Humans Hold Hands as Robos Invade Wealth Management

canstockphoto0128393In an environment of changing demographics and continuing emergence of robo-advisors, the role of a human advisor remains  crucial.

This was the message from Neesha Hathi, EVP of executive services platform at Charles Schwab, during the InVest 2016 conference last week.

The company launched its fully automated Schwab Intelligent Portfolios last year, and as of 1Q 2016 has acquired 72,000 accounts, with the total of $7 billion of assets under management. The human advisor, Hathi emphasized, is now critical for the company.

Automated investing allows us to let human advisors focus on things that humans are doing best. That is asking questions, working with clients during challenging periods, handholding basically. In January, we were watching our clients when the market went through a shakeout. We saw 30% increase in our call volume. Customers were worried, and they wanted to talk to a human person, someone to explain what exactly is happening with the markets. And less than 1% made a change in their portfolios, and that’s good. Sometimes, we underestimate the value of handholding.

Wealth management has historically been an industry that does not innovate quickly, she said. While robo-advising is transforming the industry, that’s by far not the only trend happening in the space. “Newer generations want to interact on a different platform, so the way you find advisors, collaborate with clients, and educate are all undergoing a transformation,” Hathi said. “Digital advising is not new, it is simply accelerating.”

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