Workers have feared machines stealing their jobs ever since the spinning jenny weaved its first thread, kicking off the industrial revolution. And those worries are echoed today, with automation being behind the decline in jobs such as pharmacy assistants and travel agents in Britain. However, it seems as if financial consultants are quite safe for now because few bank customers would trust a fully digital adviser with their money.
Having surveyed 14,692 people from 15 countries, ING, the bank, has revealed that only 4% of its European customers would take investment advice from an online computer program. Instead 15% of people are more likely to speak to a friend and 16% would rather refer to expert advice on a website. And, luckily for financial consultants, 40% would much rather speak with a real person about handling their investments.
The research also suggests there could be a gender and age divide when it comes to how comfortable people are with having machines do things for them. When ING asked how at ease people would be with having robots do things like sending birthday cards, ordering milk and investing money, men were about 10% more comfortable than women. Additionally, this discomfort level rose the older the customers were.
However, financial advisers may want to hold off before bringing out the Champagne. Commenting on the results, Martin Krebs, global head of retail investment product solutions at ING, said it’s only a matter of time before automated advisers win consumers over. “It takes a little while for people to get comfortable with new technical possibilities,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago it was hard to imagine that one day people would entrust billions in savings to online banks. Now that’s a daily reality.” He added that “robo-advice provides a level of service that, until now, was only available to customers with large investment portfolios” and that the technology is able to tailor its services to suit customers’ needs.
So while the rise of the machines isn’t threatening advisers’ jobs just yet, it may be a good idea for them to look for ways to boost their skills in preparation for what’s coming next.