Making Cents: Can Your Advisor Be Replaced By A Robot?

US Wealth Napolitano |

By: John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST, RLP®

Over the past year we have seen an awful lot of publicity and news about the advent of the robo advisor.  These robo advisors are not like the robots that can clean your house or perform surgical procedures.  What the robo advisors are is basically a computer program to help investors invest their nest eggs.

The deliverable – a program that delivers an asset allocation is not new for investors. For years there have been online programs to assess one’s tolerance for risk and then suggest a portfolio of investments to meet that level of risk. This robo platform will then rebalance your portfolio as needed to maintain the level of exposure or risk to that which it is programmed to meet.

What is wrong with the word and the concept of a robo advisor, is the use of the word advisor.  There is no advisor, no human advisor at least.  And to me, the use of the term advisor is out of context. 

Unfortunately for many consumers is that when they hire an advisor they frequently only receive advice about investments or insurance.  Specifically the advice frequently centers on the areas where an advisor can ring the register with products or fees for managing money. For this reason, many consumers often think that an advisor is only about investments. This type of narrow, self-centered advisor should be replaced by a robot.

When I use or hear the term advisor, I interpret is as a fiduciary would.  And to me the use of the word advisor when it comes to matters financial should include all financial issues that may impact a client’s life, family or business.

A robo can’t replace a person when it comes to discussing the pre-nuptial agreement that you may need for your second marriage, or the terms of a trust that will guide how your heirs through the use and utilization period of their ultimate inheritance. The robo advisor also can’t help you assess the risk that you may be taking when you decide what type of homeowners or auto insurance to buy. 

It may also be difficult to have a conversation with a robo advisor about the succession plan for your business.  A real person that understands the business, your customers or clients and the talent that you’ve got available to handle the triage if you don’t wake up for breakfast tomorrow has a much greater chance of helping you make the right decisions today.

The concept of robo advisor will mature as the technology gets more developed, but in the meantime it is basically a substitute for picking investments on your own.  These services are not free, and just like hiring a human advisor there is no guarantee that the cost will be worthwhile in the short or long term.


John P. Napolitano CFP®, CPA is CEO of U. S. Wealth Management in Braintree, MA.  Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment