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Archive for October, 2017

Many robo-advisors fail to provide an adequate client assessment

Monday, October 9th, 2017

As the robo-advisor market matures, there is an increasing number of platforms that offer little minimum investment amounts and low fees to attract novice investors across all wealth segments. To provide adequate investment services to unexperienced investors, however, robo platforms must make sure to inform properly about the risk of investing. Even more important, however, is it to provide a thorough client assessment process that covers clients’ financial literacy, their risk tolerance, and their capacity to take risk.

If at all, the average robo-advisor simply asks if a prospect already has some investment experience. Most of these platforms, however, do not take the chance of providing basic educational material for those without any investment knowledge. Only 26% of the robo-advisors do take responsibility and require prospects to first build at least some basic financial knowledge before starting to invest. Interestingly, only 18% of the hybrid platforms (those who provide personal consultation) do so while 36% of the pure robos cater for their clients’ financial literacy during the assessment process. It is likely that the availability of a certain level of human interaction in the case of hybrid platforms make the providers believe that the digital knowledge check is not necessary. However, we are convinced that each robo-advisor must be very clear about the suitability of their investment products and investors’ understanding is an integral part of this.

Most players check their prospects’ risk tolerance and the approaches differ substantially. Some questionnaires use a very scientific assessment of risk tolerance, including psychological and behavioral questions while others rely too much on prospects’ self-perception. One tool even compared the prospect’s self-evaluation of their risk type with the outcome of the risk assessment, which is a very interesting approach to show investors how their perception differs from their actual limits of tolerance. In any case, it is crucial to thoroughly explain the result of the evaluation and make sure that prospects understand the impact of their risk tolerance on their investments.

The third major element is the check for risk capacity. Displaying a highly risk-affine attitude has no meaning without the context of the capacity to take investment risk. It must be clarified whether the investor has any debts and sufficient investable assets before making suitable investment proposals. While this seems very straightforward, it is surprising to see that there are players who simply ignore that. Robo-advisors achieved the point for an adequate risk assessment only if both, the risk tolerance and the risk capacity are checked for. It is alarming that only 78% achieve that point and again, the pure robos give a substantially better performance. While only 65% of the hybrid platforms fulfill this requirement, 93% of the pure tools do so. This result supports the impression that hybrid robo platforms rely too much on the availability of a human advisor clients can turn to instead of implementing these things into their digital onboarding.

Therefore, before caring about financial planning features, portfolio analytics and reporting or the provision of valuable content, robo-advisors are strongly advised to accurately identify prospects’ risk profiles to ensure suitability. Only seven out of the 31 robo platforms included into our benchmarking fulfilled all three criteria, which is disturbing result.

Get more information about the world’s leading robo-advisors and their performances, strengths, weaknesses and best practices in our new Global Robo-Advisor Benchmarking Report 2017.

 
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