Robo-Advisors: A Millennial's Perspective

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Every passing year marks the introduction of a technological advancement which affords some new form of progressive automation. Members of the millennial generation, like myself, are no strangers to the integration of robotic technology in daily life. I remember delighting in the introduction of self-checkout machines at the grocery store as a young kid, begging my grandmother to use the machines. Unfortunately, my old-fashioned grandmother never let me use the self-checkout, as she did not trust the technology to get the job done.
self checkout
self checkout
New robotic technology has always made older generations understandably uneasy, especially since pop culture tends not to portray robots in the best light (who remembers The Stepford Wives or I, Robot?) Often, robotic technology is suspected of being too generalized, and unable to tailor tasks to an individual’s specific needs.
i robot

Robots: They’re No Big Deal

Millennials, on the other hand, are far more open to and accepting of the idea of robotic automation, simply because robotic technology, in some form, has existed for most of our lives.It was only four years ago, after all, that the world was introduced to Siri, Apple’s intelligent computer program/personal assistant robot, thrusting robots into mainstream, every day life.
Siri is by no means the first or only robot introduced in the past decade. Companies like Toyota, Lexus, Ford and BMW  have developed cars which feature parallel parking automation, allowing a robot to take over the vehicle and perform more precise parking. To present a more controversial example of robotic technology introduced within the last 10 years,  drone warfare has opened a worldwide debate in regards to the morality of certain robotic technologies. The future of robotics is approaching quickly; Google is currently developing self-driving cars with the goal of one day eliminating traffic and car accidents, all together. 
Robotic technology, therefore, has saturated many institutions of every day Western life. As technology in the robotics field improves rapidly, the coming years will no doubt introduce an abundance of new robotic technologies, which the millennial generation will adapt to and appropriate in a variety of ways.


It comes as no surprise, then, that robotic technology has become extremely popular, as well as useful in the financial industry. Robo-advisors have become prevalent in the last few years, as robo-advisor programmes “allow consumers to go online, answer some questions, and receive financial help without having to pay for individually-tailored suggestions.” In the modern-day world of Seamless and Amazon Prime, it is no surprise that individuals would want to receive personalized assistance, free from paperwork or even basic human interaction.
As the millennial generation gradually enters the workforce and accrues wealth, “asset managers and banks [are] looking for ways to deliver low cost, automated investment strategies in a way which fits with customers’ increasingly digital mindset.” Seeing as no generation is more digitally-minded than the millennial generation, I thought it would be appropriate to conduct some research on FinTech’s hottest trend, and offer up my “millennial perspective.”
**It should be noted that I have not invested any money into these firms featuring robo-advisors; this is merely an offering of my opinion on which sites do the best job of attracting millennial customers through website design, ease of access, advertising, etc.**
Check out which robo-advisor platforms made my list of being the most millennial friendly, here:


Betterment scores huge points in terms of ease of access and design. On the site’s homepage, users are asked to “Start your investment plan” by entering your age, retirement status, and annual income.

Betterment 1
After entering this preliminary info, the user is directed to set goals, which are recommended automatically by the program based on age and income. My favorite part about this website’s robo-advice platform is its design. It is modern, streamlined, and uncluttered, with small pie charts to easily display plan recommendations. Infographics are always a plus.
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The website breaks down the investment into 3 “priorities,” based on your age and income. Since my personal profile is 21 years old, making less than 50k a year, this robo-advisor deems my number one priority to be having a safety net, followed by planning for retirement, and finally, general investing.

