Consumers are increasingly comfortable with automated investing, but that may not be such a good thing.
According to a global study conducted by Accenture, seven out of ten consumers surveyed would “welcome” automation—or robo-advisors—into their financial lives, including a high level of comfort, almost 80% (78%), with robos in traditional financial investing where this type of computer-generated technology was first utilized.
Of course, just because consumers are growing more comfortable with robos doesn’t mean they trust them with everything about their money—while 71% of consumers were fine with robos deciding what type of bank account to open, for instance, when it came to the more complex side of consumer financials (like mortgages) well, consumers are still more comfortable with that human touch. In other words, today’s consumers want all of the warmth and initiative of human financial advice, so long as that’s coupled with the speedy data conclusions robo-advisors can make with access to their financials.
There are some areas consumers still want to have an active amount of control over, and experts say, investing should be one of them.
According to Kristi Ross, co-founder of new online brokerage firm tastyworks, the robo-approach to investing is fine for those who are comfortable remaining passive investors; i.e. ceding complete control of their money over to another person, or in the more modern world, to an algorithmically generated piece of computer code.
“If you’re giving your money to someone else, or to a computer [to manage], you must have the belief that the computer’s algorithms are better at stock-picking,” says Ross, whose trading platform but teaches users to trade options—a derivative of stocks—on their own. “What we believe is, ultimately, the markets are random—and that every time you buy a stock you are taking a fifty-fifty bet, making a flip of the coin.”
Of course, there’s really no denying that computers are better–that is to say, faster–at analyzing quantitative data than humans; however, if every stock pick has a random fifty-fifty chance for success, that essentially means a human being’s decisions have the same chance of succeeding as a computer’s for every single one of those picks — a somewhat simplistic view, to be sure (algorithms are capable of looking at more data surrounding a problem than humans ever can, which is why they were invented in the first place) if not entirely unfounded.
It’s an odd way to think of the impact of algorithms on consumer financials when we live in a world where we’re all learning to trust them with everything else, from reminding us of our approaching deadlines to letting us know when we’re out of milk.
Embracing this market randomness is addressed in a recent whitepaper put out by tastyworks’ parent company tastytrade; the tastyworks platform utilizes this approach in order to turn its investors into active participants in the market. The platform—which launched in the first week of January—allows its users to make trades on options, a derivative of stocks.
“Active” investing, according to Ross, allows users to realize that they are the ones who should have the ultimate control over their money and not an algorithm, which is trusted by an inexperienced investor precisely because of its automation and its ability to filter mass amounts of data.
“33% of people attribute [their] lack of financial knowledge as a barrier to beginning trading or investing,” says Ross, whose platform seeks to shatter that assumption. “This is a brokerage firm where you have self-directed investors; we teach the investor to handle [the trades] themselves.”
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