Are we dinosaurs amid all this disruption?

I’m just back from Florida and the 2018 Inside ETFs conference, where in between deep conversations about market returns, factors, and bitcoin, there hung this question about advisors’ livelihoods in a world that grows more digital by the day. It’s a concept bigger than ETFs, and it’s a message we all need to hear: Change, or forever be changed.

You need to rethink the tasks you do every day.

Tim Buckley, my new boss and Vanguard’s new CEO, broke it down pretty explicitly in his opening keynote Inside ETFs address. Your job of looking out for your clients’ livelihoods is here to stay, but you need to rethink the tasks you do every day. While this is daunting, he pointed to the path forward and the amazing opportunity of it all.

A fair amount of gloom-and-doom research has stated that millions of jobs are susceptible to automation and will just disappear. We fundamentally disagree: While there are tasks today that will be automated away, jobs will evolve to increasingly revolve around advanced, uniquely human tasks, such as strategizing and solving problems.



So what are automation’s implications for advice? No doubt about it, computers have just about perfected portfolio construction, driving the core costs of advice down, but the data show that what clients really want is something computers can’t provide. And therein lies the opportunity.

Technology and automation aren’t threats at all. They are the gateway to future success, perhaps much more success than even the best advisors could build on their own. They free up time to focus on where you can add the most value: behavioral coaching, customized retirement income solutions, long-term care planning, insurance coverage, estate planning, and the like.

What’s in it for you? Deep bonds. You’ve invested a lot of time getting to know your clients inside and out to provide creative, custom solutions. Where does that get you? You’re no longer a price comparison; clients don’t even think about not having you at their sides. And they tell their friends, families, and colleagues just how good you are.

And enough gloom on where advice is headed; advisors should be energized.

We shouldn’t fear or fight technology; we should embrace it to do things better, faster, and cheaper. And enough gloom on where advice is headed; advisors should be energized. Let your value shine in creativity, coaching, and customization—things a computer will never be able to do. You will thrive.

I encourage you to read The evolution of Vanguard Advisor’s Alpha®: From portfolios to people, the latest chapter in our ongoing effort to help you understand and articulate where your value lies. There you’ll find data showing what clients truly value, as well as our thoughts on increasing your value as the industry continues to evolve.