THE RISE OF ROBO-ADVISORS

By Purvee Khandelwal

Over the past few years, providing financial and investment advice has seen a sea of changes. The new Fin-Tech revolution has taken the financial industry by storm. In general, every industry is being affected by technological advancements, especially in automation. Human consultants are being replaced by robo-advisors. They are investment advisory platforms that use automation and algorithms to allocate portfolios and recommend investments to individual clients.

As of 2015-16, Robo-advisors rule over $55 billion Assets under Management (AUM) of the $25 trillion retail investable assets in the United States. With a projected growth of 68%, it is estimated to reach $2.2 trillion by the end of year 2020.

Major players in the US market are Wealthfront, Betterment, LearnVest, Vanguard, Schwab, etc.However, the surge of such players has been seen in India only recently. ArthYatra, OXO Wealth, Wixfi, Unovest and ICICI Securities’ “Track & Tct” are a few examples.

How does it work?

It captures basic information like investment goals (retirement and children’s education) and your comfort level with risk. Users may be classified into various buckets based on parameters such as age, time horizon, quantum of investment, nature of household (single or dual income, dependants) and risk appetite. The platform’s algorithm tells you the amount you may invest indiversified equity (blend of large, mid and small-cap mutual funds), gold or debt. But you are not bound by the recommendations made by the platform. You still have an option to pick a portfolio that is aggressive or passive based on your comfort level. Also, you can review their recommendations periodically.

What’s in it for the consumers?

From a consumer’s perspective, there are a number of reasons fuelling the growth of digital advice.One of them is that it streamlines the process with increased transparency into investment options, low fees and enhanced experience via web and mobile applications. Also it appeals to millennials or less-wealthy investors because exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are used to build diversified portfolios.

What’s in it for the organization?

As robo-advice will have significant affect in the wealth management business, organizations will have to transform their business and operating models- the people, processes and technologies that support it.From an organisation’s perspective, this can provide numerous benefits like faster AUM growth, incredible opportunities in upcoming market segments comprising millennials, a better empowerment of human financial advisors to think innovatively and more opportunity to cross sell high-margin advice.

Conclusion

Digital and advance analytics, automated advice will likely become a standard expectation for the mass-affluent and mass-market segments. It will bring competitive advantage to firms who adopt them in this early wave, which means incorporating financial planning into broader retirement, health and wellbeing plans. Still, there are parts of the client-advisor relationship —such as reassuring clients through difficult markets, persuading clients to take action and synthesizing different solutions—that should remain the province of the financial advisor for the foreseeable future. However, it is clear that Robo-advice is here to stay and poised to evolve into something much more disruptive.

 

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