Just Ask

As a communications firm, we have often surveyed wealth management clients to find out their preferences when it comes to reporting. A common response shared by mass affluent and UHNW respondents alike is simplicity. They do not want to have to search through complicated or lengthy statements to find out where they stand, why and what might have gone wrong. They instead want easy access to information tailored to address their specific questions.

Typically, reports, hard copy or electronic, are by necessity preformatted. They presuppose what the client wants to see and how they want to see it. While some reporting engines are customizable, fashioning formats or formulating queries requires understanding navigation tools and performing process steps. For many, it’s too difficult, annoying or time consuming.

Enter the digital assistant. Amazon reported selling some 20 million Alexa enabled devices just this holiday season, a testament to ballooning acceptance in the retail market. Through its cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon is also aggressively marketing Alexa to financial institutions. Fidelity, Capital One, Betterment and LPL are all first adopters. UBS has reportedly partnered with AWS to enable both advisors and clients to get answers to financial and economic questions through Alexa.

It’s not too far a reach to expect Alexa, or other digital assistants, to be connected soon with financial accounts, with the ability to employ artificial intelligence (AI) to answer client questions regarding holdings, performance, goal tracking, transactions, fees or other account related issues. For the client, this means immediate satisfaction to any account related question, no matter how specific.

But, as with UBS, Alexa may also enable access to the vast economic, financial and market data and research available on the internet or through leading advisory firms. This suggests that clients may turn to their digital assistant for other questions about their accounts, such as: How have I done versus market indices?

1.  How have I done versus market indices?

2. What mutual funds outperformed mine?

3. Are economic conditions suitable for my portfolio?

4. Am I properly positioned to take advantage of attractive opportunities?

The digital assistant could also provide alerts tied to planning expectations or to the personal concerns of clients. In a way, financial accounts become another thing among a smart household, that the digital assistant monitors and reports on as requested.

For advisory firms, client use of digital assistants, is likely to be on balance a good thing. It can help to increase client satisfaction and keep clients better informed. It may also encourage greater interactivity between clients and advisors. For early adopter companies that employ digital assistants and provide proprietary functionality, they may become a competitive advantage.