Capital Markets Corporate

March 20, 2020

A blended approach: Why tech will never replace humans in financial services



Attending the Investment Innovators 2020 Wealth Summit last week was an interesting affair. Dubbed the last conference in London before the government banned mass gatherings, I arrived to have my forehead zapped with a thermometer and hands doused in sanitiser – not quite the welcome I would have anticipated just days before.

However, while the number of attendees was lower than originally expected, the mood in the room was one of resilience and ambition. Speakers focused on the role of wealth management in supporting their clients, providing bespoke services to meet different needs, creating a community of customers and the role of tech in facilitating all of the above while maintaining the importance of human relationships.

Now, just over a week since the conference, as the global situation continues to change on a daily basis and we attempt to navigate our new reality for the short term at least, I reflect on last week’s insight with fresh perspective.

Don’t underestimate the power of being human

In an environment where contact with friends, family and colleagues has been severely restricted, I can’t help but think of the years we have spent debating the role of technology and sharing fears that it would one day remove the need for humans in many roles. From teachers to PRs, retail assistants to wealth managers, it has sometimes felt that few are safe from the march of technology, whether that be in the form of robots, AI or machine learning.

While the advent of tech has seen the financial services sector come on leaps and bounds over the last decade – enabling the democratisation of finance, providing education and advice to those previously shut out, and making the most cumbersome processes more efficient and speedy – a key learning for me from the last few weeks is that nothing can replace the necessity and desire for human interaction.

Speakers at the summit spoke of the best bits of wealth management being inherently human, with tech positioned as more of a tool to help educate and empower people to better understand their wealth. They explained that tech should complement the expertise and guidance offered by human advisers to help clients achieve their financial goals and provide the best service possible.

A brave new world?

As the country navigates the next few months, prioritising our personal health and that of the economy, many will also be considering the impact of the current situation on their investment portfolios in the longer term. Already, some investors will have received notifications from their wealth managers highlighting a 10% reduction in portfolio value, as mandated by MiFID II, which will inevitably be cause for concern for many.

If the last few weeks have taught us anything, while online and digital platforms will certainly be key to ensuring efficient management of our finances in the interim, there is no substitute for the value of personal relationships and human interactions as we enter a potentially brave new world going forward.

With undoubted challenges ahead, financial advisers that can share guidance on the most effective ways to secure our futures and those of our families will be key – from supporting clients who have experienced a change in employment status to others starting to consider longer term succession planning.

Effective communications with a personal touch will be key in the months to come and it will be the advisers that understand the significance of their relationship with their clients and the role they play in their lives that will prove themselves invaluable