Advisers are once again feeling threatened by robots, with NAB announcing yesterday it will roll out a computer-generated financial advice service to 40,000 of its customers.
The free service – NAB Prosper – will be accessible through customers' online banking accounts and provide "personalised" advice on super and insurance, and possibly on debt, cash flow, investments and estate planning in future releases, the bank said.
The story generated concern from commenters on the ifa website, who feared NAB's new platform is the latest step in an industry-wide move that would replace financial planners with automated advice services.
"All of the big product companies are gradually taking advisers out of the picture, and switching to direct distribution methods," according to one comment on the ifa website.
Another commenter said: "Spin it any way you like, but this is a direct advice play. You may like to dress this up as a lead funnel for advisers but we know you are testing this so that you can sideline face to face advice in the future."
However, not all advisers are worried.
Paramount Wealth Management principal Wayne Leggett told ifa that robo-advice services are only a threat to businesses that solely offer product recommendations and not strategic advice.
"If clients can do themselves what you've been offering, then they're not going to talk to you and, more importantly, they're not going to pay you," Mr Leggett said.
"If [clients are] just trying to look for options, they could always get that online. What you want someone to do is say, 'OK, I know what the different options are but how do they compare and what's the best way for me to proceed?'
"If a machine or technology can do what you're doing then that's a threat. But if that machine or technology can assist you in what you do for your clients then it's actually an opportunity to improve your services."
At least, that is what NAB has said is the goal.
In a statement yesterday, the bank said NAB Prosper is designed to prompt the 80 per cent of Australians who do not use a financial adviser to start the conversation. It also hopes advisers will take advantage of the new platform by capitalising on its efficiency.
"Allowing people to see their current financial situation has the ability to trigger a conversation with an adviser," NAB said.
"Advisers benefit from this by being able to capitalise on changing customer segments and deliver targeted, relevant advice simply and efficiently."
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