We’re living in an era of digital disruption that affects most (if not all) industries, where technology evolves so quickly that we barely have time to figure out the status quo before something new rolls along. One area on the watch list for significant strides in the near term is that of voice activated technology, including the way digital assistants (Amazon’s Alexa, anyone?) are changing communication. A recent Forbes article “Five Ways Communication Will Drive Business Innovation in 2019” (Alex Goryachev, January 24, 2019) projects that “Voice technology will propel new business models and markets, and move us to a more transparent and interactive society.”
I know what you’re thinking right now: “Jenn, that all sounds nifty. I love Alexa, but what’s the relevance to stock plans?” I’d probably be asking the same question of myself if I hadn’t noticed that TD Ameritrade recently rolled out the ability to place stock trades using Amazon’s Alexa. No phone call to a broker, no need to login to the website. Just – “Alexa: Buy 100 shares of XYZ stock!” There are nuances to making such a purchase via a digital assistant. As an Investor’s Business Daily post (“TD Ameritrade Gets A New Alexa Skill: Voice-Activated Stock Trades” – Aparna Narayanan, October 24, 2018) points out, “TD Ameritrade customers wouldn't want their kids asking Alexa to ‘buy Domino's Pizza (DPZ)’ and get a slice of the company. Clients must download the Alexa app and enable the ‘TD Ameritrade skill’ to set up a voice code for trading, the brokerage said.”
To the best of my knowledge, the ability for TD Ameritrade clients to place stock trades using Alexa affects mainstream stock trades and is not currently a stock plan option. However, as we’ve seen with other technology that has morphed over the years (online trading and digital grant agreements to name a couple) – my prediction is that it won’t be long before the use of voice activated digital assistants goes mainstream for stock trades, with stock plans to follow. As with other digital and online functions that impact stock plans, there are bound to be considerations that are more complex, including data privacy and a participant’s ability to access to a voice activated digital assistant.
The one thing I’ve learned about new technology is that it comes so fast that we sometimes find ourselves catching up when it comes to policies and administration practices. Although your attempts to direct stock plan trades through a digital assistant won’t get you far just yet (though you can certainly have fun stumping Alexa with phrases like “Alexa: Sell my ESPP shares!”) it’s time to put voice activated technology on the watch list for what’s next in the methods of executing trades of stock plan shares.
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