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Control Issues

The experience of being a consumer has changed considerably over the last fifteen years. Technological advancement across infrastructure and software has led to the ‘self-service culture’ spreading to other spheres, in the constant corporate drive for greater efficiencies. Where does wealth management fit into this trend, and how can the world of advice benefit from future advancements in AI?


It happens gradually, then very quickly. You see it on the high street, then you see it through your smartphone. It looks like progress, but you’re not totally convinced. It creates frustration and autonomy in equal measure.

If you have ever used a self-checkout, checked yourself in for a flight, or used an online booking system, you’ll recognise what we’re talking about.

“Unexpected item in bagging area”

The past fifteen years or so has seen a massive shift in responsibility from the corporate to the consumer: the onus has firmly and irrevocably shifted onto you, and it’s only going one way.

And even if it causes frustrations, most of us acknowledge that the idea behind it makes sense; employing humans to do administrative tasks is expensive. Handing those resource intensive tasks onto the customer creates – in theory – cost savings which – in theory – can be passed on.

Robo-Cop, but not as cool

Retail investment management has all but embraced the world of DIY. JP Morgan’s acquisition of Nutmeg for a reported £700m in 2021 – when the company had made a £15m loss the previous year – speaks to the growth potential in this space, especially when integrated into a larger institution with a sizeable retail client base.

Moreover, in an investment management landscape, where margins are quickly shrinking, robo-investment platforms represent an opportunity for large organisations to capture and consolidate a currently very fragmented retail investment market – and scale quickly with minimal overheads.

Hybrid is working

Within the world of High-Net-Worth (HNW) wealth management however, we’re seeing a need from clients for a hybrid approach: desire for human interaction to build a relationship, build trust, and to develop the right strategy, coupled with a desire for connectivity with their wealth through technology.

HNW clients have different requirements than their mass-affluent counterparts: with more than enough liquidity to last one if not several lifetimes, ‘retirement planning’ in the traditional sense is no longer as relevant. Instead, other considerations take precedent, be it structuring one’s assets to achieve the wealth’s purpose, reduction of ‘tax drag,’ or responding to the seemingly ever-changing tax and legislative environment.

Human advisors, who are able to alter a strategy’s course according to the ebbs and flows of life – be they a change in a client’s family circumstances, the changing whims of government legislation, or a global pandemic, are all valuable areas which currently are out of reach of AI. That won’t be the case forever, but it is the case at the time of writing.

When AI reaches a point where it can deliver advice, why not do away with human input altogether? Generative AI will only become more adept at mimicking general intelligence, and we can certainly see a future where an AI can spot wealth planning opportunities and risks for an individual based on analysing their balances, investment and spending patterns, behaviours and other data which is easily accessible today.

What do we want?

we deeply want to feel understood, and we crave accountability in our relationships.

However, a smart ‘advisory’ AI is a universe away from delivering two universal qualities important to all of us: we deeply want to feel understood, and we crave accountability in our relationships.

The former requirement is unlikely to be met by AI in the truest sense unless AI becomes sentient. Given the likelihood that AI will progress rapidly by simply mimicking sentience, there may be little incentive (not to mention plenty of moral and existential hazard) to push the technology to the point of actual sentience.

The latter is something to which we can all relate. Building trust in another human being enables us to hold that individual accountable. It is something which is interwoven into all of our relationships and becomes even more important if that individual is the giver of advice.

So next time the airline’s app logs you out just as you’ve entered all four sets of passport information for the family, just accept that accountability isn’t there, take a big breath, and be thankful that the plane taking you away isn’t yet being piloted by AI… Now that would be a REAL leap of faith indeed.






This insight is for information purposes and does not constitute financial advice, which should be based on your individual circumstances. The value of investments may go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The levels and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time. The value of any tax relief depends on individual circumstances. Please note that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) does not regulate some aspects of cash flow, estate or tax planning or trust advice.