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Investors Want Financial Advice From Both Robots and Humans, Says Accenture

A man moves his finger toward the finger of humanoid robot iCub during the 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Madrid on November 18, 2014.GERARD JULIEN AFP/Getty Images

Financial advisers across Wall Street’s biggest brokerages have fretted over their professional futures in recent years as their firms worked to develop “robo” services for millennial and tech-savvy clients.

But a new study by consulting firm Accenture finds that clients across all ages and economic brackets want robots and humans together, not one instead of the other.

The findings follow news on Tuesday that BlackRock (BHK), the world’s biggest money manager, was laying off some portfolio managers in favor of spending more on data-mining techniques that could improve investment performance.

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Conversely, the popular direct-to-consumer robo adviser Betterment said in January that it was adding a service where clients can get advice from a person.

“The market is not mature yet in terms of the robo experience,” said Kendra Thompson, global head of Accenture’s (ACN) wealth management division and the author of the study.

However, the market is changing so rapidly that study respondents said online tools they considered to be “bells and whistles two years ago” are now expected, Thompson said.

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“If you’re an exec you need to be … ensuring that you’re keeping pace with what investors want,” Thompson said.

The study surveyed 1,300 investors, most of whom are considered high net worth, emerging wealthy and mass affluent. Five percent of respondents were ultra-wealthy.

Overall, respondents ranked hybrid wealth management firms higher than other options because they offered low-cost access to robo advisers along with a human’s expertise for more complex situations.