"We're watching them, but we don't see them as competition at this point," said Mark Stadtlander, certified financial planner and CEO of Foster Group, a firm managing nearly $1.5 billion. Foster Group wasranked 13th on the CNBC list. "People can answer questionnaires, and they can have portfolios built for them, but they can't get ongoing conversations about their future and what concerns them."
The element of human interaction remains a big competitive advantage for traditional advisors, say wealth management leaders. "What's missing with most of these websites is experience and credentials," said Jana Shoulders, CEO and co-founder of Adams Hall Wealth Advisors, No. 6 on the CNBC list. "They're designed for do-it-yourselfers, and it's great to have those resources available to people, but it's important to have the human component available as well. This is still a trust business."
Read MoreAdvisors must rethink their role
Shoulders, too, thinks engaging people about their finances as they head toward retirement is a very good thing. Her firm has joined a collective effort spearheaded by Mariner Wealth Advisors to offer advisory services to clients without investment minimums.
The resulting firm, FirstPoint Financial, was launched last year and charges 1.25 percent on assets up to $1 million. That's significantly higher than most of the online advisory websites, but FirstPoint also offers access to experienced financial advisors—in face-to-face meetings, if desired.
"Emerging affluent [investors] are sharp people. They see the need and value of good financial guidance," said Shoulders.