Consumers Want to Automate Daily Financial Tasks

October 1 — A survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers reveals that Americans are more likely to automate their day-to-day finances than other daily activities. According to “Consumer Digital Demands” by Charles Schwab, roughly a quarter of those surveyed said they would sooner automate financial tasks than rely on technology to get food delivered (22 percent), find a date (18 percent), diagnose a minor health issue (13 percent) or drive a car (11 percent).

Americans also have confidence that technology can make the financial planning process easier. Among those surveyed, planning today is considered as difficult as training for a marathon, but the majority (56 percent) would like the creation of a financial plan to be at least as easy as booking a hotel room.

But while technology is a natural first step to getting basic tasks accomplished, access to a person is still essential for most people. Eighty-six percent of consumers prefer brands that make it easy to interact with a real person, and 43 percent still prefer more human assistance over automation even for daily financial activities. Specific to their finances, consumers want access to a person who can guide them through bigger money matters such as portfolio management or developing a financial plan. In fact, just 16 percent think they can primarily automate the creation of a financial plan.

“So many people simply don’t invest for their future because they don’t know where to start,” said Tobin McDaniel, senior vice president of digital advice and innovation for Charles Schwab. “Consumers today expect a combination of technology to remove roadblocks and access to a person when they need some extra help, and how they invest should be no different.”

The Future of Finance Is Robo (and People)

When asked what recent innovation or technology is most likely to shape the future of finance, Americans believe that robo advisors will have the most significant impact. Nearly half (45 percent) say robo advisors will have the biggest impact on the future of finance, compared to:

  • Cryptocurrency (29 percent)
  • Artificial intelligence (28 percent)
  • Big data (21 percent)
  • Virtual reality (12 percent)

Beyond managing their money, Americans expect to use robo advisors more than any other technology in their daily lives. More than half of Americans (58 percent) say they will be using robo advice on a regular basis by the year 2025, compared to artificial intelligence (55 percent), virtual reality (54 percent), augmented reality (43 percent) and cryptocurrency (36 percent).

Of people who express affinity for robo advice, 70 percent also want help from a person for more complex questions and situations.

People Still Need People

Even as the world becomes increasingly tech-driven, the ability to talk to a person drives trust. Within an online or mobile app experience, access to a person is the second biggest driver of consumer trust (closely following “ease of use”) and more than data security or the design of the user experience. Seventy-nine percent of people want easy access to human customer service even in a digital experience (mobile app or online). Additional findings include:

  • From home repairs to shopping, Americans are split between relying solely on technology versus people for decision-making: 52 percent prefer to use technology to get things done while 48 percent prefer interacting with another person.
  • When it comes to consumer trust in financial services firms, high-quality customer service is the #2 overall driver of trust, behind security of personal information and data.
  • Access to a person can also lead to deeper engagement with money and investing: 64 percent of people say they would spend more time investing if they had easy access to financial advisor when needed.

“As people’s finances get more complex, they increasingly want access to a human advisor,” said McDaniel. “Leveraging technology to automate ongoing tasks means we can lower costs and drive scale to give more people access to financial advice and planning than ever before.”

The More Generations Change, the More They Stay the Same

According to Schwab’s survey, the desire to use a combination of technology and humans to lend a hand is consistent across generations:

  • Not surprisingly, millennials are fans of using technology for money management: 75 percent say it has given them peace of mind; 71 percent say technology has helped them reach financial goals; and 56 percent say it’s helped them get out of debt.
  • But as the same time, 82 percent of millennials still prefer brands that make it easy for them to talk to a person: 79 percent prefer to build their financial plan by using a combination of automation and people or by relying almost entirely on human assistance.
  • Boomers prove to be surprisingly comfortable with technology: 43 percent of boomers are more comfortable relying on technology than people to answer questions and solve problems.
  • Boomers report that technology has helped them improve their financial lives as well: 51 percent say technology gives them peace of mind when it comes to finances, and 44 percent say technology has helped them reach financial goals.

The online study was conducted by independent research firm Edelman Intelligence among 1,000 U.S. general population adults over the age of 18 between July 25 and July 31. General population respondents were weighted to be nationally representative based on most-recent U.S. Census data. The study has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence.

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