Straight Talk

Here’s why robo-advisors won’t replace human financial advisors

Key Points
  • Joe Duran, CEO of United Capital: Financial advisors can use technology to improve efficiency.
  • Robo-advisory alone lacks the human element, which is essential to comprehensive financial planning.
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Don't expect robo-advisors to fully replace their human counterparts anytime soon.

Robo-advisors give retail investors access to automated investment strategies, creating portfolios and coming up with an asset allocation that's based on client data points, including time horizon and risk tolerance.

As convenient as it may be, this technology doesn't make human financial advisors obsolete, said Joe Duran, founder and CEO of United Capital.

That's because robo-advisors fail to account for the complexity of financial planning, he says.

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"The thing I say to most people who say, 'I don't need a human,' it's absolutely true if you're really young, have very little to lose and have very little [financial] complexity," he said.

The picture changes once clients start families or create businesses. In that case, human advisors can help them adjust their finances, assess their priorities and ensure they meet their goals, said Duran.

Sometimes that means saving clients from themselves.

"Our natural instinct, especially when it comes to money is to do the wrong thing," said Duran.

"We all want to buy a house we can't afford, and we all want to send our kids to private school," he said. "The reality is, technology is never going to be able to say to you, 'I'm not sure that's a great idea.'"

Rather than competing with robo-advisors, human financial advisors can leverage that technology to improve their efficiency by providing access to investment portfolios, document vaults and client portals.

By optimizing technology, advisors can also improve client communications and make themselves more available to investors, particularly via mobile devices.

"What a great advisor will do is use technology to be more connected to your life, to be able to comprehensively simplify your financial life and then interact at your convenience when you're ready," Duran said.