ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. John Houston, managing director of Raymond James Financial Institutions Division, isnt about to lose a wink of sleep over robo advisors, the new competitors in the wealth advisory industry that many view as disruptors.
Until a computer can show empathy and read the expression on a clients face when discussing critical life issues with them, Im not too worried, he said in an interview at the Raymond James Financial Institutions Division Symposium here on Wednesday.
The clients that Raymond James-affiliated banks and credit unions serve appreciate the advice they receive and are happy to pay reasonable prices for them, he said. Theyre willing to pay more because they receive much more than boilerplate advice.
In fact, he said, the new automated advice providers are unlikely to live up to their reputation as being disruptors, at least at Raymond James. Thats because the needs of Raymond James clients simply cant be placed into a little box as robo advisors attempt to do. When the markets are volatile, whats that little box going to tell them in some monotone voice? he asks.
Scott Curtis, president of Raymond James Financial Services, agreed. The vast majority of people with a significant amount of money to invest, protect and transferthose with more than $100,000prefer to work with a personal advisor, he said.
Even on pricing pressure that robo advisors will inevitably put on the industry, Houston and Curtis do not appear to be terribly concerned. General competitionnot robos aloneputs pressure on margins, said Houston. Every industry has to gain efficiencies over time or theyre going to struggle, he said.
Both Houston and Curtis welcomed the newcomers, saying increased competition is healthy for the industry. Its not a zero-sum game, Houston said. Theres plenty of business for everyone.