Will Future Robo Advisers Be More Ethical?

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, the robo-advisers of tomorrow are expected to be smarter, and “might even have a conscience.”

Today’s robo-advisers, the article explains, use algorithms to “provide low-cost, automated portfolio-management services to investors seeking discount advice,” but the tools have limitations. “Critics say not only are robots incapable of providing the kind of personalized, sophisticated financial-planning guidance that human wealth managers can deliver, they don’t understand right or wrong,” the article says, adding that some question their ability to act as true fiduciaries.

Specialists in artificial intelligence say that technology could help robo-advisers become more ethical, but it will take a lot of time and data accumulation. The idea, the article says, is that “eventually it will become much easier for an algorithm to provide fiduciary care, perhaps better than a human adviser, who might be tempted to recommend one product over another because of higher commission or other incentives.”

The article notes that advances in technology could result in robo-advisers that could conduct interviews with clients (instead of relying on answers from risk-tolerance questionnaires). “Some envision consumers accessing robo services through a platform that looks like Amazon.com, where the robo will be armed with troves of data to help it understand investors’ lives.”