SOURCE: CLS Investments, LLC

FiComm Partners

April 23, 2015 09:00 ET

CLS Investments Study Finds Robo Debate to Be the Catalyst Driving Technology Adoption Among Advisors

OMAHA, NE--(Marketwired - April 23, 2015) -

  • 134 independent financial advisor responses collected
  • 96.7% of advisor respondents believe that conventional and robo-advisors can "co-exist"; however, 78.4% of advisor respondents perceive the robo-advisors as a "potential" to "significant" threat to their business model
  • Increased pressure to adopt technology in the advisor community is leaving advisors with difficult choices to make on how to allocate resources

CLS Investments, LLC ("CLS"), a third party money manager and a leading manager of exchange-traded funds ("ETFs") recently surveyed independent financial advisors about the emergence of the "robo-advisor". The objective of the survey was to gauge advisor perception with regard to the current "robo-advisor" landscape, specifically whether or not these platforms are a viable option for consumers and how they may affect the traditional approach to financial advice. 

Perhaps the most striking finding of the survey was the apparent willingness of advisors to live side by side, and even fully integrated with, robo-advisors, while still overwhelmingly perceiving them as a real or potentially real threat. The survey also found that advisor confidence in their own grasp of technology was remarkably high -- 95.5% of the respondents categorized their comfort level with tech as "knowledgeable" to "very knowledgeable". This apparent contradiction ultimately reveals what is the real underlying driver of the robo-narrative -- advisors' adoption of technology.

"Robo-advisors are a misnomer, as they do not provide actual advice -- that remains the purview of the traditional advisor and so they have never really been a threat to RIAs. Clients want a superior consumer experience -- like they would have with Amazon or Zappos -- regardless of what they are trying to do, be it buying shoes or planning for their retirement and this is, in part, what the Robos provide. Using technology to help create that experience is the inevitability that advisors face," said Todd Clarke, CEO, CLS Investments. 

Given these findings, an undercurrent of the response set seemed to indicate that while advisors may perceive themselves as knowledgeable with regard to technology, there is actually a limited understanding of just how dramatically technology will impact their businesses going forward. Independent advisors only have so much time and budget to allocate to technology, and with clients seemingly demanding new ways to engage on an increasingly frequent basis, the demand for a digital client experience can quickly seem overwhelming. In studying the survey results carefully, CLS concludes that the robo discussion in the industry is of critical importance, but perhaps not for the reasons one might think. In fact, the robo-movement may be acting as a catalyst to spur advisors to embrace the digital age at large more swiftly, and throughout their organization. 

"The blistering pace of the digital era is presenting a significant challenge for the advisory community. Most independent advisors are small to mid-size businesses that operate in a highly competitive, demanding, and regulated industry with custodial giants setting the pace of technology adoption. Our survey shows that advisors are ready and willing to make technology adoption a priority to improve their practice from customer service to managing their teams -- they just need assistance in working out how much they need to invest and in what," concluded Clarke.

CLS Robo-Survey Key Facts & Findings

  • 54.5% of respondents are over age 45
  • 50 of the 134 respondents are over the age of 55
  • 95.5% of respondents (all ages) believe themselves to be "knowledgeable" to "very knowledgeable" about technology
  • 96.7% of respondents believe that humans and robo advisors can "co-exist"
  • 78.4% of respondents perceive the robo advisors as a "potential" to "significant" threat
  • 60% of respondents would trust robo advisors to help manage and oversee client assets
  • 81.8% of respondents believe they have a "clear" understanding of what a robo-advisor is
  • 48.1% of respondents categorized robos as "a low-cost, technology based financial advisor for the masses"
  • The majority of respondents (79.5%) believed that robos would have either a positive, or neutral impact to their practices

For media inquiries regarding this survey and to speak with a CLS spokesperson, or to request the raw data from the survey results, please contact:

CLS is an Omaha-based, family-owned and operated boutique registered investment advisor managing in excess of $6 billion. As one of the largest third party money managers and ETF strategists in the U.S., CLS partners with thousands of advisors, plan sponsors, and institutions to offer a full suite of outsourced portfolio management solutions for more than 35,000 individual investors. CLS specializes in creating portfolios based on a distinct risk budgeting methodology and active asset allocation approach. The CLS investment process is governed by systematic research across asset classes and strategies and the continuous measuring of risk. CLS first claimed compliance with the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS) in 2002, and have continued to adhere to GIPS strict guidelines and standards. CLS is a member of NorthStar Financial Services Group (NorthStar), which currently has more than $278 billion* in assets under management and administration. To learn more, visit

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