While the launch of direct-to-consumer “robo-advisors” hasn’t exactly disrupted the existing AUM of (human) financial advisors, the technology tools of robo-advisors have done much to highlight the inferiority of many of the technology solutions available to advisors today. So much, in fact, that a number of robo-advisors are beginning to pivot and offer their tools for advisors to use with their own clients.
This robo-advisors-for-advisors trend, though, raises interesting questions about how exactly advisors should position themselves and their own value proposition. What is the value of an advisor offering a largely self-service automated investment solution? Is it still in portfolio design and investment selection? Or managing the behavior gap? Or simply an opportunity to focus on other financial planning advice and value-adds instead? And does a robo-advisor-for-advisors solution support AUM pricing, compress it, or force advisors to unbundle instead?
Ultimately, it seems that the adoption of robo-advisor solutions will vary depending on the nature of the advisory firm. For newer startup advisors, the robo-advisor trend may simply be an opportunity to build a more efficient firm from scratch, especially in a world where many investment custodians aren’t welcome of new advisors with no AUM anyway. For other financial-planning-centric advisors, the robo-advisor platforms may simply be a new form of TAMP solution with superior technology. And for existing investment management and wealth management firms, the end point for robo-advisor platforms may be a form of marketing and “feeder” system for clients below the firm’s minimums to start themselves, and then “graduate” to higher level services of the firm as their investment assets, net worth, and financial complexity grow. Though in the long run, robo-advisors that continue to iterate towards new ways to implement investment management through technology – such as Indexing 2.0 solutions – may ultimately present the potential for advisors to offer clients entirely new and previously unseen investment solutions to clients!