The most common narrative of the “fintech revolution” portrays a David and Goliath tale of nimble upstarts unseating bloated, stodgy, bricks-and-mortar financial institutions. Technology is transforming the financial landscape from who's eligible for a loan to how consumers pay for goods and services. It's even redefining the concept of currency. Technology is also transforming the wealth management space, but contrary to popular belief, it is not on the way to replacing the financial advisor. In reality, technology emphasizes the financial advisor's true value contribution.

Wealth management industry prognosticators generally pit robo-advisors against people advisors. Fintech companies and industry giants alike have built algorithmic systems that leverage investment theory and historical returns to generate portfolios automatically “customized” to different risk tolerances and timeframes. These systems bring valuable customized investment advice to a large swath of the population who may have lacked it. 

Robo-advisors do pose a threat to advisors whose entire practice is based on cookie-cutter portfolio construction, which has now been laid bare as a commoditized process. Technology is extremely effective at doing repeatable processes quickly and efficiently.

But the reality is that advisors whose practice is completely built on cookie-cutter allocations are in the minority and make the rest look bad. Most advisors, particularly those who work with high-net-worth clients, provide a service that represents a mix of art and science. In addition to advising on matters beyond investment allocation, such as trust, estate, tax and philanthropy, often an advisor's value comes in the form of understanding how best to construct a client's financial future based on their emotional or psychological requirements — their human needs. There can be vast differences in what makes two people with similar financial circumstances feel secure. 

Good advisors know what makes them valuable — and what doesn't. In fact, top advisors actively seek out ways to use technology to streamline rote processes or to enhance their ability to meet human needs. In the portfolio management and reporting segment alone, there are currently 14 companies vying to free up an advisor's time, according to a December 2015 survey by RIA in a Box, “Today's RIA Technology Landscape.” Other players such as Envestnet and IBM are analyzing transaction data and client behavior to enhance advisors' ability to anticipate client needs. Additionally, investment platforms both reduce time spent on administrative tasks and expand the services and products an advisor can offer clients. 

The actual use of robo-advisors brings us back full circle. Those who believe that advisors do not integrate passive investing into their practices should consider an alternative reality: many are happy to leave the commoditized tasks to the robos.

After all, wealth management is both intensely personal and necessarily scalable. The more advisors can automate repetitive tasks, the freer they are to build deep relationships and construct solutions to address the needs of a client that might be an exception. 

Wealth management clients face exactly the sorts of complicated decisions that are best tackled by human experts. There are innumerable considerations that demand an advisor's planning, judgment and personal touch. Those advisors who find ways to apply technology to the commoditized components of their services can dedicate more of themselves to these more nuanced considerations, engendering the sort of trust and gratitude that builds a loyal, growing practice.

James Waldinger is CEO of Artivest, a tech-driven investment platform expanding access to private equity and hedge funds for financial advisors and their HNW clients. 

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