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Robo-advisors (RAs): the programmed self-service market for professional advice

Mark N. Wexler (Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada)
Judy Oberlander (Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 8 January 2021

Issue publication date: 20 April 2021




This conceptual paper draws together an interdisciplinary approach to robo-advisors (RAs) as an example of an early and successful example of automated, programmed professional services.


Little is known about the forces driving this change in the delivery of professional service. This work explores the drivers of RAs, the degree of disruption incurred by the introduction of RAs, and how, as RAs advance, trust in algorithmic authority aids in legitimating RAs as smart information.


From the firms' perspective, the drivers include rebranding occasioned by the financial crisis (2008), the widening of the client base and the “on-trend” nature of algorithmic authority guided by artificial intelligence (AI) embedded in RAs. This examination of the drivers of RAs indicates that professional service automation is aligned with information society trends and is likely to expand.

Practical implications

Examining RAs as an indicator of the future introduction of programmed professional services suggests that success increases when the algorithmic authority in the programmed serves are minimally disruptive, trustworthy and expand the client base while keeping the knowledge domain of the profession under control of the industry.


Treating RAs as an early instance of successfully embedding knowledge in AI and algorithmically based platforms adds to the early stages of theory and practice in the monetization and automation of professional knowledge-based services.



Wexler, M.N. and Oberlander, J. (2021), "Robo-advisors (RAs): the programmed self-service market for professional advice", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 351-365.



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