Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) chief executive Martin Wheatley has once again thrown his weight behind the idea of computerised advice, as he predicted a financial services future shaped by software developers, computer programmers and economists.
Speaking at a Lansons conference on Tuesday, Wheatley (pictured) heralded "a defining moment" for automated advice - a new priority for the regulator - as The Royal Society revealed on Monday a computer has for the first time passed its ‘Turing Test'.
"Today, once again, we're having our expectations raised," Wheatley said, "In fact, we may yet look back on June 2014 as a defining moment in financial service history [...] - a machine has become indistinguishable from a human."
He asked: "Can [advice] be automated to deliver returns and security for consumers with straightforward needs? Tackling the so-called 'advice gap'?"
The regulator will seek to answer these questions in its consultation paper expected next month, he said.
Wheatley said last month the regulator is keen to fast track technological innovation in the advice space to reach the middle market.
It launched 'Project Innovate' to explore where progress can be made.
But Wheatley also hit out at the industry for failing to come up with more innovation so far.
He said: "It's too easy, I think, to claim that regulation is always to blame when creativity or innovation slows in financial services.
"It's no secret that regulators are sometimes used as a shield for firms who simply don't want to take the risk, so prefer to say that we'd probably stop them anyway."
At the same time acknowledging the threat of hindsight regulatory action against firms who try to innovate, he added it was the FCA's "the most immediate priority" to ensure tech-led improvements to customer experience can be safely fast tracked into the UK.
Wheatley said the UK and Ireland are currently the fastest growing financial-tech incubators in the world, developing at an annualized rate of some 74% since 2008 - as against 23% in Silicon Valley.
Key potential opportunities the FCA will explore are how technology can help achieve more direct interaction for consumers with products and services; customised offerings; greater efficiency; better information; and increased convenience.
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