Personalization in robo-advisors

From the first mobile robot between 1966 and 1972 to contemporary marvels like Buddy the Emotional Robot and Moley the Robot Kitchen, the evolution of robotics has been fascinating. These advancements have captured the world’s imagination and have also begun to reshape various aspects of life. One such remarkable transformation is in the financial sector, where robo-advisors have risen to prominence.

Curious about these sophisticated financial advisors? Then read on.

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What are robo-advisors?

A robo-advisor is a digital platform that uses advanced algorithms and technology to provide investment advisory services. This technology-driven approach minimizes the need for extensive human intervention, making it an attractive option for individuals seeking a hassle-free investment experience.

Robo-advisory services made their debut in the financial landscape during the tumultuous times of the 2008 recession. This period of economic uncertainty led to a demand for more efficient and cost-effective investment solutions. Robo-advisors presented an innovative way to manage investments while reducing fees associated with traditional financial advisors. In 2010, Betterment emerged as a pivotal player in the robo-advisory space by introducing a digital interface that could actively manage and rebalance diversified portfolios for investors. 

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Following Betterment’s success, robo-advisory rapidly expanded. Charles Schwab launched Schwab Intelligent Portfolios in 2015, and Morgan Stanley and SoFi followed suit with platforms like Morgan Stanley Access Investing and SoFi Invest.

How do they work?

Here is how robo-advisors balance automation and personalization.

Robo-advisors start by collecting essential data from investors through online questionnaires. These surveys inquire about factors like age, risk tolerance, retirement timeline, and the investor’s reaction to market fluctuations. Additional demographic and financial information, such as income, debt level, and current asset allocation, is often considered, too.

Using the collected data and risk profile, they utilize algorithms to design a diversified portfolio tailored to the client’s individual situation. This portfolio includes a mix of asset types, and the allocation is different for each person. This is because advisors assess the client’s risk tolerance and financial goals to determine a suitable asset allocation strategy. This strategy aims to balance potential returns with the level of risk the investor is comfortable taking on.

Once the portfolio is established, robo-advisors engage in regular portfolio rebalancing. This process involves readjusting the investments periodically to realign them with the target allocation weights. This way, the portfolio maintains its intended risk level and is positioned to capture potential growth opportunities.

The educational aspect of modern robo-advisors

Beyond just managing portfolios, many advisory platforms strive to educate users about investing, personal finance, and the principles behind their recommendations.

  • Investment basics — Not all investors are well-versed in financial markets. So, advisors can provide educational content that explains fundamental investment concepts, such as asset classes, risk and return, diversification, and the impact of market volatility.
  • Portfolio composition — Robo-advisors can provide explanations for why certain investments were chosen and how they contribute to achieving the user’s financial goals.
  • Market insights and updates — Some robo-advisors provide market insights and updates through newsletters, articles, or blog posts. This information keeps investors informed about the broader financial landscape.
  • Financial planning guidance —Beyond investment education, these tools can offer guidance on broader financial planning topics, like retirement planning, tax-efficient investing, and saving strategies. 
  • Interactive tools — Certain robo-advisors incorporate interactive tools to allow users to experiment with different scenarios and see how changes might affect their recommended portfolio. As a result, you gain a better understanding of the relationship between different factors and investment outcomes.

The benefit of personalized recommendations

Robo-advisors personalize investment advice in a way that was previously difficult to achieve on a large scale. By leveraging technology and minimizing the need for human intervention, they substantially reduce advisory fees. This affordability democratizes access to professional investment advice like never before. And, unlike traditional advisors who operate within office hours, robo-advisors are accessible at any time, from anywhere with an internet connection.

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These platforms delineate specific action steps within a well-defined strategy, guiding you to your objectives. The continuous feedback provided regarding progress and goals serves as a motivational tool, and it gets easier to maintain focus on the broader financial picture. 

There is also the benefit of time savings. When you’re managing multiple priorities, such as work commitments, household responsibilities, eldercare, children, and other family matters, finding the time to address your investment portfolio gets relegated to the lower rungs of your to-do list. But, once the initial setup is complete and automated deposits are established, investors can put their portfolios on autopilot. 

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Who are robo-advisors best for?

Robo-advisors are better suited for fairly inexperienced investors who are eager to enter the world of investing with modest amounts. The user-friendly interfaces and automated processes make them particularly attractive to tech-savvy millennials and Generation Z investors who are comfortable with online platforms and embrace technology for wealth management.

For do-it-yourself investors who prefer a more hands-off approach, personalized robo-advisors offer an appealing proposition. Passive investors, too, find alignment with these tools because such an approach resonates with those who seek market-matching returns and long-term growth without the complexities of active trading.

However, robo-advisors might not be the optimal choice for high-net-worth individuals with more intricate financial situations. Their limited investment choices, which often revolve around ETFs and index funds, might not cater to the specialized strategies required by individuals with substantial assets. Similarly, investors who prefer actively managing their portfolios, holding individual stocks, or engaging in alternative investment strategies might find robo-advisors’ offerings restrictive.

Risks and limitations

One of the most prominent limitations of robo-advisors lies in their non-specific investment options. While an automated approach simplifies the investment process, it restricts investors who have specific preferences or unique investment insights. Sure, personalization helps, but it’s not on par with the nuanced decisions of seasoned investors. Moreover, algorithms fall short when it comes to addressing complicated financial scenarios.

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Another limitation is the limited access to human advisors. While some robo-advisory platforms offer hybrid models that combine automated services with occasional consultations from human advisors, this often comes with conditions like maintaining a minimum account balance or paying higher fees. 

Robo-advisors also provide an incomplete view of an investor’s financial assets. While they can manage the accounts integrated into their system, they lack a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s entire financial situation. And finally, the absence of human interaction and empathy has been a point of criticism.

The synergy of human assistance and robo-advisory services

While robo-advisors have become increasingly sophisticated in offering personalized investment strategies, it’s essential to acknowledge one thing — entrusting your portfolio to any entity, be it automated or human, requires a certain level of knowledge and skill. 

Make sure to equip yourself with a solid understanding of investment principles and strategies. Regardless of the level of sophistication that robo-advisors have achieved, you need to be in the know.

This brings us to an important consideration: practice. Platforms like Binomo provide a great environment for practicing trading skills and developing your financial acumen. This will position you as an active participant in your financial journey rather than a passive observer.


What is a robo-advisor? Definition from TechTarget

What is a robo-advisor? Pros and cons of using one, Fortune Recommends

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