A Look at the Present and Future of Artificial Intelligence in Fintech

Financial services is heavily regulated, and often that means that things like marketing and more creative approaches to branding often lag behind other industries.

For many financial advisors, business development focuses on being conservative, safe, and going with what’s been known to work in the past.

One area in wealth management where that focus on conservatism doesn’t hold is with the technology companies who create solutions for advisors. By and large, fintech firms are pretty innovative and often come up with tools that make life easier for advisory firms.

Case in point: There’s been a number of recent announcements from fintech companies dealing with emerging technologies in Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence.

Sometimes, though, I think tech firms can jump ahead a little too far to make sure they stay “on trend” and they end up creating something that’s too far ahead of its time and doesn’t get used, or it gets reduced to something that’s more like a proof-of-concept than a feature.

It probably sounds like I’m about to get real negative on how fintech firms are approaching AR and voice control, and that’s not really true. Overall I’m very positive on the possibilities these types of technologies can create.

My view of the big three types of emerging tech holds pretty close with what Bill Winterberg shared with me on Twitter when we started talking about this trend:

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I think AR and voice will be big for advisory firms. But is that time now? Or are fintech firms better off putting their development focus elsewhere?

For the rest of this post, I’m going to take a look at recent fintech developments in AR, Voice, and AI technologies—and rate them according to a very specific, very accurate scoring methodology.

Voice Control Comes to Financial Planning with Voice Assistant from eMoney Advisor

eMoney Advisor released a Voice Assistant at eMoney Summit 2018, their annual conference. The Assistant is designed to make navigation a little easier for advisors. Instead of taking a few clicks to pull up a client’s report, you can ask for the report.

It’s basically a trimmed-down Siri for your financial planning app.

The interesting piece of eMoney’s development is that they say it will understand you better the more you use it, so it seems that there’s some kind machine learning going on under the hood. This feature is really important for me to see.

Voice control that requires a super-specific command line isn’t useful or fun in the long run, so I’m curious to see how that AI element of Voice Assistant actually plays out over time.

I see what eMoney has done as the basic first step that fintech firms interested in voice control need to start with, and hopefully it gets enough user adoption to warrant a phase two, because that’s where I think things can get really exciting.

I look to what Apple has done with Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12 as the natural progression of voice control for fintech companies. Once you’ve got the basics down (navigate to a client page or pull up a report) then the next building block is to add in multi-step actions.

With Siri, you can set up a series of actions to take place based on a single command. For instance, saying “I’m ready for bed” can turn off all the Wifi-connected lights in your home, lock your doors, and set your alarms for the morning wake-up routine.

I can easily imagine something similar taking place as eMoney builds on their Voice Assistant’s foundation.

Imagine asking your financial planning software to “Prep for my meeting with John Smith” and having it do all the work to generate an updated financial plan, run a couple of the cash flow reports you like to review with that person, and maybe even include a performance report from an integrated portfolio accounting solution.

That’s the type of future I can behind, and one that can pretty clearly affect how productive an advisor can be in their workday.

Very Specific, Very Accurate Verdict: This development is Hella Good

Redtail Brings Artificial Intelligence to Advisor CRM Software

Redtail, everyone’s favorite CRM for financial advisory firms, is also getting into the AI game with the announcement they made at the 2018 Riskalyze Fearless Investing Summit.

For its immediate impact, this development is the most exciting to me.

Redtail’s AI program scans emails and information stored in the firm’s CRM to give advisors actionable feedback that can help drive better communication with clients.

One example given is that if a client sends in an angry email, the Redtail AI can identify negative language used in that communication and then automatically alert the advisor that they need to immediately reach out to that client to address the issue.

Redtail AI can also add tags for specific keywords mentioned in an email so an advisor can quickly pick out important items mentioned.

While it doesn’t help auto-draft emails for advisors, I think of this development similarly to how Google has been implementing machine learning technologies into Gmail.

Gmail now scans email to offer quick replies and it also offer email drafting assistance. While there are some who don’t like these features, I love the efficiency they offer.

If I just scheduled a meeting with someone, I can click a button in Gmail and reply with “That sounds great!” instead of typing out that sentence. Even if I only use it as the first sentence in a reply, it still saves a few seconds.

Multiplied over each day and over a week, I might save 10-15 minutes on email replies. And any time saved not emailing is worth it.

This type of machine learning AI seems like a natural progression to what Redtail has begun to include in their CRM and I am really excited to see where it goes next.

Very Specific, Very Accurate Verdict:


TD Ameritrade Lets You Buy Stocks with Your Voice

Let’s close the loop with more voice-activated technology.

If you’ve got a TD Ameritrade account you can now trade with just your voice.

That’s right, now instead of asking your Amazon Alexa device for a stock quote with the TD Ameritrade skill, you can now ask it to trade a stock for you.

This is the one development I’m not that big on, and here’s why.

In my opinion, voice control for complex or multi-step actions isn’t quite where it needs to be yet for it to be a compelling feature that streamlines actions.

Where voice control shines is in a multi-interaction environment like what eMoney has created. You can start things with your voice, but then continue the interaction on screen. That type of workflow works really well.

The TD Ameritrade voice trading right now seems more like a proof-of-concept than a true feature. It might be more about personal preference, but I don’t see the appeal of talking to Alexa through a multi-step process to buy a stock.

An article at Barron’s explains the process like this:

A flowchart provided by the company illustrates a hypothetical trade in which a customer specifies a company, share amount, market/limit order, and them confirms with a PIN.

I’m not clear on if that’s a true four-step process or if the first three items (company, share amount, market/limit order) can all be completed in the same voice command.

Either way, though, is this development something that makes buying and selling investment assets easier?

Or is it another way to trade that isn’t really better...just different?

I’m seeing it as the latter right now.

Very Specific, Very Accurate Verdict: Don’t Buy, Don’t Sell...Just Hold

But What About VR in Fintech?

There have been some other announcements regarding Virtual Reality, and my thoughts can be summed up in one sentence.

Unless my financial plan involves catching Pokemon, I don’t care about viewing it with VR goggles on my head.

Sorry not sorry.

Got some thoughts on this article? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s talk about emerging tech and the role it plays in advisory firms and financial services.

Featured image on this post: Photo by 
Franck V. on Unsplash

Johnny Sandquist