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Robos: It is no longer a question of whether but how to use them

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Digital advisor platforms, commonly referred to as B2B robo advisors, are here to stay.

The question is no longer will these platforms survive but rather which one a financial advisor should choose.

In Financial Planning’s 2015 tech survey of 600 advisors, more than a third of respondents (36.8%) said that they are already using digital platforms.

We were somewhat surprised to see that among our readers Wealth Access was the most popular digital platform, with 14.1% of our respondents saying that they use it.

We aren’t knocking Wealth Access; we just weren’t aware that it was so popular.

Schwab Institutional Intelligent Portfolios, the platform we expected to dominate, came in a close second overall with a 12.3% share. Among independent registered investment advisors, however, Schwab dominated with a 22.9% share, versus a 5.7% share for Wealth Access.

We are also hearing that many advisory firms would like to offer an advisor-assisted robo-based service next year, but two things are slowing them down.

The first is that some firms have yet to figure out how to position the offering and whether they should provide it through a separate division.

The other hold-up is that some firms are waiting for their broker-dealer or custodian to roll out an offering. For instance, we expect LPL Financial to release a robo service sometime next year.

The bottom line on robos is this: Given their short history, a 37% adoption rate among our respondents is remarkable, and we fully expect that number to trend higher next year.

Read more about the tech survey tomorrow, when we look at client portals and the CRM equation.

Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist in Miramar, Fla., is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference series and technology guides for advisors, including Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice. For more information, visit JoelBruckenstein.com.

This story is part of a 30-day series on leading tech trends for advisors. It was originally published on Dec. 1, 2015.

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