Will the role of financial practitioners be irrelevant in the face of virtual assistants?

| 18 Apr 2019

This article is contributed by Andy Lim Beng Suan, an active member of the Insurance and Financial Practitioners Association of Singapore (IFPAS). He shares with us his thoughts on why financial practitioners are still being favoured over Artificial Intelligence assistance. Having been a financial practitioner for the last 3 decades, he is very confident that financial practitioners are here to stay until at least the next century.

Human beings don’t like conversing with a machine or any artificially intelligent application in discovering their physical needs and financial situation. Only a human being can understand a living person’s wants and needs. The virtual assistant powered by AI can never replace the human touch.

Most of the big banks have also realised that people don’t like to leave voice mails and when dealing with voice automated machines where you are asked to “press 1 to increase credit limit, etc” most of the time, we press 0, to speak to a customer service officer. Why is that so?

It was experimented in Japan, and my MDRT colleagues from the United States of America (USA) to the United Kingdom (UK) provided feedback to me that virtual assistants cannot bring in more life and general insurance business than human advisers.

Reason being, consumers will not like to deal with a virtual assistant and will not be comfortable letting their financial futures be decided by one as well.

Let me quote you a real life example, whenever I send my car for the usual 10,000km service requirement check, the customer service officer (CSO) at the front desk who takes my booking greets me by my surname and even offers me refreshments while waiting for my car to be serviced.

AI and virtual assistants can also do the job of arranging and facilitating the service check. However, the human touch like a handshake or a reassuring smile from the CSO will certainly improve your day.  Unlike a virtual assistant that may never understand your mood, soul and financial dreams. The virtual assistant can only provide facts and figures that aid in decision making.

How to be human then?

As an adviser, being able to listen, be empathetic and sympathetic is to build mutual trust and understanding between the client and yourself. Only then can your client believe and place their trust in you handling their confidential financial matters.

Good listening must be active, incisive, conscious, involved and interactive. Can the virtual assistant do all that? A successful sales professional will listen for what is said and what is unspoken as well. In addition to that, it is also necessary to confirm and validate what we have heard.

We must listen and also give the client the feeling of having been listened too. The virtual assistants or AI can only store/record what’s being heard like a hard disk. The art of listening becomes vital to earning the right to move forward.

Having defined the financial needs of the client, one might think that the next logical step is to let the AI/ virtual assistant come up with a range of financial planning solutions. A problem can have many solutions, depending on what the clients wish to achieve and which future state he/she wishes to be in. The role of joint envisioning of financial goals with the client aids in building trust and rapport.


In conclusion

When a financial practitioner succeeds in breaking through the clutter and the noise and is able to clearly articulate and identify the client’s financial problems and is also able to genuinely and accurately solve them. Then that will be powerful enough to create a bond that virtual assistants and AI application cannot do. Virtual assistants can only take orders and suggest generic solutions but will never be able to provide individual personalised solutions. This is something only a human financial practitioner can do.

This is an IFPAS X Asia Advisers Network collaboration.

The article “Will the role of financial practitioners be irrelevant to virtual assistants in the face of advancing technological future?” originally appeared in Tuesday Times, an online publication by IFPAS.