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Robos helping to save the future

Barclays hosted its fifth annual UK Savings Conference on 8th June 2016, and the key takeaway was that Robo-Advice would have a significant role to play in closing the advice gap, but is akin to the rise of internet banking in the early 2000s.

It will be the technology for the incumbents to improve both their offering and the economics of their businesses; it would not replace their businesses. Robo-Advice will help close the advice gap, while auto enrolment will help close the savings gap.

Robo’s saving the future? Robo-Advice, technology enabling scalable advice at lower cost, is being encouraged to help solve the Advice gap. Robo-Advice is about disrupting the lack of consumer engagement in saving as much as disrupting fee structures. The debate is raging as to what extent Robos may displace human advisers, but even the disruptors at our conference suggested Robo 2.0 would likely be a hybrid model with a human element. Robo-Advice will be a tool to attract basic needs customers, and as a customer’s demands evolve to include more complex solutions a human element may be required, whether in the form that it exists today or through digital channels such as the phone and video chats. We believe robo-advice is an opportunity, not a threat, for Hargreaves Lansdown, and we reiterate our Overweight recommendation.

Positive nudges to help savings gap: Ed Smith of the FCA highlighted the positive nudges for increased savings engagement that the workplace could create. Employers are seen as more impartial around savings needs than financial service firms and can therefore play a vital role through workplace savings portals to encourage greater long- term saving. The regulator still has a role to play in enabling corporates to feel more confident in the guidance they can and Ed Smith hoped that the provision of detailed case studies of the boundaries for guidance could help with this engagement.

Need for advice continues to grow: Recent pension reform, the introduction of the Lifetime ISA, and raised ISA limits have made long-term saving an increasingly complex decision. Products, wrappers and contribution limits contain a bewildering array of jargon and complexity. The FCA asserts that the positive consequences of the RDR have been an improvement in the quality of advice, but it has restricted its supply. The demand for advice has increased while the availability of advice has declined, playing to the strengths of St James’s Place, and we reiterate our Overweight recommendation.

Impact of the UK referendum on asset managers: The impact of a potential UK leave vote likely would be limited, as the SICAV fund ranges sold in Europe are domestically regulated within the Eurozone in Luxembourg. Schroders’ conversations with clients in Europe showed no evidence that they would conduct business with UK Asset Management manufacturing firms any differently as long as the regulatory infrastructure was in place. The bigger risk was the wider market risk, and the uncertainty of the referendum was already hanging over domestic client flow demand.

Next Finance , June 2016

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