Already under pressure from reputational challenges, New Zealand's human financial advisor workforce will now have to go head to head with computer-generated advice.
KiwiSaver provider Kiwi Wealth has today received the green light to be the first to offer personalised digital financial advice and will launch the service to its KiwiSaver members next month.
Kiwi Wealth, which is owned by the Government, ACC and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, and is a sister company to Kiwibank, is the first to gain an exemption from the Financial Markets Authority.
New Zealand is currently in the process of changing its financial advisor law to allow non-humans to give personalised advice but the regulator announced last year it would allow exemptions to the law to speed up access to advice.
Its decision came on the back of research in 2016 which revealed just 3 out 1000 Kiwis received personalised advice when signing up or switching KiwiSaver schemes.
A second round of research last year also found most people who get specialist financial advice have between $200,000 and $500,000 in investable assets.
More than 2.8 million people are in KiwiSaver but the average balance is less than $20k.
Joe Bishop, Kiwi Wealth general manager customer, product and innovation, said the FMA's approval of Kiwi Wealth's robo-advice application was a major step toward improving the financial future of all New Zealanders.
"Robo-advice is here. It will reinvent the way Kiwis manage their finances and give access to personalised financial advice that's previously been out of reach for most people."
Bishop said Kiwi Wealth had spent the last three years developing its Future You tool which already provided generalised recommendations.
"Now with the help of technology we aim to help members of the Kiwi Wealth KiwiSaver scheme meet their retirement goals by providing information and advice, with the ability to implement recommendations in a way that's flexible, intuitive, and easy to use," he said.
From June, the Future You tool will also be able to give Kiwi Wealth members personalised advice on which investment fund would suit them best based on their retirement income goal.
The feature will be available to an initial group to road-test before being made available to all members of the scheme.
Kiwi Wealth has 195,000 members and the service will be included in the fees they already pay.
"That might seem a fairly straight-forward piece of advice but it's advice that, under current legislation, could only be given by an authorised financial adviser – a human."
Bishop said the tool would be extended over the next few months to include retirement planning advice which takes into account other assets and would aim to manage KiwiSaver contributions based on people's retirement income goals and their individual financial situation.
"Our goal is to provide our members with detailed and personalised retirement income planning and financial advice at their fingertips.
"We intend to then build this out even further to incorporate non-retirement goals such as saving for their children's education."
Despite the move to digital advice Bishop said humans still had a role to play and would have ultimate oversight of the digital advice.
Human financial advisers will not check every single recommendation but will check a sample of the advice given which the company said was in line with FMA guidelines and expectations.
It would also regularly check and monitor its computer algorithm to ensure it was kept up to date.
"The FMA's exemption application process demanded we demonstrated total control and capacity – from technical expertise, software and infrastructure through to personal data security and quality assurance."