Technology is delivering budget-priced financial advice

Seeking financial advice generally has a positive impact on an individual’s financial wellbeing. The Fidelity International Value of Advice report issued in 2020, found that:

  • 74.3 per cent of Australians currently receiving financial advice say their financial wellbeing has improved as a result
  • 88.5 per cent believe it has given them greater peace of mind financially
  • 86.2 per cent say it has given them greater control over their financial situation.

Even the ‘unadvised’ recognise the potential benefits of advice, with the majority believing that:

  • receiving advice would give them greater peace of mind financially (64.4 per cent), or
  • greater control over their financial situation (63.3 per cent).

There is only one catch – the majority of Australians cannot afford it. Technology can bridge the advice affordability gap simply by using artificial intelligence (AI).

Accessing advice means you can make sense of complex and ever-changing superannuation, tax and Centrelink rules, and avoid costly mistakes and keep up with any entitlements.

Giving people access to affordable advice – through the use of AI – can help the nation’s pension, social service, health and aged care funding requirements, and improve the country’s overall finances, as those who receive any form of advice are more likely to be in a better financial position than those who do not.

How robo-advice can deliver personalised advice

The federal government, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and industry participants support the use of technology to deliver affordable personal advice, that is, advice created by an algorithm (defining a set of rules or instructions to determine a particular outcome) versus a human adviser. This type of advice is generally called robo-advice.

The alternative, traditional, multi-topic comprehensive advice is unaffordable for most people. Initial advice can cost about $4000, with a similar (annual) outlay each time that advice needs to be reviewed.

However, it must be emphasised that not all clients are eligible for robo-advice, as their circumstances are complex, most likely requiring advice on multiple interrelated topics. They would therefore benefit from the expertise of a financial adviser.

What are the benefits of using an algorithm?

An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

As the development of any financial plan is governed by a strict set of rules that cover such topics as super, insurance, legal and tax, designing an algorithm to deliver digitally supported advice eliminates human bias.

However, this advice is not of the (complex) comprehensive style, but rather ‘single topic’ or ‘episodic advice’. For most of the population – 95 per cent per cent of households earn less than $150,000 per annum – this is perfectly acceptable.

moneyGPS focus group research

In December 2019, moneyGPS commissioned an independently managed focus group research project to determine consumers’ views and attitudes to using digitally supported advice tools.

Surprisingly, the idea of using AI to generate advice was well received.

The key reasons given by the group for using self-led advice technology were because it was:

  • Inexpensive – i.e. less than $300 per topic versus potentially thousands
  • Convenient – accessing and understanding it in their own time
  • Flexible – they can go online only or talk to someone (via a Zoom style service)
  • Targeted – only using the topics that are important to them
  • Safe – all documents and the AI is compliant which provides that sense of confidence.

Additional feedback included:

  • While almost all participants had thought about talking to a financial adviser, most had not, citing cost as the main barrier.
  • Users were keen for their data to be transferred from their accountants to pre-populate the questionnaire making it easier to complete.
  • Because most people were looking for solutions for a ‘single issue’, they were comfortable with the using AI-driven advice technology, as long it delivered simple, convenient solutions, at a low cost.

What type of advice can technology help deliver and what does it cost?

There seems to be a trend to use technology for either fully client-led advice or a hybrid digital-human experience.

The former is designed to deliver affordable advice covering single topic plans. Each plan could cost less than $300, which research tells us is an acceptable price point.

The hybrid solution is focused on people with complex situations and who can afford to work with an adviser. Some of the work uses AI, with final advice validated by the adviser. It’s a more involved and expensive experience.

Importantly, using AI means that advice solutions can be scaled, meaning the advice can be delivered and used by a large volume of people at any one time at a very cost-effective fee.

What can go wrong?

The algorithm creating the advice must be kept updated to cater for any changes to rules for tax, super, insurance and so on. Not keeping the information up to date could cause incorrect advice recommendations to be issued.

Today’s operators are guided by regulatory requirements across both digital and traditional services – everyone is in the same boat, to make sure they keep their systems updated.

AI and the Retirement Income Covenant (RIC)

The government intends to introduce the proposed covenant on 1 July 2022 and it will require trustees of superannuation funds to formulate, review and give effect to a retirement income strategy for members. This means trustees will be responsible for ensuring their members have an appropriate strategy to cater for their retirement income needs.

What does this have to do with AI?

It is possible to use AI to determine the most appropriate mix of assets – super, Age Pension and property – to meet a client’s income needs and then to identify suitable products.

Taking it one step further, using technology to develop new AI capability can assist in designing new products to help meet a trustee’s responsibilities under the covenant well before the consumer reaches retirement age – thus delivering much-needed, affordable advice at a critical life stage.

Technology and AI can collaborate with financial advisers

There is absolutely no reason why AI-driven advice technology cannot work with any financial adviser to complement an adviser’s business offering. AI should be considered an adviser’s new best friend.

As the cost to serve increases for the financial planning industry, advisers must view the use of AI-based advice tools as a necessary component of their value proposition.

George Haramis is the CEO and co-founder of moneyGPS. moneyGPS is powered by a state-of-the-art AI system to assist consumers navigate their finances with ease, delivering simple, convenient advice solutions. Visit www.moneygps.com.au

Fiduciary Financial Services Pty Ltd, AFSL: 247344, trading as moneyGPS.

Disclaimer: All content in the Retirement Affordability Index™ is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

Have you used robo-advice? Do you see the value in the option? Why not share your views in the comments section below?If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Written by George Haramis

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