Tech Talk: Disrupting the Industry

Brendan McConnellBrendan McConnell, Chief Operating Officer

Over the last two years we have seen a tremendous amount of change driven by technology in the financial services industry—an industry that has gone from lagging around technology innovation to one that is very much at the forefront. With change comes disruption, and we are beginning to witness a tremendous amount as wealth management firms adjust to offer technology-driven investor experiences.

One recent disruption that has seemingly dominated headlines is that of the online digital advice firms, perhaps more widely known as the “robo advisor.” In most cases, these platforms provide a lower-cost, time-saving alternative for the average investor complete with a more frictionless experience through the use of technology. These firms have set a new baseline around portfolio management, and traditional advisory firms are reacting.

Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Vanguard are three major institutions now offering, or planning to offer, their own digital wealth platforms. They are making a conscious and deliberate investment to deliver this type of technology to the segment of investors who would prefer less human interaction and faster execution of transactions. These platforms also allow the financial advisor to bring additional scale to their own practices.

At Brinker Capital, we hear concerns from financial advisors on how this new class of investment management is impacting the industry and, more importantly, how it’s impacting them. Suffice it to say that the real impact on the rise of technology in the industry will ultimately be a positive impact for advisors and investors. These new technology innovations are making their way into the hands of financial advisors to in turn offer to their clients. This will lead to a more efficient and productive advisor with the ability to serve a broader audience of consumers looking for financial planning and advice. The future-ready advisor will be one that can offer comprehensive financial planning while maximizing the technology available in the industry.

Technology is changing the way consumers view financial advisors. The services that consumers value most from advisors has certainly started to shift. This has upended the advisor value stack. At a recent Fidelity Investment conference, Sanjiv Mirchandani, President at Fidelity National Financial Clearing and Custody, outlined Fidelity’s vision of the future advisor (images below) with a simple and easy-to-understand visual of the current advisor value stack.

The traditional financial advisor value stack:

Advisor_Value_Stack_Traditional

Source: Sanjiv Mirchandani, Fidelity

Now, technology and investor preference has upended and squeezed the top-end of the value stack:

Advisor_Value_Stack

Source: Sanjiv Mirchandani, Fidelity

What Fidelity is identifying here is that investors are putting greater importance on financial planning and behavioral management when selecting a financial advisor. This is the opportunity for a financial advisor to demonstrate their value and justify their fee over the digital advice offering. Fees are less of a concern with advisors who are following this new value model. The new future-ready architecture is one that supports goal-based financial planning and a digital experience. Advisors who focus on these values seem better positioned to succeed in this evolving landscape. Advisors should focus less on the portfolio management, outsourcing these duties, and more on a planning centric client relationship maximized by technology.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Managing Emotions During Life’s Disruptions

Sue BerginSue Bergin, President, S Bergin Communications

It seems like a new survey comes out daily revealing how ill-prepared Americans are for retirement. Well, to reference one, now there is a study that shows two-thirds of those who have saved for retirement may still fall behind.

TD Ameritrade’s 2015 Financial Disruptions Survey shows that unexpected events have cost Americans $2.5 trillion in lost savings. [1] Typical scenarios involve unemployment or having to take a lower-paying job, starting a family and/or buying a home, assuming a care-taking role, experiencing poor investment or business performance, suffering an accident/illness or disability, divorce, separation, or becoming a widow or widower.

No surprise that any one of these events would cause stress. As explained in the best-selling book, Personal Benchmark, Integrating Behavioral Finance and Investment Management, stress triggers a move away from a rational and cognitive decision-making style in favor of an effective style driven by emotions. Research also has suggested that we experience a 13% reduction in our intelligence during times of stress, as valuable psychophysiological resources are shunted away from the brain in service of our ability to fight or flee. [2]

When under stress, emotional decisions tend to be myopic. We privilege the now and forget about the future. Decisions made under stress are also reactive. Since our body is being signaled that something dangerous is imminent, we tend to react rather than reason. Reacting is great for swerving to miss a car, but not such a great impulse to follow when it comes to setting a course that will traverse the next five years.

What we learn from the study is that the average length of the disruption was five years. These weren’t one-time events or blips on a radar screen. They were prolonged periods over that necessitated several financial decisions.

84% of those who suffered from disruptions indicated that prior thereto, they had been saving $530 per month for long-term financial goals/retirement. During the “disruption” savings were reduced by almost $300, which had a cumulative adverse impact on their long-term goal, on average of over $16,200.

Interestingly, the TD study asked how they could be better prepared for the unexpected. The vast majority focused on what authors of Personal Benchmark suggest in helping to manage emotions during stressful times, which is to focus on matters within their control. The top five responses included:

  • save more (44%)
  • start saving earlier (36%)
  • better educate self on investments (26%)
  • consult with a financial advisor (19%)
  • pay closer attention to investments (15%)

There are two key takeaways from this study. Expect the unexpected by doing as much advanced planning and saving as possible. And, when life does throw you a curve ball, manage your emotions by focusing on matters with personal significance and those that are within your personal control.

[1] http://www.amtd.com/files/doc_downloads/research/Disruptor_Survey_2015.pdf

[2] Dr. Greg Davies, Managing Director, Head of Behavioral and Quantitative Investment Philosophy at Barclays Wealth

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.