The rise of automated investment services—“robo-advice” firms such as Betterment, FutureAdvisor and Wealthfront—has many advisors wondering if they will still have a client base in a decade. In the last two years alone, these firms have collectively raised over $82 million in venture capital and now reportedly have over $2 billion under management, primarily from millennial clients.
Although their recent exponential growth is impressive, and the threat they pose is real, they still represent a very small percentage of the overall wealth managed by traditional firms. That said, there has been long-standing fear and uncertainty in the financial industry about direct channels wiping out advisors. These fears are not limited to financial advice. The Second Machine Age, a powerful new book from MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, suggests that big data and automation are threatening jobs, not only in manufacturing, clerical and retail but also in professions such as law, education, medicine and, yes, financial services.