Jason Kilar helped write the game plan to expand Amazon out of just the book business.
The 46-year-old, who on Wednesday was named a board member of Wealthfront, an $8 billion roboadviser, told Business Insider Amazon was ridiculed in its earliest days.
“Back then it was just books,” Kilar, who reported directly to Jeff Bezos during his time at Amazon, told Business Insider in a recent interview. “In 1997 when it was a small company people referred to it as Amazon.bomb.”
Very few people, expected Amazon to completely turn the retail industry on its head, he said.
Today, Kilar sees a similar situation in financial services. Folks aren’t anticipating a major transformation in the industry and are clinging onto the belief that financial services customers will continue to need the same level of human support they need today, according to Kilar.
“If we were to hop into a time machine, 50 years from now the names of the top financial companies will be different from what they are today,” he said. “Today, there are a good five to six companies with double-digit market share, but in the future there will be two to three, and one or two of those will be one of today’s startups.”
Wealthfront, the San Francisco-based company, has adamantly held on to its belief that the future of financial advice is in automation. Unlike, fellow roboadviser, Betterment, or incumbent rivals such as Charles Schwab, Wealthfront has remained a pure roboadviser without human advisers.
In February, Betterment rolled out two new hybrid services that pair human help with its computerized financial advice: Betterment Plus and Betterment Premium.
Wealthfront, however, is making a bet on pure automated advice.
“The industry consensus is that financial advice will always be delivered through a person simply because it’s always been done that way,” wrote Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff, in a letter welcoming Kilar to the firm’s board of directors.
Kilar said people won’t believe in the human-less future of finance, until they see it.