Charles Schwab announced Tuesday an integration with Google that allows clients that use Google Assistant to access real-time account and portfolio updates through voice-enabled technology.
The new “Schwab action” on Google enables clients to track portfolio performance, review account information, get updates on positions with interactive voice response requests like, “Hey Google, how are my Schwab retirement accounts doing?” or “Hey, Google, check my Charles Schwab portfolio,” according to the announcement.
Clients can also access their Schwab account across multiple devices via the Charles Schwab app that is available for iOS, Android, Google Home, Smart Displays and tablets.
To use Schwab’s new action on Google, clients can follow on-screen prompts through the “finance” section of Google account settings where they input Schwab credentials, consent, and choose accounts to link, according to the announcement. While the integration does not include an adviser specific version, anyone with a Schwab account and Google Assistant can use it, a company spokeswoman confirmed.
“We’re committed to increasing access to investing for every client with a focus on making both investing and planning easier, more modern and more approachable,” Zack Gipson, senior vice president of Schwab Digital Services, said in a statement. “Consumers today expect the brands they do business with to be available whenever and wherever needed, and how they invest should be no different.”
“This can be viewed as a strategic ‘qualified-to-compete’ move versus a competitive differentiator,” Nikhil Sharma, principal consultant at technology consultancy firm Capco, wrote in an email. “Following the trend of open banking, we expect to see more traction in this space, perhaps Schwab will move from read only portfolio info towards placing trade-orders and moving money using voice.”
Ultimately, Schwab is a part of a larger industry trend that focuses on the democratization of technology to make access to financial services more mainstream, said Orion’s chief strategy officer Hussain Zaidi. “The partnership of large financial institutions with big tech brings scale, technology and a customized user experience to the masses,” he said.
In fact, the Google ecosystem opens up Schwab’s reach to 500 million Google Assistant users, Zaidi said. “The integration goes beyond just enhancing the user experience for Schwab customers because there’s a whole ecosystem of potential customers, so it’s a great opportunity for cross pollination.”
While voice interfaces are a fairly new frontier for financial services, it could be “interesting to see how consumers navigate the minor privacy issues that exist,” Riskalyze CEO Aaron Klein wrote in an email. “I didn’t connect my smart thermostat to my Google Assistant because my kids would constantly be messing with the temperature! I’m not sure what I’d think about them checking my 401(k) balance.”
The wealth management industry has yet to perfect voice-enabled tech, but the opportunities seemingly outweigh the hurdles, specifically for old legacy systems with outdated infrastructure. “The industry needs to recognize that old financial service legacy systems weren’t built to efficiently handle the scale of financial transactions on a phone,” said Bob Cortright, CEO of DriveWealth.
To that end, it’s vital for firms to create or partner with big tech to modernize their infrastructure with more API-based systems, which are scalable and user-friendly, Cortright said. “That obviously extends into savings and investments.”
The mobile-first trajectory for the industry shows that legacy financial institutions are open to make managing money as easy as shopping on Amazon, President of DriveWealth Julie Coin wrote in an email. “People do everything else online; getting online help and recommendations on demand will help make managing money and learning about it a normal, everyday experience for people, just like consuming news or product reviews and recommendations.”
FUTURE OF FINANCIAL ADVICE
Late last year, marketing platform Snappy Kraken analyzed webpage visits and email opens from more than 14,000 digital campaigns sent to 808,000 clients of advisors and found that roughly 64% of all traffic was mobile, company CEO and co-founder Robert Sofia wrote in an email. “This means the percentage of advisory clients who rely on their mobile devices for financial information is higher than the national average of roughly 50%. Mobile-first and voice-first are the future of the financial advice business, no doubt.”
CEO of Oranj David Lyon, for one, said the Schwab and Google integration shows the industry is making significant progress to put the investor and clients needs before their own, Lyon said in an interview. “If you look at a lot of the technology that was built 10 years ago, it was really more with the advisor in mind,” he said. “Now we’re seeing really significant strides within the industry to have technology that’s more client facing.”
In the end, the client-facing technology is a step in the right direction for advisers because it’s harder to serve and manage a client’s wealth plan and their investment accounts if they are not in tune with what’s going on, Lyon said.
“It’s not a silver bullet by any means, but it is being used by younger users and across demographics,” he said. “Any way [an adviser] can help a client or an investor stay better connected to their financial life, you’re going to have a more informed and better educated client, which is good for the adviser.”
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