The world has seen more technological advances during the past 25 years than the preceding 100. There’s no reason to think this trend will slow down. Unfortunately, the wealth advisory industry has not maintained the same pace of improvement.
Financial advice can generally be divided into two components: math-based advice and emotion-based advice. Looking forward a quarter century, we can expect significant changes that advisors should prepare for now.
People who hire advisors desire to achieve a few simple goals:
- They wish to maintain or better their style of living;
- They want to pay the least amount of taxes they can legally pay; and
- They want to determine where their assets go and when they go, rather than have the government decide for them.
Everything on this list can be solved by math when given the proper inputs. Today’s financial planning software can easily optimize these outcomes. Tomorrow’s software will do much more as a result of having access to more data. Moreover, the role that most advisors play—the interpreter of all of this data—will be supplanted by easily accessible and consumable artificial intelligence that is always on and always monitoring an authorized set of financial data. Inputs will include spending, savings, your health, where you shop and what you shop for, all while calculating your life expectancy and so much more. AI will be the equivalent of financial planning software that is always on, always connected, never emotional and continuously making judgments based on your data against billions of other people’s petabytes of data—and then constantly adjusting recommendations as appropriate.
In addition to serving as interpreter, many advisors fill the function of emotional counselor, particularly when it relates to their clients’ finances. This role ranges from being the advisor onto whom a consumer has elected to offload their personal financial decision-making responsibility, to being someone who can console investors when markets are volatile.
Tomorrow’s technology will also outperform humans in this regard. Each person’s wearable (or equivalent) device will monitor their heart rate, blood pressure, sweat, body heat and more, knowing what and when each person is reading or watching. All of this data will be interconnected. So, rather than having a quarterly review with a human advisor, your digital advisor will know what information—and in what form—is needed at the exact right time to deliver advice to quell concerns or guide you into making the right decisions.
The computer you talk to will not sound like Alexa or Siri but rather just like the type of human you are most likely to trust. If you don’t believe it’s possible, then you’ve not heard about Google’s Duplex or seen the 2013 movie “Her.” The technology to interface in natural language and voice exists today—imagine what it will be like in 25 years.
Chatbots (or their future derivative) will outperform a human every time. Consider the computer program that recently cheated to improve its output or that AlphaZero, a chess-playing algorithm, learned to play without any human programming beyond the basic rules and then handily beat every opponent—human or computer. Computers can ingest far more data than humans can, and they never sleep. Deep-learning AI learns at a far more rapid pace than humans.
So, what are we human advisors to do? Embrace technology and adapt to its potential, filling in the gaps that still require humans. While AI will learn and adapt, it will not (yet) create.
Steve Lockshin is a founder and principal of AdvicePeriod and former chairman of Convergent Wealth Advisors.