AI and the Future of Planning

When journalist Sheelah Kolhatkar needed anything, she’d make a run to the CVS pharmacy in her Brooklyn neighborhood and grab it quickly.

But then one day, a self-checkout machine popped up and made her frequent trips to CVS a little more frustrating.

“It became a hassle,” she told attendees at the FPA Annual Conference in Minneapolis in October. “The machine was buggy. You really had to do every single step exactly the way the machine wanted you to in order for it to work.”

Kolhatkar noted that there was only one human being nearby to resolve problems. As a reporter whose beat is automation and what that means for the future of work, Kolhatkar has looked at this from all angles.

Kolhatkar noted cashiering is the third largest occupation in the U.S., and many workers will be displaced as automated self-checkout machines continue to rise in popularity.

Automation is all around us. And it’s big business for corporations, which are breaking profit records while median wages have remained stagnant since the 1980s, Kolhatkar told attendees.

“In history, major technological advancements led to the displacement of human labor,” Kolhatkar said. “Often, these new technologies eliminated work that was not very appealing—it was drudge work, physically demanding.”

Economists have historically predicted that advances in technology, while they eliminated some jobs, would create more jobs and new professions would open up. There are two types of AI: helping and replacing, she noted. Helping technology makes workers more productive—think GPS for taxi drivers. Replacing technology does just that: replaces human labor—think industrial robots in factories.

While Kolhatkar discussed testing of a cognitive assistant named Amelia who speaks 20 languages and was designed to replace human workers, it seems as though the technology disruption facing the financial planning space is still considered helping technology. Though the answer to whether AI will replace planners varies depending on
who you ask.

Jay Adkisson writes in the Forbes article, “Artificial Intelligence Will Replace Your Financial Adviser—and That’s a Good Thing,” that artificial intelligence can learn faster—taking in all financial historical data, understanding markets and market history and implementing trends into planning. When it comes to this, “the human financial [adviser] has no chance against artificial intelligence.”

But where they will remain relevant and valued is in building the client relationship, learning about clients emotionally and socially, and truly understanding client needs. But to stay competitive as AI continues to get more advanced—even potentially having a higher emotional intelligence quotient—advisers must start communicating more frequently with clients.

“As we sit here today,” Adkisson writes, “artificial intelligence cannot yet equate with the financial adviser in understanding those purely human nuances.”

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Next Generation Planner. She also edits the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at [email protected], or connect with her on LinkedIn. 

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