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Steve Sanduski on “Being Human” During the Coming Robo Revolution

In this Elite Advisor Blueprint podcast, we discuss changes on the horizon of financial advice.


If you’re in the financial services industry, then you’ve probably heard of Steve Sanduski. He’s an industry pioneer who helped launch a multi-billion-dollar registered investment advisory at Securities America. He also played an instrumental role in founding the advisor-coaching firm Carson Group Coaching (formerly Peak Advisor Alliance) with Ron Carson, and has authored two books on building your ideal practice. 

I invited him on my show, where we discussed one of the hottest, and most feared, topics in financial advice: The dreaded “robo advisor.” 

Don’t Fear the Robot Uprising: Where Robots Fall Short

Advisors have long worried that robots will eventually replace them. This fear is misplaced, to say the least. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things have progressed at a startling pace, and the financial services sector has not been immune. Many tasks once undertaken by advisors have increasingly been fulfilled by technology, and that trend won’t stop any time soon.

Listen to Steve explain how humans hold a vital edge

Don’t start updating your resume just yet, though. Robos will not put you out of business. Without humans interpreting data sets, they are no more than charts full of numbers. Humans are also vital when it comes to handling the emotional side of money, arguably the most important part of an advisor’s job (as the recent 1,000-point drop in the Dow suggests). 

Differentiate Yourself and Define Your Target Audience

Recently, Steve delivered a talk called “Why Should I Choose You?” He pulled three financial advisors up onstage and asked each to describe what made him unique. By the end, it was tough to tell them apart.

As you attempt to separate yourself from your human and robot competition, solidifying your own unique value proposition becomes more and more important. To succeed in this industry, you need “extreme clarity” on what you do, what value you provide, and your specific target audience. This will help you create marketing material that attracts the right prospects and keeps the wrong ones at bay. 

Don’t Let Technology Damage the Client Experience

Steve talks often of advisors who once embraced technology for its convenience, but find that it ultimately took away from the client experience. Software can alleviate data entry, for example, but if all you’re doing is sending clients a link and asking them to input data themselves, you aren’t serving them. You’re not even increasing efficiency—which is the whole reason you implemented technology in the first place.

Ergo, exercise caution when adopting new technology. Always assess whether it truly enhances the client experience or if it just makes your life easier. 

Study How Retirement Planning Services Are Changing 

The robo revolution isn’t the only trend Steve and I covered. “Old age” is getting older, and retirement looks vastly different than it used to. Your clients are routinely living into their 80s, 90s, or even 100s. They’ve often taken a more circuitous path to get there than their predecessors, having worked many different jobs, and have potentially revisited higher education throughout their professional lives.

Steve says advisors need to school themselves on these changes to the retirement landscape. Advisors who fail to recognize, and respond to, the evolving characteristics of their client base will go the way of the dinosaur. 

Help Clients Leverage Their Money to Live Their Best Life

When you think about how you’re serving your clients, you need to think beyond basis points. You should be helping your clients answer the question, “How can I get the best life possible with the money I have?” This will ingratiate you to them far more than any investment return ever could.

Have conversations with your clients that are centered around what’s most important to them. Find out what they want out of life—if it’s to travel the world in retirement or put their grandchildren through college—and then use your technical skills to help them get there. 

“Return on Life” Instead of “Return on Investment”

Finally, Steve, and his partner Mitch Anthony, think that the industry is moving away from traditional ROI and moving toward a “return on life” service approach. Money is no longer an “end” for clients, it’s the means to the end, so they can live out their dreams. 

Life planning is not new, but Steve says the term has become too esoteric and watered down. As a result, it has yet to be embraced by the advisor community. Steve has made it his personal mission to fix this.

Steve also has an incredible podcast called Between Now and Success, and when I read the list of guests he has hosted on his show, I must say, I got a little jealous: Tony Robbins, Ric Edelman, David Bach, Joe Duran and Marty Bicknell, just to name a few.

Full show notes here:

Brad Johnson, vice president of advisor development for Advisors Excel, mentors a small group of the country’s most elite financial advisors. Find more episodes of The Elite Advisor Blueprint podcast at

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