The tide has turned and your relationship with your financial adviser will never be the same again. Turns out, that's a good thing. Technology has put the information at your finger tips and access to real-time and near real-time information gives you the power to make powerfully informed decisions. Some people have gone as far as to ask themselves why they need a financial adviser at all?
For this and other important strategic questions, I turned to Jay Hummel, the Managing Director of Evestnet and author of The Essential Advisor. You can see my full interview with him here:
What I love about Jay Hummel's new book is that he doesn't shy away from the difficult questions that he knows are on the mind of today's financial advisers and clients of those financial advisers. For some things like asset allocation and portfolio rebalancing, he supports the idea that today's financial advisers are not adding a tremendous amount of value over their technology-driven or "robo-adviser" counter parts. But that doesn't mean that algorithms or technology will replace the role your financial adviser. In fact, the financial adviser of the future embraces technology where it is more effective and instead focuses on the areas where strategic advice is critical.
Why a Financial Adviser is Still Needed Today
"Intersection moments in life and going through transitions can be much more important than leaning on a financial adviser for asset allocation and rebalancing a portfolio," says Jay Hummel. "They lean on them for advice at a time when they are going through an emotional issue and the financial issue they are going through overlaps with an emotional issue."
Buying your first house, for example, requires important financial forethought. Should you pay cash for the house if you have the cash available? Should you get a loan even if you have the cash to pay for the house? Would you be better off selling off some of your stock or exercising your stock options? This is the emotional context of having to make a big financial decision where having specific advice tailored to your individual financial situation, long-term goals, risk tolerance and other factors come into play; factors that a robo-adviser simply can't solve.
Getting Return on Advice in These 5 Strategic Areas:
And don't underestimate the interpretation and implementation of the plan either. A key function of your financial adviser isn't just to help you build and customize a plan that's right for you, but to help you understand, interpret and implement the right strategies that help you achieve your specific financial goals; especially as your priorities change over time.
On the human to technology scale, Jay Hummel estimates this function is 80% human supported by about 20% technology. Tax Management: While you could argue that technology could be trained to become more tax aware when it comes to product selection, true tax management goes beyond product selection. "The tax tail shouldn't wag the dog," says Jay Hummel. "Tax codes are constantly changing. It's important to know which ones will have an impact and which ones to ignore." In other words, knowing which changes in the tax code you should react to and which ones are unlikely to have a significant impact on your financial plans is another important function that your financial adviser serves. If you're a high net worth client, are you better off moving to Florida because there are no state taxes? There's a family dynamic here that goes beyond the tax code and your financial adviser can help you think through the best strategies to minimize your tax burden at different stages of your career.
On the human to technology scale, Jay Hummel estimates the tax management function is 75% human supported by about 25% technology. Investment Vehicle Selection: In this area, technology starts to play a bigger role, but perhaps not as much as most clients using robo-adviser tools think. While Jay Hummel agrees that technology plays a much bigger role today in investment vehicle selection than it has in the past, there are still human factors that are worth of further consideration. Impact investing, for example, is growing in importance to some clients. Do you prefer to support women-owned and minority businesses? Perhaps you'd prefer not to invest in oil and other fossil fuels because of their impact on the environment.
Moreover, Jay Hummel points out there is an important customization process that goes beyond picking specific investment vehicles. Your financial adviser knows your specific time horizon based on what level of liquidity you need at different stages of your life and your adviser will ensure your selections tie back to the plan you have worked through together.
On the human to technology scale, Jay Hummel estimates the investment vehicle function is split 50% human and 50% technology. Asset Allocation: In Tony Robbins' book, Money: Master The Game he argues that asset allocation is the second most important financial decision you can make in your life. This is because you need to get comfortable with your own individual risk tolerance and to be willing to stick to your plans when the market gets volatile. Most people are happy to increase their "risk" in a bull market, but when things go south and you're staring down substantial double digit losses, this is when having a calm and objective third party financial adviser is incredibly valuable so that you don't make emotional knee jerk decisions that go against the grain of your well thought out financial plan.
So while technology can help you align your asset allocation with your risk tolerance, a robo-adviser won't be there to hold your hand when you're ready to hit the panic button and react to a volatile market (positively or negatively). Personally, I know I've made the best financial decisions when I called my financial adviser in an emotional state looking to react to the market and he calmed me down and convinced me to do the opposite of what I had called to do. The opposite was also true. Specifically, I've made some of the worst financial decisions when I didn't listen to my financial adviser and, instead, was swept up into the heat of the moment as the market was getting over heated or experienced a correction.
On the human to technology scale, Jay Hummel estimates the asset allocation function is split 50% human and 50% technology. Systematic Rebalancing: Here's where the best financial advisers tend to yield to the power of the algorithm. Jay Hummel believes that systematic rebalancing should leverage the power of technology to ensure your financial portfolio stays in balance, but with some caveats. As he was talking and explaining this part to me, I was visualizing today's self-driving car technology as an analogy. While not perfect, Tesla has made incredible advances in your ability to put your car on "auto pilot". But the driver is still recommended to keep his or her hands on the wheel and not ignore what's happening completely. By knowing your ultimate destination, your financial adviser can leverage technology to systematically rebalance your portfolio, but having some level of oversight is just good practice.
On the human to technology scale, Jay Hummel estimates the systematic rebalancing function is split 20% human and 80% technology.
"Advice is essential to where we're going," says Jay Hummel. "When your lifespan is predicted to grow to 110, you could have an 80 year old child. People are going to live and work much longer which means in some aspects your financial adviser will play a role as a career councilor." When you combine your growing lifespan with the corporate shift from pensions to 401Ks, today you must become much more financially savvy than in any previous generation.
The role of financial advisers will continue to evolve, and the need for sound financial advice has never been more pertinent. If you are in the business of financial advice, Jay Hummel's book, The Essential Advisor, is a required read. And even if you're not a financial adviser, you're going to want to know what your financial future looks like and ensure you are working with the right financial adviser now and in the future. I recommend you pick up his book and see where all of this is headed.