A wave of new digital tools will complement, not replace, finacial advisors, according to senior Credit Suisse exec Marco Abele, who says it's not yet time to worry about the rise of the robo-advisors.
In an inhouse Q&A, Abele, who is head of digital private banking at Credit Suisse Switzerland, insists that digital and analog are "not binaries" and that new technology will help advisors by taking on repetitive admin, leaving more time for clients.
Some of the bank's advisors began piloting new technology this summer, using tablets with speech recognition that takes over documentation, freeing up staffers to focus on clients. The tablet also gives advisors virtual access to experts who can be digitally brought in to answer any questions.
"What is special about it is that we did not roll out a ready-to-use solution but rather one that the client advisors themselves can help to design. Ultimately, we want the technology to be the perfect support for our advisors," says Abele.
This means that advisors are not likely to be replaced by robots in the near future. Despite much hype, independent robo-advisors only manage around $20 billion around the world, although this is expected to rise to $450 billion by 2020.
Abele notes that most of these platforms are focused exclusively on exchange traded funds, making them inadequate for many clients, while they are also geographically limited - many of them in the US, which is not "consistent with the security requirements" of most Swiss clients.
Even when automated advisors overcome these problems, humans will still have a place, with the technology allowing them to offer tools to less wealthy people - something another Swiss Bank, UBS, has started doing in the UK.
More generally, Abele calls fintech firms "no small phenomenon" but is sceptical on their chances of replacing banks, largely because they focus on only a part of the value chain. He suggests that cooperation is the best route for both sides.
But banks must still be vigilant: "The generation of today's 15- to 35-year-olds seeks out the offer that suits them best. Whether that offer comes from a 160-year-old bank or a social network is completely irrelevant. We have to offer the best solution or they will go somewhere else."