Articles - Robots can do more, if we let them

I have written before about the huge advantages that automation could bring to the advice sector in the life and pensions industry. The two biggest issues with the provision of financial advice are affordability and accessibility. Providing regulated financial planning cheaply and making it easy to access on the Internet at a time and place of the customer’s choosing, is very difficult, given the complexity of the regulation around the provision of financial advice.

 By Tom Murray, Head of Product Strategy, Exaxe.

 But the goal of being able to provide financial advice to those who can’t currently access it makes it worth achieving.

 However, this is not an all or nothing approach. There are other areas where Robo-advice could be used within the industry; areas that could deliver major benefits in terms of cost and compliance would be far simpler to achieve than the provision of fully regulated financial advice.

 For example, in the matter of fund-switches, currently the choice lies between going to a financial adviser to get help in selecting the right choice from the large number of funds on offer or spending significant amounts of time researching it yourself, essentially DIY investing. However, robo-advice focused on merely helping the customer to assess their appetite for risk and recommending from the available funds the best match would be easy to provide and would give the customer much more control over their own investments.

 Even in areas that are currently heavily manual, e.g. providing customer support through the claims process, robo-assistants are an easy way for a firm to be able to provide 24x7 access to the process for their customers. Indeed most of the standard claims could be completely dealt with by automated systems, in the same way that they are often dealt with by call-centre employees following a rigid script. A lot of research is being undertaken into the area of voice recognition and comprehension and it is possible to foresee a future where claims are undertaken by robots, freeing up staff to provide more individualized services to deal with the non-standard cases.

 This of course applies to all areas of customer servicing, from the trivial such as address changes to the more complex policy alterations such as changing beneficiaries or altering premium amounts.

 Ultimately the use of automated solutions will provide a more standardized service and increase the control the compliance department has on the quality of the service delivered. It will also help to reduce costs, thereby ultimately benefitting the customer by reducing the charges that need to be applied to the policy.

 We should be looking at the arrival of robo-advice, not in terms of making huge changes but in terms of providing incremental improvements to our customer service levels, our ease of achieving our regulatory compliance and our ability to provide better value to life and pension customers. The impact of robots on the industry should be less like a technological disruption than a technology-supported evolution of service levels.

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