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Financial Services|Technology|United States|English

Consumers Resist Automated Investment Advisors, Seek Balance with Human Touch – GfK Study

New York, NY, 15.06.2016

Millennials, Gen Z are slightly more “robo-friendly”

Financial services firms may be banking on automated (“robo”) advisors replacing some human functions – but consumers are far from buying into the idea.

In a new GfK survey, only 9% of consumers said they would be likely to use an investment advisory service that offered just digital (text or online chat) contact with human advisors. The 25-to-34 age group – part of the Millennial generation – was most open to the idea (15%), while less than 5% of those 50 and above said they would embrace an all-digital service approach from their investment firms.

Looking across a range of financial products, consumers were least open to completely automated customer service for investments and mortgages. They showed slightly more willingness to accept an all-digital service plan for checking and savings accounts.

Not surprisingly, just 10% of those surveyed said they would be likely to trust a computer algorithm more than a human to give them financial advice – with a full 50% disagreeing with this statement. The level of trust in robo-advisors was highest among the 25-to-34 group (17%) and lowest among those age 65 and above (6%). 

It appears that consumers are willing to place a monetary value on human contact. Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) agree that they would pay more for access to a person for help with financial services; and 45% say they would not be willing to forego live customer service in return for paying less.

“Financial firms are betting on an increasingly automated customer service approach to help them stay lean in an unforgiving consumer marketplace,” said Tom Neri, Managing Director of GfK’s Financial Services team in North America. “But even digitally native Millennials are only lukewarm to this vision when it comes to the difficult area of investments. FS companies need to be cautious in deploying robo-advisor technology, making sure to provide their high-value customers with the service they need; a one-size-fits-all seems certain to alienate even young investors.”

Consumers’ hesitation to embrace automated investment services may stem from disappointing experiences with their financial firms’ current digital properties. Only 27% agree that it is easy to get the information they need from the websites of financial services firms – essentially equal to the proportion who disagree (26%).      

The GfK survey was conducted among 1,000 members of the company’s nationally representative KnowledgePanel® from June 3 to 5, 2016.

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