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Man v. machine

28 September 2017

Despite their digital knowhow, more than half of young people agree that, in areas of financial planning, “you just need an expert”.

Millennials – those born between roughly 1980 and 20001 – have regularly been the subject of broad generalisations. They are often characterised in the media as an anti-authoritarian bunch who spend their lives on their smartphones and tablets. However, a recent study suggests that, in some ways, younger generations aren’t that different to their parents.

There’s no denying that, unlike their parents, they are the first generation to have grown up totally immersed in a world of digital technology. Perhaps more importantly, millennials have embraced technology like no other generation, and the march towards automation has totally changed their relationship with money.

The rise of non-traditional modes of payment, for example, has pushed mobile services like Paym, Apple Pay and Android Pay into the mainstream, reducing the need for cash and cards.

The future of money management seems filled with possibilities created by rapidly advancing technology and connectedness, seemingly tailor-made for a tech-savvy generation struggling with a lack of time.

It’s all the more surprising, then, that the digital environment is not seen by millennials as conducive to making financial decisions. The majority2 favour human interaction for financial advice and for assistance in making critical investment decisions.

According to the Legg Mason Global Investment Survey 20173, 60% of people agree with the statement “Personalised customer service is important and you can never replace that with technology”.

The results are similar across age groups too. Thus 53% of millennials – the so-called ‘digital natives’ – agree with the statement (above), as do 65% of baby boomers.4 Similar results were found for respondents who believe that “technology is a great tool but I still want to know there’s an expert behind it guiding me”.

Meanwhile, separate research has found that while only 10% of UK millennials currently use a financial adviser, over a third aspire to using one in the future.5

Experts have often speculated over the extent to which automated advice will take off among the younger generation, with so-called ‘robo-advisers’ seeming ready to replace face-to-face advice. However, when it comes to investment and tax planning, there seems to be a strong preference for the human touch.

Clearly, some transactions are well-suited for the application of technology; but for certain areas of financial planning, advice based on algorithms rather than human judgement could fall short of delivering the tailored solutions which are so often necessary.

That’s why, when it comes to more complicated matters such as starting a pension or creating a comprehensive financial plan, few people do so online. And while millennials are perhaps more likely to embrace robo-advice than their parents, it is doubtful whether machines will ever truly replace face-to-face advice.

 

1 en.wikipedia.org/millennials
2 https://ww2.leggmason.com/gis-articles/page.html?path=/en-us/insights/gis/uk/the-human-touch-irreplaceable.html
3 http://www.leggmason.co.uk/gis/
4 Millennials are defined in this study as 18–35 years old; and baby boomers as 53–71
5 Finimize.com, 2017

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