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How Tech Changes Role Of Wealth Advisors - JHC

Jackie Bennion

10 October 2019

Andrew Watson, who earlier this month stepped into the newly-created post of chief product officer at UK wealthtech provider  , spoke to WealthBriefing about how he sees technology changing the role of advisors and what kind of tools they should be making a priority. The interview continues our series on the transforming (sometimes disruptive) effects of digital on wealth managers. (The publication's editor and CEO also discuss the issues here in a recent video.)

What specific examples can you give of where technology is having the most impact and where firms need to be doing more?
Firms need the right technology not only to help win business by improving customer engagement, but also to give them the scale and capacity to do this while continuing to offer high value, personalised services that deliver the best investment outcomes. But it's important that the back-office is not overlooked. It's crucial that firms have technology in place to enhance day-to-day processes in order to increase efficiency and reduce operational cost.

Of all the changes wrought by tech, what’s been the most significant change to how advisors work?
Digital allows advisors to illustrate investments in an engaging way. We're very excited by ESG and how this can be used as a client engagement tool by giving advisors more opportunities to understand the customers' needs and provide investments that reflect customer values. The challenge here is meaningful data, but that's a problem that is being solved and technology has a big part in aggregating the data and using it in a meaningful way to inform customers and help investment managers make better decisions.

A big debate recently has been whether tech such as artificial intelligence is going to either replace people or make them more effective, or possibly a bit of both. What in your view is the likely outcome?
Increased use of digital to engage with clients is imperative, but it is most effective when delivered with a human touch and used to support face-to-face interactions with advisors. I do expect to see more gradual growth in automated advice but this continues to be slow as people will continue to want advice from people they can trust when investing for their future. We are seeing a role for AI when it comes to analysing data and helping investment managers optimise portfolios for risk, return and (coming soon) ESG.

Do you see different levels of tech adoption by advisors of varying ages and backgrounds? Have you seen any specific trends?
We're definitely seeing increased adoption of digital technology such as client portals even amongst our older, more conservative clients. This will help our clients drive down costs by taking care of lower value activities such as sending documents and updating details.

In five or ten years’ time, in what ways do you think the role of advisors will have changed and to what extent will tech be the reason for that?
In 5 years' time, there will still be a demand for advisors out in the field as people will still want peace of mind and someone they trust when investing. However, the advisors will need the right technology in order to be able to better illustrate the customers' state of affairs and, when required, provide real insight into the make up of the investments.