An Evaluation by Friedhelm Schmitt.
2020 will undoubtedly go down in the history books as an extraordinary year. The Corona pandemic has led to disruptions, upheavals, but also accelerations that could not have been foreseen a few months ago, as it is always the case with disruptive events. We talked to Friedhelm A. Schmitt, founder and Co-CEO of Fincite and Fincite Ventures, about what this means for the fintech year 2021.
Friedhelm, in your opinion, what was the most significant change in 2020?
Corona has changed the world. What I feel most profoundly is that personal and direct human contact which has always been considered to be positive – has suddenly started to pose a risk. As a result, adapting to video conferencing has reached a scale that would have taken years if it had developed linearly. This adaptation has opened up completely new application possibilities in hybrid financial consulting. In the future, it won’t have to be an espresso at the bank to talk about finances – it could also be a cup of tea on my couch at home. I assume that the use of video conferencing software will be in even greater demand in the future.
And what does this mean for traditional financial consulting in particular? How are the tasks and role models going to change here?
This will have a significant impact on the work reality of investment advisors. If the advice is part of a digital experience, the demand for financial expertise will be more frequent and also much more precise and individual. At the same time, advice will become much more sophisticated. Through using apps for mindfulness, fitness, and nutrition customers got used to having a consultant by their side who makes their goals his own and walks through with them till the end of the journey, co-operating with them until the goals have been reached. This kind of financial companionship is something that customers will and may expect in the future as well. Undoubtedly to have such a companion, all available communication channels will be utilized in order to connect with the “financial companion”. Technology at the interface enables this experience for the consultants to answer individual questions and provide information at any time.
So, is it a step away from classic Robo-Advice, which no longer involves human interaction?
It inevitably leads in the direction that Robo-Advice becomes financial advice again which at first sounds less complicated than it actually is. Robo Advice functions, in regulatory terms, as asset management or, in rarer cases, as investment brokerage. In comparison, investment advice is much more challenging – especially if it is to be mapped digitally. However, the customer does not care about these regulatory distinctions. If one’s own preferences or restrictions are not reflected in the investment, this cannot be communicated to customers in the long run. Indeed, the great success of Neo-brokers and the renaissance of online brokers show that customers do have their own opinions about investments and are willing to translate them into orders.
And beyond that, how will this change become clear to clients and asset managers?
On the one hand, this is going to blur the boundaries among regulatory service models (brokerage, advisory, management), and on the other hand, customers increasingly want personal preferences to be taken into account in their portfolios. Above all, sustainability.
In your assessment of 2021, what will be the big topics for classic investment advice?
The more individual the investment feels to the customer, the higher the level of commitment to the topic of finance will develop. And that is also urgently necessary. Financial uneasiness is one of the world’s biggest dampeners of quality of life. Even the manifestation of financial uneasiness into physical discomfort is the norm rather than the exception. Helping the masses of people achieve financial wellness will be one of the great tasks by which the financial industry, along with sustainability, will be measured in the future. 2021 could be the starting point for this.