Schwab’s Robo Success Depends Largely on Humans

  • Diana Asatryan
  • December 21, 2016
  • 1

canstockphoto3621509In the transition from in-person advice from financial planners, to a fully robo experience available at your fingertips, there is (at least) one step in between: the cyborg model. In the world of financial advice, a hybrid advisory system, which combines fully automated algorithm-driven advice and certified (human) professionals, seems to be what FIs and customers are most comfortable with these days.

Last week, for example, Charles Schwab announced the launch of a new wealth management product: a hybrid robo advisory service dubbed Schwab Intelligent Advisory. The new service will provide investors with a financial plan and a fully automated portfolio, coupled with guidance from planning consultants, which will be available round the clock. “Clients will use a self-guided online planning tool to provide insights into their specific financial situation and goals, followed by a one-on-one conversation via phone or videoconference with a credentialed planning consultant to review the plan, prioritize goals and discuss investment choices,” a Schwab spokeswoman told Bank Innovation. “Regular check-ins can be scheduled online and will typically occur annually, but clients can engage with planning consultants as needed, and also have access to live service support via phone, chat and email.”

Technology can make portfolio management and some aspects of financial planning more efficient, but, according to Schwab, there will always be a need for human advisors “when it comes to building a trusted relationship and reassuring investors through uncertain or complex situations,” the spokeswoman said.

And Schwab saw that happen already, back in January, said Neesha Hathi, EVP of Schwab’s executive services platform. “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,” she said during the InVest 2016 conference earlier this year. “And less than 1% made a change in their portfolios, and that’s good.” Automated investing, according to Hathi, allows human advisors focus on things “that humans are doing best, and that is asking questions, working with clients during challenging periods, handholding basically,” she added.

Schwab’s new service will require a $25,000 minimum investment, and will charge clients 0.28 basis points. Schwab Intelligent Advisory will roll out in early 2017.

The company’s original robo service, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, which was launched in June 2015, now has $10.2 billion in assets, the company said. 

Bank of America, Capital One, BBVA, Morgan Stanley, among others, have already rolled out automated wealth management services, also following a hybrid (for now?) robo model. 

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