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Posts Tagged ‘self-driving car’

The self-driving car is here - but what about self-driving wealth management?

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Today I read that Audi will offer the new version of its A8 flagship model in 2016 with „piloted driving features”. Essentially the car will drive itself under certain circumstances, namely in traffic congestions on the highway. Google Cars have driven more than 1 million kilometers on public roads so far (with only a few minor accidents). It will be only a matter of time until auto-piloted cars will be available on the roads for everyday use. The industry is heavily pushing for a change of traffic laws and it seems that legislators will open up the roads in the near future. The benefits of self-driving cars are clear: fewer accidents, freeing up the driver to attend to other things while riding with her car and overall much smoother traffic and fewer traffic jams due to intelligent routing.

It appears to me that the wealth management industry is today at a similar junction and could push for the auto-piloted investor. But the industry leaders are more skeptical and not quite open to change - just the opposite of the car industry. The products are here - just think ETFs and passive, index-based investing. The technology has been developed: robo-advisors stand ready to help consumers get their investments right. The benefits are clear: Computers are much better investors than human beings.  Passive investing beats active investing in more than 80% of the cases. Algorithms have a much better appreciation of risk and return in financial markets than most private investors (and - I have to add - many professional wealth advisors, too).

But yet we see little enthusiasm in the global banking industry for automated, self-driving investments. The overwhelming majority of global banks leaves it to start-ups like WealthFront or Betterment to bring automated investing to the masses. A notable exception is the brokerage firm Schwab with its Intelligent Portfolio offer and a few online brokers.

It may be the case that banks and wealth managers are fearing that robo-advisors will put pressure on the fees for advisory services. But it should be clear to every industry participant that just as sure as self-driving cars will soon become a mass market, automated investing will be a success story in the financial industry. Why leave it to the start-ups and technology companies?

 
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