Robo-Advisors Unlikely to Replace Insurance Agents, Says Allianz

The verdict is in on robo-advisors; Americans much prefer a human touch in making financial decisions, according to a survey conducted by the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America.

The study, “Generations Apart”, surveyed both Baby Boomer and Generation X Americans with annual incomes of at least $30,000 on how they approach their financial futures. Of the 2000 respondents, 69% said they don’t trust advice found online and prefer to build personal relationships. Additionally, only 10% of individuals said they would be comfortable having a relationship with their financial advisor be strictly online.

Allianz’s findings come at a time when insurers are still figuring out the impact robo-advisors will ultimately have on their industry. Robo-advisors were once thought to replace financial planners, but instead have become another tool for them to utilize, says Katie Libbe, Allianz Life’s vice president of consumer insights. The same will likely happen in insurance.

“It’s one thing to use a robo-advisor as a tool to purchase a policy, it’s another to get advice from it” said Libbe. “For customers, help from an insurance agent is vital because the product gets even more complex. You want someone to explain features and benefits to you. Someone who can say yes you can buy all the bells and whistles if you want, but you don’t really need them.”

Allianz’s survey, released in April 2015, highlights the importance of insurance agents and financial advisors, according to Libbe. To be sure, the study did find 35 percent of Americans do have some interest in working with a robo-advisor. The life insurer credits this to Generation X and Baby Boomers’ growing comfort level with technology, noting most individuals would like to establish a personal relationship first.

But the jury is still out on millennials, a generation native to technology, Libbe says. Perhaps they will be the ones to trust robo-advisors more than previous generations.

“I don’t see anybody talking about a robo-advisor being able to deal with insurance needs just yet. However, the technology will certainly get better and closer to delivering value,” she said. “At that point, people will decide if they trust the tech enough to seek advice from it.”

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