals and thought leaders across financial advice, wealth management and technology — predicts technology will be able to provide fully automated, holistic financial planning directly to consumers without any human financial adviser as soon as 2023. But that doesn't mean it will eliminate the need for a human advisers.
"Technology will enable a lot of the data gathering and analysis and monitoring of someone's financial situation" said Joe Maugeri, managing director of CFP Board corporate relations. "However, there is a need for a financial adviser to work through that analysis, explain it and tell the client some of the implications and how [the financial plan] should be implemented over time."
The 2019 report is notably different from a report released when the group first convened three years ago. Discussions back in 2016 focused on robo-advice and artificial intelligence as a threat to human advisers. A report outlining four future scenarios regarding fintech featured a "Judgement Day" scenario, in which consumers in 2020 preferred holistic financial advice from a digital platform, big technology players dominated the market, and advisers were relegated to niche markets.
"Certain areas like artificial intelligence didn't have as much of an impact in the short run than we thought," Mr. Maugeri said.
Though the CFP Board doesn't see technology as a threat, it does believe automation is having a profound impact on client-adviser interactions. Mr. Maugeri said the Digital Advice Working Group is thinking about how this will influence CFP education in the future — in particular, how advisers will use the time that automation frees up.
"We believe the soft skills, particularly around client psychology, will become much more important in the future for the digitally empowered adviser to be successful with the client," Mr. Maugeri said.
The group sees technology's role as one of amplifying human advisers. As the amount of information and data available increases, technology will become an increasingly mandatory part of the adviser's tool kit.
Firms that have implemented new technologies like customer relationship management software or client portals tend to report a successful return on the investment, according to a separate report from research firm Cerulli Associates. However, the majority of firms also admitted their advisers aren't taking full advantage of the technology.
In the case of CRM, advisers are using the software to collect client contact information and mark important dates, but aren't capturing insights around family members, charitable contributions or life milestones.
"Leaders believe this insight can help identify high-impact outreach opportunities, which nearly two-thirds of advisers recognize as an area where they need help," according to the Cerulli report.
Across all channels, three-quarters of advisers believe they could better leverage the technology they have access to, Cerulli reported. The sentiment is even more prevalent among the wirehouses, which have released a flurry of new technology tools for advisers.
"The presence of so many new tools explains why advisory teams can struggle in adopting everything in a cohesive and effective way," Cerulli reported.
Mr. Maugeri said adoption will remain a challenge at most firms as technology develops at a faster pace than advisers can learn how to use it. This isn't always a bad thing, as advisers can avoid the pitfalls that can plague early adopters.