Non-Obvious Trends

Non-ObviousTM Trends

Ten Years of Insights Read by Over 1 Million People

Human Mode

Thanks to automation, people crave experiences, advice, and services delivered by actual humans.


About This Trend:

For several years robo-advisors have been one of the most disruptive forces in finance. Since the 2008 financial crisis, trust in the financial services industry has remained low, and in this environment, robo-advisors offer an attractive, objective alternative to humans that may be tempted to act in their own interest instead of that of their client.

A company called Betterment was one of the early pioneers in this space, as it began to offer robo-advisory services in 2010. Today the firm manages more than $10 billion in assets and over 270,000 customer accounts, and has become a bellwether for automation across the entire financial services industry.

About a year ago, Betterment made an announcement that surprised many: They added a human option. In exchange for an increased fee on assets under management, customers now can opt for a premium version of Betterment’s services, which include unlimited access to human advice from an actual financial advisor. Just six months later, they added a feature to their app which allows any customer to send text messages to human advisors and get a response within 24 hours—at no additional charge.

This expression of Human Mode is the predictable antidote to automation in many ways. As we interact more with technology and robots for everything from making the perfect salad to vacuuming our floors, the interactions we have with real people may become more precious and sometimes, more desirable.

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