Betterment 3

Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios asks users to begin their investment process by taking a short, diagnostic quiz. The portfolio prompts the user to answer “12 straightforward questions,” and takes no more than 5 minutes to complete. I like the fact that this quiz is reminiscent of creating a social media or a dating profile. The quiz really gives a feeling like Charles Schwab’s robo-advisor is tailoring the profile to the user’s specific needs, despite not being human.  Charles Schwab
Some examples of diagnostic questions are shown below. As you can see, the questions are specifically asking about the user’s financial history and goals in order to offer the best plan possible.
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Another feature I like about the Intelligent Portfolios platform are the automated recommendations the questionnaire provided. For example, after asking my age, the program automatically recommended I plan on saving for retirement for a longer time period, and prompted me to adjust the settings accordingly. (Turns out I’ll be saving for retirement until I’m 90… thanks baby boomers!)charles 5
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WiseBanyan – As a millennial, I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention a robo-advisor featuring the one quality praised by our generation more than anything else: this robo-advisor is free! WiseBanyan markets itself as “the world’s first free financial advisor.” Upon entering the site, you’re immediately prompted to enter an email address so the site can send you an invitation.
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Just like Charles Schwab, WiseBanyan has the user fill out a short questionnaire so they can build a personal finance portfolio.
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WiseBanyan actually takes Charles Schwab’s method one step further, by offering an explanation as to why it is important for the firm to ask these diagnostic questions. These short explanations are helpful formillennials who may not be familiar with wealth management or financial terminology, to understand why a firm would need to know their financial history and goals. A sample of some of the types of questions are displayed below. Notice also, how the site features a modern and chic design, easy to read and easy to navigate.
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After the user completes the short quiz, they are given their results in the form of nicely designed infographics. The user is given a “risk score,” and an infographic displaying recommended percentages of stocks and bonds.
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I like that WiseBanyan offers concrete information which has been organized and easy to understand through data visualization. Unlike Betterment, which simply offered priorities, it feels more comfortable to see my financial info quantified in the form of a “risk score.” WiseBanyan makes money by charging for ETFs and selling add-ons, however, it is awfully refreshing to see a company offering financial advice for free; a word with massive appeal to the millennial generation. Just the website boasts: “Investing should be a right – not a privilege.”
WealthFront features a similar platform to both Charles Schwab and WiseBanyan. Users are prompted to answer a questions in a short diagnostic quiz upon entering the site, which asks many of the same questions as the other sites (age, financial goals, net worth, etc.) However, one feature that sets WealthFront apart which I like, is that after choosing a response from the multiple choice question, a short response pops up to provide the user with more information on the answer they’ve given. Not only are these short responses encouraging, they are fantastic marketing. Check out the example below:
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After researching so many of these robo-advisors, a lot of the sites I came across began to look the same. A lot have similar layouts, similar risk scores, and diagnostic questions that are so similar they are almost word-for-word. This is why, for millennials especially, it is important for a site to have a feature which allows the firm to stand out. For WealthFront, their defining feature is their results page. WealthFront offers a colorful, eye-catching infographic to display the risk score, and investment recommendations. This infographic is easily digestible, and offers a splash of color to the monochromatic aesthetic most financial websites feature.
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Nutmeg Online Investment Management differs from the previous examples in small, yet significant ways. Firstly, the website’s font is playful, and there’s a lot more color on this site than others that I’ve looked at. Color is always a plus for breaking up monotony and making the question-answering process less dull.
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Another aspect that made this site stand out are the options provided for the user from the get-go: the visitor decides whether they’d like a “general,” “ISA,” or “pension” account, then offers the option of making a goal with the investment account.
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Hands down, my favorite part about Nutmeg’s robo-advising site is that the template is highly reminiscent of a social media profile. The site offers options of editing your “Nutmeg Pot,” complete with a goal, name, and target, positioned at the top-left of the page. It reminded me immediately of creating a username and short description that would be displayed on the top/left of social media profiles like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.  The template is not only easy to read and edit, but the setup is logical, with name of the users’ “Nutmeg Pot” and target at the top of the page like a personalized header.
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Upon scrolling down is where the user gets to set more specific timeframes, contributions, and risk level.
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After entering the preliminary info, Nutmeg provides the user with a beautifully designed infographic displaying their projected portfolio. The site offers detailed descriptions of the projection, portfolio, and investments. In my opinion, Nutmeg is the most aesthetically pleasing and coherently designed. The fact that this financial profile is so highly reminiscent of a social media profile makes it incredibly translatable and acceptable by a millennial audience. What really sets Nutmeg’s robo-advisor service apart, for me, is the customization element that other advisors lacked. Getting to name your own “Nutmeg Pot” and the ease with which you can edit your timeframe, etc. makes Nutmeg the #1 robo-advisor on my list.
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To conclude, I will say that many banks offering robo-advisors I have researched are doing well in terms of aesthetic choices; these sites are clean and modern, and make investing money easy for anyone to understand (even financially illiterate millennials!) However, I think many of these robo-advisors could offer more in terms of visuals, both in the form of infographics and for design aspects. My human-advise to a robo-advisor trying to gain new millennial clientele would be to have a site which stands out in some way, no matter how small (i.e. Nutmeg’s option to “name your pot.”)
Do a bit of research on competitors; familiarize yourself with the repeated elements featured on almost all robo-advisor sites, and brainstorm ways to present that information in a new, fresh way. This could be anything from rewording a question, to switching up a font, adding a background image or colorful charts and graphs. If you want to attract millennials specifically, it would be helpful to take pointers from social media sites. The small elements of personalization can take an automated, robotic service, and turn it into a more individualized experience.
Are there any millennial-friendly robo-advisors that we missed that you think deserve a shout-out? Let us know in the comments section, or tweet us at @kurtosys.

sarah mardiney

sarah mardiney