Mar 15, 2016

Turns Out Robots Don’t Offer Conflict-Free Advice Either

Posted by in categories: finance, governance, information science, robotics/AI

Automated online advice platforms, the so-called robo advisors, have long implied the use of algorithms eliminates conflicts of interest. It’s a premise that’s gained traction with both consumers and regulators. But a new report by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority casts doubt on their ability to do just that.

With robo advisors like Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, Betterment and Wealthfront now managing billions of dollars worth of client assets, FINRA investigated these online advice providers. The regulator released a report Tuesday that evaluated several key service areas including governance and supervision, the suitability of recommendations, conflicts of interest, customer risk profiles and portfolio rebalancing.

FINRA found that while digital advice will likely play an increasingly important role in wealth management, investors should be aware that conflicts of interest can exist even in providers powered by algorithms. Specifically, the advice consumers receive depends largely on the digital advice provider’s investment approach and the underlying assumptions used.

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