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Banks need 'phygital' approach

News, 13 January 2017

GLOBAL: Seven in ten consumers around the world are willing to accept "robo-advice" on financial services, according to a new report, which also finds that two-thirds want human interaction when it comes to complaints and complex products.

Consulting firm Accenture surveyed almost 33,000 people across 18 markets and found that the countries with the biggest appetite for robo-advice were in the emerging economies of Indonesia (92%), Thailand (90%), Brazil (86%) and Chile (84%).

These are all markets where it is already common to use a smartphone or other digital device as the primary vehicle for financial services interactions, it noted, adding that even in the countries with the lowest demand – Canada (56%), Germany (59 %) and Australia (61%) – more than half of consumers surveyed said they were willing to use robo-advice.

The main attractions of this were the prospect of faster (39%) and less expensive (31%) services; around a quarter (26%) also felt that computers/artificial intelligence would be more impartial and analytical than humans.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) also means the quality of advice delivered can be consistent, noted Monika Schulze, global head of marketing at Zurich Insurance, at a recent research conference. "It's not easy to keep advisors up to speed on all categories," she said – motor insurance, life insurance, accident insurance, home insurance and all the various regulations associated with each.

But she added that people like dealing with people, and said the task facing Zurich is how to combine the rational efficiencies and cost savings that AI brings with the emotional understanding that humans apply to interactions with fellow humans – emotions that, after all the rational research they may have carried out, often decide the final buying decision.

Accenture's survey pointed up the need for human interaction in particular areas, such as mortgages (61%) which are significantly more complicated than simply opening a bank account.

"Successful financial services firms will therefore need a 'phygital' strategy that seamlessly integrates technology, branch networks and staff to provide a service that combines physical and digital capabilities and gives consumers a choice," said Piercarlo Gera, senior managing director, Accenture Financial Services.

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff