You may be gliding happily into all the technological innovations that affect how you handle your money. Or you may not. In any case, the move towards financial technology, or FinTech, is happening relentlessly.
“For bank balances, press one; for banking hours, press two.” It started with robot-like voices giving you prompts on the phone each time you called a company. The prompts routed you closer and closer towards your specific purpose for calling. And with time, it got harder and harder to reach a human being. For some, this represented efficiency; for others, it was frustration.
That type of technical assistance has improved with time, and it has taken on a name that permeates virtually every discussion about how finances will be handled in the future: Artificial Intelligence, or AI. It generally refers to the use of computers to perform tasks historically carried out by humans.
AI has already been integrated into most simple transactions. Resistance has lessened to a machine’s ability to recognize images, understand speech and make basic decisions. Online deposits into bank accounts of photographed checks, precise answers to random phoned-in questions and notifications by institutions of unusual spending patterns have made financial management more effortless.
The next step was for FinTech companies to improve the human-like qualities of the interface between the customer and the company. This helped customers using technology for transactions to feel more comfortable as AI enters portfolio and investment management.
The driving force behind progress in financial technology comes from financial institutions as repetitive and lower-value tasks are replaced by machines at a lower cost. For example, authentication and authorization mechanisms no longer require human time. And massive amounts of data can be accumulated, compiled and analyzed in nanoseconds, turning it into usable information.
Once again, the conflict between efficiency and discomfort rears its head. On the one hand, more information means you can make better decisions about your finances. On the other, data is being gathered on your every transaction, which opens you up to the frequently reported security and privacy breaches.
Eventually, it will be hard to stay away from digital assistance. But today, you still have a choice.
But where AI truly excels is when it comes to the services the financial advisory industry will be able to provide. Advance models can gather millions of data points over the life of a user and provide answers to complex questions in the form of financial advice for those who cannot afford an advisor.
Today, clients can check investment performance and balances, and get updates on market sectors with simple Alexa-type voice commands, no longer just through mobile apps.
And for those who work directly with advisors, the quality of answers is far superior to what a single human could interpret based on reams of charts and statistics. Financial advisors see AI’s valuable role in helping with trading, rebalancing portfolios and calculating risk. Those same advisors do not see AI replacing them but feel the human-machine collaboration improves their ability to meet their clients’ strategic goals.
Nor do they see AI as the end-all-be-all. It is moving forward in fits and starts, not necessarily in a straight line. But for now, AI does allow greater focus on a client’s needs and wants while a machine helps crunch numbers as it researches and qualifies investment options.
Financial advisors see AI’s role in their industry as following different phases. One phase is what they call “rules-based learning,” where all the data available from your spending, investment and savings are brought together from different sources to provide you with a better view of your financial universe.
In another phase, “simple machine learning,” uses the collected daily data to find patterns and make intelligent projections.
An “adaptive learning” phase will bring together many aspects of your data, transactions and consumer behaviors and allow an advisor to play a highly personalized, but a much broader advisory role in many aspects of your well-being, not just your financial life. AI is just a few short years away from such capabilities.
So, how much AI do you want in your life as you deal with your money? Whether in simple apps or complicated wealth-building (and retirement planning) efforts, weigh each step you take into the use of AI. Recognize that AI has its benefits – as well as its costs. Be open to the ongoing improvements in technology, carefully measuring the advantage it brings you. Most of all, remember, you control your money.