Technological advancements have shaped the 21st century in the United States and around the globe. No one would claim that assertion is hyperbolic, even the ETF industry can see its sprawl’s reach, just look at the algo-based indexes and robo advisors that are disrupting the way ETFs are structured and the way people decide what to buy.
Today in the Wall Street Journal another, more disruptive technological revolution lurks on the horizon. “Get Ready for Your Digital Model” digs into an area that will revolutionize the way that not just investors but every single person makes decisions.
Pretty much everyone has been introduced to IBM’s Watson. Whether through Youtube, television, or display ads Watson has been marketed to be changing the way we treat cancer, assess risk, and a host of other business endeavors. But it seems so disconnected from the everyday man. Okay, Watson can analyze Bob Dylan’s entire catalogue in seconds to determine the major themes of his work. That’s cool but has nothing to do with me. Well, this Wall Street Journal piece gets at exactly where these learning algorithms will be put to work for you.
Currently the major players in the personal data industry – think Facebook, Google, Apple – are fighting to accumulate more data you produce so they can use AI to build a model of you that can be used to predict what you might buy, what you might say, or what you might do. While there are certainly privacy concerns anytime data comes into the conversation what they are all ostensibly fighting for this information for is to provide you with better service so that you’ll use their products more and they can make more money.
However, the next wave is going to be driven by companies that offer to collect ALL of the data you create and use that to build a comprehensive model of yourself, digitally, so that it can do tasks that you often don’t have time to. They’ll act as digital “banks” that securely and responsibly store this data for you. Research prices on a car, interview for a job with HR models to present you with the best opportunities available, and endless other applications that have the potential to streamline commerce.
Robo advisors are just the tip of the iceberg. “Learning algorithms trade against one another in the stock market. Last May, a Hong Kong venture fund named Deep Knowledge Ventures appointed an algorithm to its board, voting on investment decisions alongside the five human directors, according to Business Insider.”
As businesses evolve and include these models in their decision making the ETF industry and broader markets will develop with it. ETFs can be engineered to use factors both quantitative and qualitative to rebalance portfolios optimally.
The biggest disruption may end up being to how we buy ETFs in the first place. Right now you have the ability to use robo advisors to help you make investing decisions. But what if your robo advisor was actually…you? Investors who have no time to verse themselves in the trade that financial advisors cut their teeth in will be able to instruct their digital model to be constantly learning ETF strategies, monitoring the market, and leveraging portfolio construction techniques to recommend what you should do. Or your digital model can go to market for you and interview digital models of advisors so that the way you choose and interact with your advisor is completely revolutionized.
The article ends with a provocative thought, “Eventually, your model will be like your best friend, but with infinitely more patience. What will you ask it? You might not like some of its answers, but that would be all the more reason to ponder them. Your model—your digital half—might even help you become a better person.”