A great debate is currently being waged over the future of financial advice. On one side of the argument are the historians saying, “We’ve seen this before.” From historians’ point of view, every decade or so, new business entrants swoop in to guzzle down a bunch of the wealth management pie by providing services for free or near free.
Historians remind us of two previous “failed” attempts to eliminate the financial advice business: discount brokerages and no-load mutual funds. Schwab and e*Trade the primary villains of the first, Vanguard the unquestioned rabble-rouser of the second. To historians, the rise of fintech is of the same ilk: destined to gain a little market share, a lot of media attention, and all the while, financial advisors will continue to provide the “real” value by working with people to solve real problems of wealth accumulation and distribution. Historians are immune (and generally scoff at) the infamous phrase: “This time it’s different.” To them, it never is.