Speaking at Raymond James’ US summer development conference for employee advisors, Tash Elwyn, president of its private client group, made it perfectly clear that Raymond James won’t be joining the parade of advisory firms offering digital investment services.
“In plain English: We are not developing a robo advisor to compete with our financial advisors,” said Elwyn. “We are convinced that not only is advice here to stay, but human-driven advice is here to stay and we can continue to make a big difference in people's lives.”
Earlier this year Power Corporation and CI Financial both made a splash in the advisor pool with announcements that increased the likelihood of full-service advisors in Canada having to co-exist with automated financial advice.
First, the owner of Investors Group and Mackenzie Financial announced that it was investing as much as $30 million in Toronto-based Wealthsimple, one of the many robo-advisors in Canada. Speculation quickly grew that IG advisors would be using Wealthsimple’s technology to serve millennial clients less interested in face-to-face advice and fewer investable assets.
A few days later the Globe and Mail revealed that Assante Wealth Management, a subsidiary of CI Financial, was also developing a digital service although Assante later changed its tune slightly suggesting it was merely gathering information to determine what a robo-advisor should look like given its leading position as a full-service advisor.
In the U.S. there are some heavy hitters jumping into the robo-advisor game with both Vanguard and Schwab amassing billions of dollars in assets under management.
The temptation for the big boys to get into this business is almost too much but Raymond James appears intent to stay the course.
"If we can automate, then what gets exciting to me is how much capacity advisors will have, to let them do what they do best, and which robos can't do, which is to engage human to human," Elwyn said. “We can really take the experience and the outcomes that we create for our clients to a whole new level. Much of that is possible because of the underpinnings that technology provides.”
Robo-advisors? Not so much.
See more: Why robo-advisors need your help?