Like most disrupters, robo-advisers don't mind being underestimated. In fact, they're counting on it because behind the scenes, robo-advisers are quietly hatching plans to compete more aggressively with flesh-and-blood advisers.   

Will traditional advisers find themselves butting heads with a digital version of themselves sooner than expected?

Firms that survive will do more than offer basic asset allocation services. They will likely offer some form of a hybrid model: long-term planning and advice through some combination of automation and flesh-and-blood advisers. That could mean full-time advisers for ultra-wealthy clients who want to pay for additional concierge services, and call center advisers for everyone else.

Keep in mind, however, that financial planning is still a relationship development process — clients share intimate details about money and what they want to accomplish in life, their goals and objectives.  Doing that over the phone or online takes away from something very personal.  The call center may be more of a help desk-style support that will direct clients to advisers for actual advice queries.

“Investors will go through a robo adviser and use it as far as it can carry them,” said George Kinder, founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. “Then when they find technology issues, or personal issues that don't feel resolved, that's when they'll search out who has the best qualifications and they'll go to them.”

It remains to be seen how today's robo-advisers will evolve over the next five to 10 years. However, the services they offer will go far beyond helping clients invest in the markets. Their ambitions are far greater than that. “Ultimately, more investors will get access to advisers, which is a good thing,” says Kevin Keller, CFP Board CEO. 

Wealth managers should consider their PR and marketing strategy as the advisor landscape is fast evolving, to target the right advisors that could benefit from their thought leadership and educational content to help advisors better service their clients.