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Cetera's new digital tool for deciphering client behavior

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Well, don't play poker with it.

Cetera launched a new tool on Wednesday for its advisers that can study a client's facial expressions to pick up on revealing clues about their attitudes toward finances.

The facial recognition software tool, dubbed Decipher, will provide a faster and more accurate read of a client's risk tolerance and financial behavior than any questionnaire ever could, says Cetera Financial Group CEO Robert Moore.

"We know a large percentage of communication is non-verbal," Moore says. "Advisers will have a tool that helps hone in on that, and will help utilize that in informing all kinds of follow-up conversations, dialogue we can use in the best interest of those clients."

Clients can log in any time to answer a series of questions and view vignettes while in front of a computer's camera, and the program will map their reactions against a large database of human expressions and facial tics signifying emotions.

A client will be able to complete a session in roughly five to seven minutes, Moore says.

Cetera will not be storing any client biometric information, such as facial images or the videos themselves, Moore says (which he acknowledges would trigger additional layers of regulation and scrutiny.)

All of the data will be processed in the U.S., Moore says, and only the results of the tests will be mapped into summaries for advisers, he says.

The practical use of such a tool, Moore says, is that even in face-to-face meetings with clients, an adviser might be challenged to catch all of the varying expressions even between a couple or different family members.

"In some respects, it will help draw out information from a client that they will be interested in learning themselves," Moore says. "Sometimes, our rational and emotional minds don't always sync up."

It sounds a bit like Minority Report, but facial recognition software is already used extensively by law enforcement at borders globally. The financial industry has already found uses for it as well — a number of banks are developing apps that use facial recognition to grant clients access to their accounts via a mobile phone.

The tool is central for discovery and lead generation as part of the digital wealth management platform now being rolled out by Cetera, Moore adds, which includes a robo advice offering. The IBD will help train advisers on how to use the software and interpret its findings, he says.

The technology is meant to be additive and to augment advisers rather than replace them, he adds.

"There is no technological solution that is 100% comprehensive," Moore says. "The presence of an adviser and that relationship is actually taking on more importance up against a world that is very high tech and difficult to navigate because of the amount of noise.

"This is a major advance forward," Moore adds. "It's a very innovative approach that we have not seen in the industry thus far."

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