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Future tech

Hong Kong consumers open to robots in retail financial services, says survey

77 per cent of Hong Kong respondents welcome robo-advice about opening a bank account, higher than the global average of 71 per cent

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 4:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 4:01am

A high percentage of Hong Kong consumers are willing to accept the use of robots – computer-generated advice and services – for their banking, insurance and retirement planning needs in future, according to a new survey by Accenture.

The global consultancy found seven out of 10 respondents around the world would welcome such advanced digital retail platforms, which first emerged as robo-advice and automated trading systems in the investment banking sector.

Piercarlo Gera, the senior managing director at Accenture Financial Services, said that financial institutions will need to put in place a “phygital” strategy that seamlessly “integrates technology, branch networks and staff to provide a service that combines physical and digital capabilities, and gives consumers a choice”.

[Institutions will need to put in place a] ‘phygital’ strategy that seamlessly integrates technology, branch networks and staff to provide a service that combines physical and digital capabilities, and gives consumers a choice
Piercarlo Gera, senior managing director at Accenture Financial Services

Accenture’s global distribution and marketing consumer research, conducted in May and June last year, surveyed 32,715 respondents in 18 markets, including Hong Kong, Britain, Japan, the US and Singapore, if they were willing to solely receive robo-advice in future about which type of bank account to open and insurance coverage to purchase, as well as how to plan finances for retirement and what investments to make.

It found 77 per cent of Hong Kong respondents welcome robo-advice about opening a bank account, higher than the global average of 71 per cent.

On which type of insurance coverage to buy, 78 per cent of respondents in the city are open to robo-advice, compared with the 74 per cent global average.

The survey also showed 77 per cent of Hongkongers would accept computer-generated advice on retirement planning, while the global average was 68 per cent.

And robo-advice on investments saw an 81 per cent acceptance rate in the city, compared with 78 per cent worldwide.

Paul Haswell, a partner at international law firm Pinsent Masons, said the “increased commoditisation of retail banking and finance in the past few decades has led to a new generation of consumers willing to ditch human interaction in exchange for responsiveness, 24/7 availability and speed of use”.

He also predicted the adoption of retail banking services powered by robots or artificial intelligence would be faster in Hong Kong, which remains a major financial hub, than in other markets.

While the survey results in the city are high, Accenture said the biggest appetite for robo-advice are in the emerging economies of Indonesia, with 92 per cent; Thailand, 90 per cent; Brazil, 86 per cent; and Chile, 84 per cent.

It also found that consumers are willing to switch to non-traditional financial services providers, with 31 per cent of Hong Kong respondents open to online suppliers.

Alan McIntyre, Accenture’s senior managing director for banking, said: “Consumers expect nearly all of their transactions to be on par with the service they receive from Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, which poses a challenge for banks.”