Q&A: Kent Smetters To Investors: Don't Go Bot

Q&A: Kent Smetters To Investors: Don't Go Bot

Kent Smetters, the founder and former president of the online-based financial planning firm Veritat, recently shepherded his firm through a buyout with LPL-based NestWise in July. We asked the current Boettner Chair Professor at the Wharton School why he believes his hybrid model of personal interaction with advisors, coupled with occasional online connections is a better option for the future than the current rise of pure-play Internet based bots crunching through a financial plan.

"The number one question isn’t how cool is your technology, but what motivates you as an advisor. Where do they add value, and where they add value is not having two clients with identical financial plans. It's having great science but then bringing in the advisor. The fact is people are going to the platform with some wishes that they want to talk about. Those things are where advisors add tremendous value.

Everyone in 2008 was choosing Path A, get rid of the advisor, have a portal, put something in and bam something comes out. But the second real issue was survey after survey shows that people really don't want to get investment advice from such an anonymous and impersonal way.

To do comprehensive financial planning you need science and technology, but it's a person issue. The idea that after all the years you've worked, you should now trust that to a computer program? Don't get me wrong, there's no question there’s a decent sized self-directed market of about 17%. But most people want to talk to someone. The average American doesn't know the difference between a stock and a bond. The average American comes to a financial advisor because they don't know where to get started.

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