‘Robo advisers’ increasingly accepted – but branch still vital

More people are ready to accept financial advice from robot advisers using artificial intelligence (AI), according to new research – but this should not come at the expense of human interaction.

A global study by Accenture revealed seven out of ten consumers around the world would welcome robo-advice services when it comes to activities including banking, insurance and retirement planning.

Emerging markets were found to be particularly open to this technology, with Indonesia (92 percent), Thailand (90 percent), Brazil (86 percent) and Chile (84 percent) leading the way. Accenture observed these are all nations where smartphones are commonly used as primary banking devices, suggesting it may only be a small step from embracing mobile banking to using AI.

Even in the countries that showed the lowest interest in robo advisers, such as Germany, Canada and Australia, more than half of respondents said they were prepared to accept such technology.

Key reasons for using these services include the promise of faster answers (39 percent), less expensive offerings (31 percent) and the belief that AI advisers will be more impartial than humans (26 percent).

However, this does not mean the days of discussing things with a human adviser in branch are over. In fact, Accenture’s research showed nearly two-thirds of consumers still want human interaction in their financial services, particularly when it comes to handling complaints (68 percent) and dealing with complex products such as mortgages (61 percent).

Senior managing director at Accenture Financial Services Piercarlo Gera noted that while financial institutions might expect the introduction of AI to reduce their internal costs, it is essential they do not view this technology as a replacement for the branch and the unique service that human staff can provide.

“Successful financial services firms will therefore need a “phygital” strategy that seamlessly integrates technology, branch networks and staff to provide a service that combines physical and digital capabilities and gives consumers a choice,” he said.

Written by Jack Dougal