‘Mobots’ And Robots: Have We Learnt To Love Machines?

Published: August 23, 2017

“It’s clear to see how technology can, and is, improving our efforts to remain healthy. But there’s another sort of health we strive for too, and that’s financial. ”

We’ve become accustomed to the sight of the great Mo Farah arching his hands over his head to celebrate a race win. The ‘Mobot’, as he then becomes, is a man at the pinnacle of human fitness. Even though we may never come close to that level of running ability, we each find our own ways to stay fit and healthy. And, when we do, many of us turn to technology for a helping hand.

Fitbit sold over 22 million devices last year – an astonishing statistic that resonates with new research published by Willis Owen. The online financial services provider asked a sample of the UK population whether they trust technology to help with their health and fitness. Over seven in ten (72%) said they did.

It’s clear to see how technology can, and is, improving our efforts to remain healthy. But there’s another sort of health we strive for too, and that’s financial. Here’s a sector where talk of technology is equally unrelenting – from robo advice to app-based banking. But are we as comfortable with tech getting involved in our wealth?

It appears not. Only 53% of respondents say they trust technology to help with their finances.

Looking at specific tasks, the gap between technology helping with health compared to wealth becomes even more stark. More people would trust technology to offer a prognosis for a health issue (31%), placing huge faith in tech’s hands, than the comparatively menial task of moving money into a savings account (25%).

Other financial activities fare even worse. Less than one in five trust technology to provide financial advice (18%) or to make investment/fund choices (14%).

In its analysis, Willis Owen explores why this trust gap exists. One reason to consider is reputational. Ten years on from the start of the global financial crisis, the reputation of financial services has suffered. Edelman’s Trust Barometer found last year that financial services is the least trusted industry. Perhaps, then, we are automatically less open to embracing new initiatives finance companies try to sell to us. Fear of cyber-attacks, which cost consumers £8bn in 2016 according to Threat Metrix, are troubling us, too.

So, how does FinTech go about winning trust? Willis Owen says finance companies need to get much better at communicating the benefits of adopting technology to make our financial lives more straightforward. Online investing platforms, for example, could create a safe environment where people can experiment with technology without using real money.

The world of finance could learn a lot from the world of health, too. Apps such as Strava, a fitness tracking platform that allows users to share their performance, are excellent at fostering a sense of competition and progress. How could financial services do the same?

We shouldn’t cut humans out of the equation too quickly either. As my colleague Keith Brookbank said when writing for FT Adviser, evidence-based communication will be key to the adoption of technology, where credible testimonials and referrals from people we can relate to persuade us to trust in a service.

The potential for intelligent machines to help us better manage our finances – and our health – is enormous. But the role of technology in our lives needs to be one of “transition”. If we are put off the idea at the outset and turn our backs for good, that potential could go to waste.

Smart communication with customers, with evidence demonstrating the positive role technology can play, could see us all doing the ‘Mobot’ if our physical and financial health improves.

Please contact me at tom@linstockcommunications.com if you would like a copy of Willis Owen’s research report.

Tom Yazdi
Senior Consultant

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