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Cetera new facial recognition technology to improve risk questionnaires

Broker-dealer network believes it can give advisers a better understanding of what clients are thinking and feeling about money

Feb 4, 2019 @ 2:00 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Financial planning technology took center stage at this year's T3 Adviser Conference, but it was Cetera Financial Group's demonstration of new facial recognition technology that really stood out in terms of a "wow" factor."

For my money, Cetera's Decipher platform was the coolest piece of adviser fintech I've seen in four years of attending T3. Not just for the actual software, but in demonstrating how exactly advisers can utilize it in their day-to-day practices.

Decipher is a new take on client risk assessment, combining a traditional questionnaire with psychological metrics and facial recognition technology. The software analyzes facial expressions to pick up on emotional changes as the person fills out the questionnaire. It then combines this data with the answers and a behavioral analysis to produce a unique report for each person.

The goal is to give advisers a better understanding of what clients are thinking and feeling about their money and investments, said Adam Antoniades, president of Cetera, who presented the technology at T3.

"If I can derive from you what you define as success, then I can do a much better job of driving to that as an outcome," Mr. Antoniades said.

(More:Is technology helping advisers assess risk?)

The flaw with risk questionnaires as they exist today is that people's own biases can skew answers. In general, people tend to think they are more logically driven when it comes to financial decisions than they actually are, Mr. Antoniades said.

Decipher is built to look past those biases and find insights that the client may not even be aware of. For example, when Mr. Antoniades and his wife took the test, they found they felt very different about buying a new house versus improving their current home.

"We would have never had a conversation in that way," he said. "Coming out of that, we were both ready to give a little bit. That's an experience the adviser created for us."

Decipher will launch later this year as part of Cetera's new AdviceWorks technology platform for advisers and clients.

Driving the broker-dealer network's technology strategy is creating optimal interactions between advisers and clients in five areas: attractive new clients, engaging them, creating a financial plan, implementing the plan and providing ongoing advice.

(More: Financial planning could help advisers retain client assets through a bear market)

Investment performance can come and go, but where advisers can add value consistently is in helping clients behave better with money, Mr. Antoniades said.

"There's a whole new world that's coming about for financial services and for the adviser," he added. "And at the core it's being fueled by technology innovation."

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