CHARLOTTE -- Don't fear the robo advisor, says an expert offering an approach for dealing with the threat of digital platforms.

Tom Nally, president of TD Ameritrade said he believes the fear of robo advisors is overblown and unfounded. Nally, answering a question on how advisors can combat their online rivals from an audience member at the NAPFA Evolution Now conference, said the two shouldn’t even be compared. “I personally think it’s an apples and oranges conversation,” he says.

Despite telling advisors that he believes digital platforms won’t be as significant a threat as many people fear, he admits that steps must be taken to ensure that clients know the difference between a comprehensive financial planner and the technology model. He jokingly asked the audience of financial planners how many of them only offer clients basic model portfolio management.

“No one,” he said, answering his own question.

“We need to think about making sure that we properly articulate the value that we bring to the table when we’re telling clients what it is we do for them,” Nally explained. “We can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in that comparison.”

Detailing how advisors bill their clients can likely resolve one of the challenges, according to Nally. Many advisors fail to spell out the exact services they provide, leaving clients misunderstanding what advisors do for them.

“We need to start thinking outside of the box in the way that we bill and articulate our value proposition,” Nally says. “We are billing today at the most commoditized service that we provide yet the client’s find most value in the financial planning work and the life planning work that allows them to sleep at night.”

But he later admitted that there is “no easy answer." Nally even said that he proposed billing on total assets under advisement and lowering fees which he said was met with criticism from his peers.

While Nally did admit that the technology aspect of financial planning is, “Where the puck is going,” and encourages advisors to embrace it, he believes that the concern of planners losing a substantial amount of clients to technology isn’t going to happen.

“I’ll tell you everyone in this room is bringing a lot more to the table for these consumers than some startup out of Silicon Valley that’s giving you a basic ETF portfolio for 50 basis points,” he says. “Without question.”

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