Generative AI will force financial advisors to shift from a numbers-based analytical deliverable to an empathetic alchemist advisor. Using technology and deep client understanding, this advisor can transform a client’s financial anxieties and limitations into a sense of security, confidence and empowerment.
Viewed pessimistically, AI is speeding us toward an even deeper rut of the left-brain society that we’ve been marinating in since the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.
This has led to an overemphasis on logic and analysis, efficiency and standardization, higher rates of mental health issues, and a loss of connection with each other and with nature.
By contrast, the rapid mobilization of AI has created an opportunity for the greatest flowering of humanness, of right-brain prominence, since the Renaissance.
Like light contrasts dark, we can contrast AI with a renewed emphasis on holistic, big-picture thinking, community, connection with nature, intuition and creativity.
In essence, AI has the potential to unleash the humanity in humans. (Yes, I’m being optimistic here!)
Constructive or Destructive?
As we sail into an era increasingly dominated by AI, it’s easy to feel a sense of trepidation. Will machines replace us? Will we become redundant in the face of hyper-intelligent, ultra-efficient AI systems?
The concerns are real.
Geoffrey Hinton, a Turing Award winner and AI pioneer who’s been dubbed “The Godfather of AI,” recently quit his job at Google and is now raising the alarm about AI.
He, and many others, are concerned about the potential for AI to be used for malicious purposes, such as creating autonomous weapons. And, he says, AI has the potential to become so intelligent that it surpasses human intelligence and control. If AI becomes super-intelligent, it could pose an existential threat to humanity.
Yet, it’s precisely in these times that we must remember our secret weapon: our humanness. It’s the one thing that AI cannot replicate, and it’s becoming more important than ever that we lean into it.
Be More Human
AI has made extraordinary strides in automating tasks, optimizing processes and emulating human-like conversation. (Listening to the podcast I did with ChatGPT, in the form of the voice AI “Rachel,” should prove helpful.)
However, it’s still fundamentally a tool, a machine that learns from vast quantities of data but lacks the very essence of what makes us human. It lacks the capacity for empathy, feeling, intuition, connection and the ability to understand context beyond what it’s been trained on.
Counterintuitively, in the face of this technological revolution, our human qualities become our competitive edge. They allow us to connect, create and understand on a level that AI simply can’t.
Here are three ways you can quadruple down on your humanness.
1. Find and amplify your unique voice.
Each of us has a distinctive perspective, informed by our experiences, values and passions. This voice is the foundation of our creativity and the root of our ability to innovate.
AI can process and generate based on existing data, but it cannot create something genuinely new or appreciate beauty and emotion in the way that humans can (at least not yet!).
Take, for example, storytelling.
An AI can be trained to write a story, but it cannot truly understand or feel the emotional depth, the suspense, the joy or the sorrow. It’s the human behind the story, the one who breathes life into the characters and connects with the reader, who makes it truly impactful.
Recently, I had conversations with two of my coaching clients about dialing in on their voice and making it stand apart from the sea of sameness that clogs the internet.
One client is making educational videos, and we’ve gone through several iterations to make sure that he’s not spitting out dry recitation of “content” that an AI could do.
A simple way to ensure that you’re putting out “voice-infused” content is to ask yourself, “Could anybody but (your name) create this content?” If the answer is yes, then you need to go back to the writing board because your content is generic and will be sucked into the black hole of mediocre material and never see the light of day.
My second client is a blunt-talking advisor who rocked an unscripted recent video about a controversial topic. He was authentic and spoke from the heart. Clients and prospects connect with that.
If all you do is inform, you will never transform.
Transformation never happens unless a strong emotion is felt. Facts, data and information just put people to sleep.
To connect, your content needs “voice” and some combination of emotion, surprise, humor or inspiration.
2. Deepen your capacity for emotion and empathy.
Our ability to empathize, to understand unspoken nuances, to comfort, inspire and connect on a deep emotional level – these are qualities that cannot be programmed.
Think about the last time you met with a recently widowed client.
While an AI chatbot could ask “all the right questions,” only you — a human — can extend the human touch, the comforting words, the silent space to process a feeling, and the facial expression that says, “I’m here for you.”
Take any life-changing event like marriage, divorce, childbirth or winning the lottery.
Only a human financial advisor can understand the range of emotions they elicit, the nuance they require to navigate, and the depth and breadth of planning needed to adapt to them.
While some AI can mimic emotional responses or recognize emotional cues in human speech or facial expressions, they don’t truly feel or understand these emotions. The aspects of our humanity that can’t be replicated or felt by an AI are among the things that clients value most from us.
3. Put your client’s life at the center of the planning conversation.
Yes, money is important, but it’s just a means to an end — not the end. AI will accelerate the commodification of investing and money-based financial planning.
If you’re hanging your hat on “retirement income distribution planning,” or answering the question, “Do I have enough money to retire?” the market for that service will shrivel at an accelerating pace.
I asked ChatGPT-4 to develop a retirement income distribution plan for me, and it did a credible job. Give the techies 12 months, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a functioning DIY version on par with an advisor-guided eMoney, MoneyGuide Pro or elaborate Excel spreadsheet plan.
But people said the same thing about the internet and robo-advisors. The sky is falling! Yet the sky never fell, right? Your business is likely much larger than it was 10 years ago.
Well, consider this. We’re in a bull market for financial advice, but not a bull market for financial advisors.
The internet, robo-advisors, podcasts, Facebook, Tik-Tok, Insta, X, etc. have dramatically expanded the avenues for people to receive one-to-many financial advice (not saying it’s all great, though). And for many folks, that’s all they need or want.
But organic growth for financial advisors, on average, has been flat for the five years ending 2021 — despite being in a big bull market. Rather than rehash my analysis of that, see my post here.
Typical advisors grew their business over the past 10 years because markets went up, or they acquired practices.
I think the increasingly easy access to AI, generational change, slowing population growth, economic factors and changing business models are coalescing to dramatically change the demand for traditional AUM-based investment management and financial planning.
That’s why it’s imperative for advisors to shift their emphasis from money planning toward making the client’s life central to the conversation.
Advisory firms will still deliver all the quantitative work they do today from planning to investing, but AI will do the heavy lifting and free you to focus on what is uniquely human.
This means retraining advisors and repositioning what this industry is all about.
Bionic Is Back
Do you remember the “Bionic Advisor” idea from a decade ago? Turns out robo-advisors didn’t make advisors bionic; it’s the broad spectrum of AI that will.
Here’s the key: It’s not AI or Humanness; it’s AI + Humanness.
Let’s use AI as a catalyst to highlight the importance of our irreplaceable human qualities.
By finding our voice, deepening our capacity for emotion and empathy, and putting our client’s life at the center of the planning conversation — coupled with leveraging AI — we can not only compete with AI but thrive in this new era.
Steve Sanduski, CFP, is a business coach, co-founder of ROL Advisor, a New York Times bestselling author, and host of the Between Now and Success podcast.
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