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Robo-advisors and the Financialization of Everyday Life

Authors: Emily Hawes*,
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: FinTech, financialization, inequality, everyday life
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper examines robo-advisors as part of the larger diffusion of FinTech in financial markets and the wealth management and retirement industry. I present some empirical findings from ongoing research on the penetration of FinTech services, with focus on robo-advisors, into everyday life experience for savers, borrowers, and investors in the Canadian context. I engage conceptually with work on ‘the digital’ and the ‘interface’ to examine how algorithmic and mobile technologies impact the everyday geographies and decision-making of ‘ordinary’ households and how this might be understood as a turning point in the ‘financialization of everyday life’. I consider these questions in the post-crisis context of an impending inter-generational wealth transfer which promises to change the wealth management industry and compound intra-generational wealth inequalities. In light (or anticipation) of this shift and as the wealth management industry continues to turn toward a low-fee model of investing (e.g., with the rise in popularity and availability of financial products such as Exchange-Traded Funds and low-to-no commission advising), I understand robo-advisors as a mechanism with which a large, traditional industry is attempting to maintain profit generation by enrolling more/new publics into the digital and financial infrastructures of capital accumulation.

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