In September 2018 the EU supervisory authorities (ESAs)published a Joint Committee Report on the results of the monitoring exercise on ‘automation in financial advice that revealed surprising facts about automated financial advice in the EU.
Following the publication of a Discussion Paper on Automation in Financial Advice in 2015 and a Report in 2016 (on which we reported here) the ESAs published the present follow up report on the evolution of automation in financial advice in the securities, banking and insurance sectors over the past two years. The report is based a survey with competent national authorities.
Surprisingly, the report shows that while the phenomenon of automation in financial advice (or 'robo-advice') seems to be slowly growing, the overall number of firms and customers using automated financial advise is still quite limited. In addition, while some new trends seem to emerge (such as the use of Big Data, chatbots for customer service and extension to a broader range of products) there seems to have been no substantial change to the overall market since the publication of the ESA Report in 2016. The Report identifies:
- cultural/psychological barriers as one of the main causes of lack of engagement, that can be traced back to low level financial literacy, and a lack of consumer trust and confidence in using digital tools;
- regulatory barriers such as the complexity of the applicable legislation (MiFID II/MIFIR, IDD, GDPR, PRIIPs) that pose special challenges for small, startup FinTech firms.
It therefore seems that the market for automated financial advice has not taken up, and that its full potential is yet to be explored. Given the above identifies barriers, one may wonder whether the time is not ripe for a shift to greater digitization in the financial sector or whether the regulatory environment needs to change both in terms of giving greater room for small Fintech firms to expand on the market, and in terms of the existing consumer protection tools.