Special Feature

A Digital Partnership

A three-part web-exclusive series on working with robo-advisors. Part one looks at the different advisor platforms available from robo-advisors. Part two examines how you can partner with a robo-advisor. And, part three outlines the additional services the advisor can bring to the digital table. Photo copyright: ne2pi/123RF


Advisors can show their worth during volatile markets, and with complex financial planning needs

By Fiona Collie |

Robo-advisors can help boost the efficiency and productivity of a financial advisor's business through the use of digital onboarding processes or the outsourcing of a client's investment portfolio. But there are still some tasks that flesh and blood advisors can do that technology simply cannot replace.

For example, advisors can help clients with more complex wealth-management needs — from insurance and tax to estate planning. Advisors can also have deeper conversations with clients about their financial goals, such as leaving legacies for their children. As well, advisors are better suited to help with the emotional side of financial planning, particularly when it comes to retirement.

"A lot of times, advisors get into counselling couples on retirement because [that's] going to be a big change for them," says April-Lynn Levitt, a coach with the Personal Coach in Oakville, Ont. "Yes, you can plug the calculations in somewhere to help you with an online tool, but it's the softer, more emotional side where the advisor is adding value."

Similarly, advisors may prove to be of more value to clients during volatile markets when investors are tempted to make hasty decisions.

"[Investors are] not rational," says Levitt. "They get out [of the markets] when they shouldn't get out and the get [into the markets] when they shouldn't get in."

Thus, advisors can help clients stick to a specific plan rather than make decisions based on emotion.

It should be noted that these tech start-ups are not as "robotic" as their moniker implies. Securities regulators require robo-advisors to have licensed representatives on staff who can double check the portfolios and confirm client information during the onboarding process. Furthermore, many of these new platforms have launched — or are working on — advisor channels of their own.

"I actually do believe that there is always a place for an advisor in a relationship with a client, no matter what the platform," says Tea Nicola, founder and CEO of Vancouver-based robo-advisor WealthBar Financial Services Inc., "which is why every WealthBar client gets a dedicated advisor, financial planning services and a conversation — and that's part of our retail model."

For Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist Business Development in Montreal, advisors who partner with robo-advisors can adopt a similar business model as those who primarily use managed products. In such cases, in which a client's investments are largely handled by a third-party, the advisor's role is more of a quarterback overseeing a client's entire wealth-management plan.

"That's what really allows the advisor to be out there and present with their clients [and] looking at the wealth management aspect [of their lives]," says Gilbert, "because they're not just stuck in front of their screens managing the market all the time."

This is the final article in a three-part series on robo-advisors.