Ever since 1877, Wimbledon has opened its doors to top tennis players battling it out to win the coveted Championship titles. Although many traditions remain in situ today, such as endless supplies of strawberries and cream, all white outfits, no play on the middle Sunday, not forgetting the obligatory rain interruption, not everything has stood still.
For a start, rackets have morphed from plain wooden implements, in Fred’s day, to innovative graphite instruments incorporating gyroscopes and accelerometers in the handle aimed at tracking a player’s performance.
Unlike the tennis outfits allowed at Wimbledon, white tennis balls were replaced by phosphorescent yellow ones in 1986, following research that this made them easier for television viewers to see. The fact that they also help tennis players to see the ball whizzing over the net at them is an added bonus!
Even the grass has not escaped the relentless march of progress, having to be trimmed to an exact height of 8mm for optimum play. Wimbledon even employs its own independent turf consultant to take intricate measurements to determine the exact amount of water required to be sprayed on the grass at night to boost its longevity.
What would Fred Perry think if he ventured out onto Centre Court in 2017?
This increase in use of digital technology and data to help optimise every last inch of the Championship is by no means the sole prerogative of Wimbledon. Such high-tech advances are taking place everywhere and infiltrating our daily lives.
Yet, one area where the onset of technology has been slower than most is in the financial services industry. Can it follow in Wimbledon’s footsteps?
Following the financial crisis in 2008, a number of small, pioneering technological start-up companies began to emerge in the US championing a new way of delivering on-demand, simpler and cheaper financial advice to consumers. The idea was to become known as robo advice which essentially involves replacing face to face financial planning advice with online, automated guidance and execution using computer algorithms. No actual robots are used at all!
Seen by some as the end of traditional face to face advice, more optimistic advocates believe that robo advice presents a huge opportunity for the UK financial services industry, enabling consumers to obtain professional advice at a much lower cost than undertaking a full advice process. In fact, following the recommendations put forward in the Financial Advice Market Review (FAMR), the FCA is making major efforts to encourage the development of robo advice to help create a more inclusive, accessible, engaging and cost-effective advice market in the UK.
But how far has this technology come? For now, at least, robo advice capabilities in the UK remain fairly rudimentary and cannot yet provide sophisticated advice to meet the demands of investors with more complex financial affairs.
What then is the future for robo advice?
It’s clear that new technology and continued innovation will continue to help enhance robo advice capabilities. Not only is robo advice likely to expand to encompass an ever increasing number of financial goals, including estate planning, long term care and protection needs, but future versions are destined to make use of machine learning, developing predictive models aimed at helping consumers to choose investment strategies most suited to their personal circumstances.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) to closely mimic the actions of human advisers is likely to become an ever more important component of the advice process. This will enable robo advice to become ever more engaging and provide consumers with greater confidence to act upon the recommendations given. By using data collated on consumers’ personal circumstances, their attitude to investment risk and the choices made previously by other consumers with similar profiles, robo advice processes will be able to make personalised recommendations in the same way as a competent human adviser would, by using his or her experience of what has worked well for clients in the past.
At Wimbledon this year, use is being made of AI to pick up key moments of matches to help speed up the collation of highlights for social media and television. Based on an analysis of crowd noise and player’s facial expressions, AI systems are taking the place of human editors by independently selecting the most exciting points of a match with the aim of making the entire process more efficient and more streamlined.
What do such technological changes mean for the traditional financial adviser going forward? Well, technology is a challenge but it is also an opportunity. The financial services world cannot stand still and is likely to look very different in five or ten years’ time.
Management information and continuous feedback loops will be used to implement changes quickly to improve the effectiveness of the overall robo advice process. Constant improvements will be made using the latest ideas from behavioural finance, gamification and psychology, as well as cognitive computing, to drive up consumer engagement and increase the implementation of financial plans.
And as for Wimbledon?
A new roof on number 1 court is scheduled for 2019, an “Ask Fred” app is being developed to enhance the experience of tennis fans and help them make the most of their day out and, given his contribution over the years to the Championships, perhaps a new statue of Andy Murray will grace SW19, to go alongside the one of Fred Perry? We wait to see.