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Amelia

robot

Late last month, technology company IPsoft announced the release of Amelia. According to the brochure, Amelia is an “artificial intelligence platform that can understand, learn and interact as a human would to solve problems. Amelia reads natural language, understands context, applies logic, infers implications, learns through experience and even senses emotions.” The current target use for Amelia is manning call centers for a range of industries including financial services.

Given what Amelia can do now, we wonder how long it would be before a new robo-advisor, bolts on a “bot” like Amelia to their investment platform to produce a fully automated end-to-end wealth management service.

Perhaps not so long, since, in reality, forces (scalability, profitability, growth) have been preparing the “back end” of wealth management to fit with an algorithmically driven front end for quite a while. One might call it the scientization of wealth services. Passive or index investing is competing strongly with the “art” of stock selection. Client needs assessments, risk profiling, model development and asset allocation, have all become rules-based systems guided by behavioral science and quantitative financial research. Trading and rebalancing are automated and feed straight through to custody and reporting. The only “human intervention” left is client management which is where Amelia comes in. But since the back end has been so thoroughly formalized, Amelia’s job is much simpler. The kind of gray area that typically leads to client questions requiring judgment and experience to answer is largely gone.

All that’s needed for such a wealth advisory service to succeed are affluent customers convinced of the validity of (computer) science and comfortable with managing important activities with “apps.” It remains to be seen how comfortable wealthy individuals will be with this construct.