Finance and technology: the new ecosystem of investment management

When I was at primary school, Mr P was one of the "cool" teachers.

He had a computer in his classroom. Do not ask me the make or model — that is long erased from the memory banks — but I recall very clearly that for $5, you could take it home for a weekend and play the game Manic Miner as long as your parents would allow you.

I loved that fact and worked hard to earn the privilege. It was my first real experience with technology and it opened a whole new world of possibilities and excitement (not to mention motivation).

The truth is, I am from a generation which understands the relationship between a pencil and a cassette tape, yet technology has always fascinated me.

The TV remote at home might mystify me, but when ChatGPT hit the scenes in late November 2022, I was captured from the outset and before long I was road testing it to see what it could do.

Dall-E likewise, and endless fun was had creating imagery to accompany my musings. Next I was consuming content everywhere I could about AI.

Along came the magnificent seven (Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, Nvidia, Alphabet (Google), Tesla and Apple) and I like many contemplated the ongoing rally and what this might mean for our futures. More recently Sora’s release (a text-to-video AI tool) offers the possibility of something new and exciting again.

But what of technology and investing?

Technology is clearly integrated in our financial systems and processes. Money flows between accounts at the push of a button, digital wallets are a thing, biometrics support identification and login, gamification drives engagement and understanding, data analytics and algorithms quietly navigate us in a direction while blockchain promises to digitise the entire life cycle. That is a lot to get one’s head around and thankfully ongoing efforts work to keep "manic miners" (let’s think of them as the dark side — the cyber criminals) at bay.

There is no doubt in my mind that technology is a positive in the investment world, democratising it for a new wave of investors. Whether it is $5, $5000 or $500,000, the markets are open but if you are not at the bleeding edge of all that technology can do or writing your own lines of code, what does it offer to you on your investment journey?

The first and, in my opinion, one of the most important things, is that technology has connected us to our money. Pull that smartphone out of your pocket and there at your fingertips is your account. How much you have saved, what you are invested in and taxed at, correspondence sent and when you last logged in to help prevent any fraudulent cyber activity.

You can change your investment selection to reflect any changes in your investment objectives, and/or advice from your financial adviser, conveniently receiving confirmation of the same. Profiling questions can also help guide your choices.

Simple, easy, done.

You do not need to look that far into the past to remember the arduous form filling and envelopes being stuffed through your letterbox.

Technology creates visibility and choices and through that, hopefully understanding of market cycles contextualised against your own investment objectives.

I see this as a good thing, because KiwiSaver is real money and it is your money. You want to understand how you are tracking on a regular basis to make it real and meaningful and not leave that to a pile of paperwork on the kitchen table that you are forever getting around to.

The second thing I see with technology is the tools it has opened up for us. Tools do not always need to be whizz-bang technology (fun as that is); sometimes, doing the basic stuff well is key.

One of my favourite sites is Sorted: Since 2001, this consumer-facing brand from Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission, funded by the government, has provided an array of information and tools to help people to tackle life’s financial issues.

From debt to budgeting, investing generally to KiwiSaver specifically, this unsung hero of the investing world has used technology to help about 1.4 million users a year. If you have not been on the site and played with the tools there, I would encourage you to set some time aside and do so. It is like getting a financial warrant of fitness — and best of all it is free, easy and intuitive to use.

So while I enjoy reminiscing about my early forays into technology as a gaming child of the ’80s and exploring the possibilities that AI might bring, sometimes the simple stuff is good too. Engage with your KiwiSaver account online and play with Sorted’s tools to keep yourself on track.

Final thought: do not forget the basics of cyber security. The dark side is real and hackers are out there looking for their next victim.

Do not let it be you. Protect your login credentials, check the URL before signing in that it is not a bogus address and think about multi-factor (sometimes called two-factor) authentication.

Technology is a fantastic addition to our lives but, as with everything, the teacher is important to unlock the potential of what it can do.

Decades later, I say thanks Mr P for helping unlock my technology journey.

 - Trish Oakley is an executive at Forsyth Barr. This is not a recommendation to buy or sell any financial product and does not take your personal circumstances into account.