The future of data in financial advice


As published in Hawke's Bay Today. Canny View by Rory O'Neill, Head of Operations & Finance

Having moved past 2017 and moved forward with 2018, a question everyone asks in one capacity or another is: "What's next?"

In the industry of financial advice, like so many others recently, the answer seems to rely on the massive amounts of data to which companies now have access.

The ongoing revelations about how Cambridge Analytica exploited Facebook to harvest millions of profiles have laid bare the seeming lack of control we have over our own data.

Suddenly, with all the talk of "psychographics" and voter manipulation, the power of data analytics has become the source of some concern.

But the risk is that if we look at the case of Cambridge Analytica in isolation, we might prevent a much wider debate about the use and control of our data.

By focusing on the reports of extreme practices, we might miss the many everyday ways that data analytics are now shaping our lives.

With more information than ever at our fingertips and ample online resources to see personal financial data, many investors are seeking out advisers to help them understand their financial position.

Many investors are suffering from data overload from many sources.

A financial adviser's role is to simplify existing historical data and accurately plan for the future.

But an adviser cannot rely on historic returns only. Decisions should be based on empirical data.

A research-based approach (Fama & French Model) that observes price, value, and profitability (to name a few) in the market coupled with expected returns will result in better investment decisions and as a result better outcomes for investors.

The investors need to have access to consolidated financial information and the adviser should be continuously developing and reinvesting into their business and technology.

The industry overall is transitioning from investment management to financial planning. Financial advisers' focus will change from purely presenting investors with an investment to ensuring "good advice outcomes" through accurate personalised financial planning.

Changes in legislation and the code of conduct will ensure that advisers follow this process.

To put this into perspective, I like to compare this phenomenon to the physical health and wellness surge we've seen over the past few years. Why?

The key is instantaneous access to personal data and information.

More and more people are using technology like Fitbit, Apple Watches and apps to access information like their caloric consumption, activity levels and dietary needs based on the wellness goals they set for themselves.

With the help of a nutritionist, doctor or trainer, consumers can then interpret the data and put action steps together to reach their goals. And it's not too far off to apply this same line of thinking to financial services.

What will happen now that investors have more financial data than ever?

Data can empower financial advisers to help consumers make smarter investment decisions

With more data available, investors will increasingly opt-in to share not only their savings data, but data related to their spending, debt, and giving.

Investors will look to advisers to be financial coaches and show them their reality versus their perception.

Financial advisers will take the decision making away from investors to ensure they do not make impulsive decisions based on market movement and/or a "hot" stock.

It is the responsibility of the adviser to mine the data, analyse and meet the client's investment goals.

The bottom line is that there is truth in data.

When faced with that truth and reality, advisers can help their investors create more holistic plans that are constructed based on what is seen in the data, which will drive better behaviour for consumers.

Consumers will see the face of financial advice change

In the coming years, advisers will become more diverse, and won't solely focus on statistics and accounting – and they will incorporate the human aspect of financial advice.

They will also rely more on machines and technology to work their algorithms, tax-sensitive investing and rebalancing.

With this influx of Artificial Intelligence and the ever-changing nature of investors, financial advisers are faced with the difficult task of providing tailored advice to a variety of individual experiences.

But as long as they're open to embracing that technology and the data it has to offer, advisers are well positioned to offer advice to investors that can truly make an impact.

Professional financial advice will be accessible to more consumers – not just those with high net worth

Technology is also changing who is seeking out financial data and advice, and opening the gateway from client to an adviser.

More and more millennials, women and high-earning-not-rich-yet (also known as HENRYs) are looking for financial advice at different stages in life than what traditional advisers might be used to.

• Rory O'Neill is the head of operations and finance at Stewart Financial Group and its associated company Boutique Advisers Alliance. Stewart Group is a Hawke's Bay-owned and operated independent financial planning and advisory firm based in Hastings. Boutique Advisers Alliance is a service provider of independent financial advisers. The information provided, or any opinions expressed in this article, are of a general nature only and should not be construed or relied on as a recommendation to invest in a financial product or class of financial products. You should seek financial advice specific to your circumstances from an Authorised Financial Adviser before making any financial decisions. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 878 961 or visit our website,