Can you trust robo-advice platforms?
Films and television shows either portray robots as goofy heroes (think C-3PO in Star Wars) or the killer machines with the intention of ending all human life and taking over the world (Terminator). While they may not yet be threatening human existence they are increasingly becoming part of our lives.
For instance, our banking transactions are becoming more automated, self-driving cars are set to take over our manual versions and we’re hoping to cure diseases, like cancer, with nanobot technology. However, would you trust a robot to tell you how to manage your investments?
But what is robo-advice? Investopedia defines this as: “A robo-advisor is an online wealth management service that provides automated, algorithm-based portfolio management advice without the use of human financial planners”. What this means, in essence, is that you don’t speak to a financial advisor and rely instead on a website backed with mathematical coding to pick and choose your investments.
While you may be hesitant about this idea, the fact of the matter is that the technology already exists. What’s more, robo-advice platforms can actually save you money. Generally these tech platforms will pick shares or funds and spread your risk internationally all for a relatively small price and in some cases even for free, which can of course be a lot cheaper than consulting a financial advisor.
Robo-advice platforms are already popular in the United States but when it comes to South Africa the industry is not yet as sophisticated. Some companies have launched such platforms in our market only to fail because they can’t achieve economies of scale. This is because they are expensive to build as the development costs are huge and people with rare skills are needed to create them.
Most of the ones launched in South Africa have also not been 100% independent as they offer a particular fund manager’s house view. However, there’s one that has just recently launched in the market called ItransactGo, which helps investors and also financial advisors set, track and achieve investment goals by creating a personal low cost investment portfolio or retirement annuity.
Another benefit of investing through a robo-advise platform is the fact that there’s no-one with emotions picking shares and funds on your behalf. It’s all based on science, on past performance and on mathematical data. The downside though is that if you’re not convinced about a particular investment route that has been picked you, more often than not, won’t have access to a human that can explain it all to you. However, ItransactGo has mitigated this problem by also having a call-centre that people can phone if they have problems. So it’s vital to pick the platform that caters to your needs and concerns, should you have any.
But where does this leave you – do you seek the advice of a robot or speak to a financial advisor? Robo-advice platforms will no doubt become the norm as we start to embrace technology. The general consensus though is that this is your money and you should invest in a way that makes your comfortable. If you feel more comfortable speaking to and dealing with a person, then you should. But if you feel at ease with technology and consider yourself an ‘early adopter’, then this type of platform could save you a lot of money in fees and charges.