European regulators take a closer look at robo-advisors

European regulators take a closer look at robo-advisors

The Joint Committee of the three European Supervisory Authorities – EBA, EIOPA and Esma – has opened up a debate about the risks and benefits of robo-advisors in financial markets.

The interest of regulatory authorities in the use of computer technology to provide automated investment advice to consumers comes as more banks pile into the market, sensing an opportunity to cut costs and take on a new generation of wealth management firms such as Wealthfront, Betterment, Personal Capital, and FutureAdvisor who are already luring away clients with the promise of no-frills, low cost, advisory services.

Steven Maijoor, chair of the joint committee, says: “Financial innovation is important and, at its best, contributes to economic growth. However, this can only be achieved and sustained where consumers have confidence in such innovations. Our role as European Supervisory Authorities is to monitor new financial activities and to take action where appropriate."

The potential benefits the ESA’s have identified include lower costs, higher consistency of advice and a bigger number of customers that can be reached. While the potential risks could include the inability of consumers to talk to a human advisor who can guide them through the process and provide clarifications, as well as the increased vulnerability to various types of IT failures.

Says Maijoor: “In this Discussion Paper, we recognise that markets are evolving and we want to open up the debate about this potential shift in the way financial institutions interact with consumers.”

The Discussion Paper is available on the websites of the three ESAs. The closing date for responses is 4 March 2016.

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