Industry News

The trend is being driven by wealthier clients, who believe that traditional human advisors don’t provide “sufficient value,” new Accenture report finds

By Beatrice Paez |

 

A slight majority of investors don't want to deal with either upstart robo-advisors or established, traditional financial advisors. Instead, they want a hybrid scenario that marries the best of both worlds, according to a new report from global consulting firm Accenture LLP.

Specifically, 51% of investors in the U.S. and Canada across a range of asset classes who were surveyed for the report prefer combination of face-to-face, personalized advice and access to low-cost digital tools, rather than retaining only a dedicated advisor or relying on a robo-advisory service.

Notably, it appears that ultra high net-worth (UHNW) investors with more than $10 million in investible assets are driving this trend as 72% of UHNW individuals surveyed say human advisors don't offer "sufficient value."

That sentiment is also shared among high net-worth investors with investible assets of between $1.5 million and $10 million as 56% of them say they need more than just traditional advice.

"Hybrid" advice, as defined by the study, typically features a digital platform that clients can use "alongside an advisor, brokerage, or robo-account." It also involves "periodic" meetings to go over a financial plan with a certified advisor. Under this model, advisors can weigh in on the digital advice clients receive.

"The ‘robo vs human advisor' debate has lost relevance for investors and wealth and asset managers in North America," says Kendra Thompson, managing director and head of Accenture's global wealth management practice, in a statement. "Our research clearly shows that investors want a combination of automated and human advisory services."

Those who use some form of hybrid advice, the report suggests, appear to be more engaged in the management of their wealth. For example, 64% of those who opt for the hybrid route say they're proactive about getting help with their financial plans.

That's in contrast to just 44% of those who depend entirely on either an automated service or traditional advisor.

Accenture's report says firms shouldn't "fear giving more control to their clients" by giving them access to digital tools because it creates a sense of transparency if they can get a "real-time understanding" of their investments.

From a demographic perspective, millennials and Gen Xers appear to be most open to embracing the hybrid model while baby boomers are holding out on migrating a portion of their portfolio to automated services, the report says.

Perhaps that's because there's a greater sense of distrust in human advisors among these younger generations. In fact, the report finds that 52% of millennials surveyed won't take the word of their advisor — until they seek out another opinion. That's in contrast to just 18% of baby boomers who prefer a second consultation.

Moreover, millennials don't see much advantage in working with dedicated advisors alone, as 64% want both the convenience that a robo-advisory firm can afford and in-depth planning that an advisor can offer.

Although many millennials are more reluctant to rely solely on a traditional advisor, the report notes, they're still willing to pay more for advice, if that means they can growth their wealth.

Fees remain a sensitive subject among investors surveyed, with 42% saying that the cost of advice is too steep and 33% saying they're still in the dark about how much is paid to advisors.

As more investors drift to a hybrid model, the report anticipates an evolution in the how firms charge fees, giving way to an "a la carte" option, which might entail a flat fee, topped with extra fees.

Accenture's online survey sampled 1,354 active investors between the ages of 21 and 70 who have between $250,000 and more than $10 million in investible assets in the autumn 2016. About 20% of those surveyed, 272, reside in Canada.

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