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'Avatar' advisers on the horizon

Superannuation fund members could soon be receiving simple financial advice from an electronic ‘avatar’ on a fund’s website, according to Rubik Financial head of COIN Wayne Wilson.

According to Mr Wilson, an avatar is an electronic person that “looks like a person, talks like a person and can speak 150 languages if you’ve got the right piece of software plugged in”.

Mr Wilson has delivered presentations using an avatar that a programmer created for him in a few hours.

“People are getting more and more comfortable with engaging with avatars, and we’ve had a business approach us about creating an avatar to do a form of simple advice on their portal,” he said.

Many pieces of scaled advice are very simple, said Mr Wilson. He cited the rules around the treatment of employment termination payments (ETPs) within superannuation as an example.

The number of pieces of information an adviser would need to have an their fingertips to advise a client on putting two superannuation ETPs together would be “a couple of 100, tops”, he said.

It might take several months to write an algorithm that copes the multiple decision points involved in such an example, and “you might end up with 1,000 possible outcomes”, said Mr Wilson.


“Stick it on your website, and the avatar can provide advice ad nauseam for as many people as can get on the website at once,” he said.

It would be “really easy” for a big financial services organisation to write such a program, said Mr Wilson – and it would bring the cost of simple advice down dramatically.

He was quick to point out that an avatar would never be used to deliver full, comprehensive advice.
“But a lot of scaled and scoped advice is quite simple,” he said.

“It’s hell of a lot cheaper than having a person on the end of a telephone – and that’s where [technology] is going to go,” said Mr Wilson.