Movies, Dystopia and why “Robo Advice” isn’t “Robo Advice”

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s if movies and television taught me one thing it’s this…

Robots are bad news.

Whilst the negative portrayal of robots in movies didn’t start in the 80’s (Westworld was a brilliantly bleak portrayal of killer robots in the early 70’s) it was in the mid 1980’s with the release of “the terminator” the reputation of the robot, and more generally, the portrayal of dystopian futures where technology becomes as a negative force, hit home.

Even when the tellybox or movie screen portrayed positive robots there was always a major flaw. Either the good robots had cooler ‘evil’ robot foes (transformers, terminator 2 or Robocop), the robot in question was annoying (short circuit) or just plain dull (D.A.R.Y.L).

My personal favourite example of misbehaving robots in movies is the so bad it’s good ‘Class of 1999’ where robot teachers attempt to instill discipline in a rowdy Seattle high school using techniques that the school assessors at Ofsted, erm, might not approve of. This ended in a student rebellion and then all out war. Below is the massively cheesy trailer

 

Whilst more recently robots have had a fairer crack of the whip in the movies (I’m thinking the Iron Giant, Bicentennial man and Wall-e) I reckon the most powerful portrayals of robots in media remain negative.

However the dystopian futures shown in the movies of the 80’s and 90’s haven’t come to fruition.

Instead technology has on the whole allowed us to work smarter, build and maintain both personal or professional networks and get access to more knowledge at the touch of a button than anyone ever thought possible a few short decades ago.

That’s not to say that the impact of technology on our lives has been wholly positive. I thing there’s genuine validity to the argument on the over reliance on the technological tools we use day to day and the impact this can have on our social skills and the potential for distraction. However when you consider these issues in balance I reckon it’s fair to say…

Technology, and continued innovations in technology, has the potential to improve all of our lives.

When you consider the impact on our particular profession technology has already had a massive impact.

From the tools we use to communicate, to the way we run our ‘back offices’ all the way through to the way we show our clients how their actions now impact their financial futures it’s fair to say for most of us technology is an integral part of how we run our businesses.

However there’s a debate going on at the moment on how technological innovations will continue to impact our profession. I think as we consider the debate there’s three things worth remembering…

“Robo-Advice” isn’t as much of a threat as we think.

A lot of the conversations I seem to have recently about “Robo-Advice” with professionals and journalists as well as what I read in the trade press is about the threat of robo-advice on existing business models.

The reality is that the majority of the new breed of technology based “robo-advice” business models are aimed at a different, currently under served, part of our population.

Many of a financial planners typical private clients (medium to high wealth baby boomers) will still continue to want to talk through their hopes, dreams and future aspirations with a fellow human!

Therefore are we going to see a mass exodus of our clients to using “robo-advice” solutions. I’d suggest not.

Whilst longer term the way many of us plan and manage our financial affairs will change I’d suggest that in the short to medium term “robo-advice” will have less of an impact to many of our businesses as we think…

“Robo-Advice” isn’t “Robo-Advice” at all!

Recently I found myself, as I do on a regularly basis, listening to Pete Matthews fantastic podcast. In this particular episode he was chatting to Al Rush about his new online service, Fiver a Day, as well as the implications of “Robo-Advice” in General (you can listen to the podcast here).

One of the points both Pete and Al both talked about was the term “Robo Advice” and whether it appropriately described whether it appropriately described these services.

Both Pete and Al didn’t feel that the term “Robo-advice” appropriately described the new services popping up in the market and I couldn’t agree more.

Whilst “robo advice” is a convenient cover-all term it doesn’t accurately describe what these services do…

Make it easier for people who can’t (or won’t) pay for financial advice access to a way to invest.

It’s strange…

We don’t call Amazon “Robo-Shopping”, Skype “Robo-calls” or Linkedin “Robo-Networking”

However their aim, to make it easier to shop, connect and communicate is similar to many of the online financial business models currently. Their aim on the whole is to make it easier to save.

Maybe we need a new name….however I’d suspect that the ‘name’ we use eventually will probably be the brand that gains dominance in this space. We could be talking about “Nutmegging” or “Checking our Wealth Horizion“, “Checking who SaidSo” or even “Saving our Fiver a Day” in the same way we use the term “Googling” as meaning “to search the internet”.

All I’m saying is that it’s what we’ve labelled “Robo Advice” isn’t dystopian. It isn’t ‘Terminator’ or ‘Westworld’.

Building a “Robo Advice” solution usually starts with one thing…

The entrepreneurial  drive to try provide a service in a more accessible way.

Which brings me onto my final point…

Taking an idea and turning it into reality using technology is more possible than ever before.

Technology has provided us with the opportunity to start with an idea, build that idea into a tangible ‘product’,then roll out and then scale this product more than ever before.

The great thing is that this has resulted in small lean businesses in a range of sectors building services which are now part of many of our everyday lives where previous this opportunity was reserved for large organisations with huge amounts of resource and deep pockets.

The opportunity this provides to all of us to think about how we can continue to use tools to help more people whilst building sustainable long term business models excites me. Maybe it shouldn’t. (I should probably get out more!).

It’s a thought process which resulted in us developing, building and launching AE in a Box a platform which wouldn’t have been possible to build 8 – 10 years ago unless we had far deeper pockets and a lot more internal resource.

So the question I’d ask would be…

Instead of seeing technology as a threat or annoyance why can’t we see it as an opportunity?

So, let’s move away from the images of dystopian futures where technology replaces the financial planner but instead focus on the opportunity that we’ve now got to build, develop and distribute solutions that allow us to help more people in a commercially sustainable way.

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Movies, Dystopia and why “Robo Advice” isn’t “Robo Advice”

  • Great blog Chris – love “dystopia” – seldom seen the word used so well!
    I totally agree with your analysis of what drives technological innovation.

    People looking for better ways to do things have always used the new technologies and it’s no use being a Luddite!

    Advisers now have tools to do new things- look at LV Cora – or your site – or pension playpen for that matter.

    Rather than soldiering on in old ineffecient ways, why not embrace the new and embed it into your business process?

    Reply
  • Thanks Henry,

    I reckon there’s a bunch of different reasons technology is seen as a threat instead of an opportunity…..one which might merit an entirely separate article!

    LV Cora looks interesting interesting too and I’m sure the next couple of years will see future innovations in both the group and individual space.

    The next big step I believe is including gamification elements into some of these direct to consumer tools to make them more engaging and interactive….but I haven’t seen a good example of that – yet!

    In the meantime hopefully what you and I are doing will play their part in helping employers and the professionals who work with them!

    Thanks as always for your comment.

    Reply

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