MyPrivateBanking Blog
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Posts Tagged ‘robo-advisor’

Many robo-advisors fail to provide an adequate client assessment

Monday, October 9th, 2017

As the robo-advisor market matures, there is an increasing number of platforms that offer little minimum investment amounts and low fees to attract novice investors across all wealth segments. To provide adequate investment services to unexperienced investors, however, robo platforms must make sure to inform properly about the risk of investing. Even more important, however, is it to provide a thorough client assessment process that covers clients’ financial literacy, their risk tolerance, and their capacity to take risk.

If at all, the average robo-advisor simply asks if a prospect already has some investment experience. Most of these platforms, however, do not take the chance of providing basic educational material for those without any investment knowledge. Only 26% of the robo-advisors do take responsibility and require prospects to first build at least some basic financial knowledge before starting to invest. Interestingly, only 18% of the hybrid platforms (those who provide personal consultation) do so while 36% of the pure robos cater for their clients’ financial literacy during the assessment process. It is likely that the availability of a certain level of human interaction in the case of hybrid platforms make the providers believe that the digital knowledge check is not necessary. However, we are convinced that each robo-advisor must be very clear about the suitability of their investment products and investors’ understanding is an integral part of this.

Most players check their prospects’ risk tolerance and the approaches differ substantially. Some questionnaires use a very scientific assessment of risk tolerance, including psychological and behavioral questions while others rely too much on prospects’ self-perception. One tool even compared the prospect’s self-evaluation of their risk type with the outcome of the risk assessment, which is a very interesting approach to show investors how their perception differs from their actual limits of tolerance. In any case, it is crucial to thoroughly explain the result of the evaluation and make sure that prospects understand the impact of their risk tolerance on their investments.

The third major element is the check for risk capacity. Displaying a highly risk-affine attitude has no meaning without the context of the capacity to take investment risk. It must be clarified whether the investor has any debts and sufficient investable assets before making suitable investment proposals. While this seems very straightforward, it is surprising to see that there are players who simply ignore that. Robo-advisors achieved the point for an adequate risk assessment only if both, the risk tolerance and the risk capacity are checked for. It is alarming that only 78% achieve that point and again, the pure robos give a substantially better performance. While only 65% of the hybrid platforms fulfill this requirement, 93% of the pure tools do so. This result supports the impression that hybrid robo platforms rely too much on the availability of a human advisor clients can turn to instead of implementing these things into their digital onboarding.

Therefore, before caring about financial planning features, portfolio analytics and reporting or the provision of valuable content, robo-advisors are strongly advised to accurately identify prospects’ risk profiles to ensure suitability. Only seven out of the 31 robo platforms included into our benchmarking fulfilled all three criteria, which is disturbing result.

Get more information about the world’s leading robo-advisors and their performances, strengths, weaknesses and best practices in our new Global Robo-Advisor Benchmarking Report 2017.

 

Bringing Human Elements Back into the Robo-advising Model

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Robo advisors launched by start-up companies were long perceived as a substantial threat to established players in the financial industry. But now established players are taking over the game. We are witnessing the launch of so-called hybrid-robo advisors by established players like Schwab and Morgan Stanley who have realized that embracing the technology and combining it with already existing assets like client base and experienced advisors will enable them to beat “pure” robo advisors in terms of the client experience.

In our opinion, those players who truly integrate technology in order to deliver better service will be the ones that stand out in the long run. Simply promising a human touch point in order to justify higher fees without a well thought out system in place to actually deliver this kind of service wont be enough.

Check out our new research on this topic.

 

LPL’s Partner for Planned Robo-Advisory Solution

Friday, April 15th, 2016

(by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst)

A few days ago, came the news that LPL, the major U.S. broker dealer has agreed that San Francisco-based Future Advisor is to provide its robo-advisor platform. Like other broker dealers, such as Commonwealth, LPL revealed that it was considering a robo solution last year. In our report on Hybrid Robos (February 2016), we looked at how easy it would be for established players (LPL included) would find it to create a hybrid robo/personal contact integrated model. This question is particularly acute for broker dealers as there are marked differences from a psychological perspective between approach of broker dealer client and a typical prospective user of a pure robo-advisor solution. To put it another way, loyal clients of robos and broker dealers probably expect and receive quite different user experiences. We have seen some bold, clever approaches at integrating the two on the part of some major banks but the LPL/Future Advisor initiative is a first. Future Advisor has branched out into B2B solutions (e.g. SaxoSelect and with BBVA Compass and Royal Bank of Canada) since being acquired by Blackrock in 2015. Our expectation is that the LPL robo solution will at least begin as a discrete entity with its own website but that there will be exciting opportunities a full hybrid robo/broker dealer a little further down the road.

 

Hybrid Robos – a close-up look at Schwab Intelligent Institutional Portfolios

Friday, February 19th, 2016

The launch of Charles Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolios and Institutional Intelligent Portfolios last year was undoubtedly the most significant robo-advisor development in the U.S. in 2015. MyPrivateBanking  profiled Schwab Intelligent Portfolios in our Robo-Advisor 2.0 report and in our just published Hybrid Robo report, “Hybrid Robos - How Combining Human and Automated Wealth Advice Delivers Superior Results and Gains Market Share” , we take a closer look at Schwab’s Institutional Intelligent Portfolios (SIIP) as one of the report’s five case studies.

SIIP provides most of the advantages of digital investment management with the opportunity for a wealth manager to customize their own recommended asset allocations from a choice of 450 exchange traded funds that Schwab makes available for the purpose.

One aspect of the Institutional Intelligent Portfolios that took our attention was the way in which different advisory firms can use the Schwab solution to enhance their own offering in different ways. For example, it is perfectly possible for a wealth manager to to make SIIP available as an almost completely separate service with its own website and completely different branding. In effect, a registered independent advisor or financial planning firm that did this would be creating their own ‘pure’ robo-advisor. This limits the danger of cannibalizing the firm’s main client-base but it also restricts the possibilities for the users of the robo service. Longer-term, we believe that the future lies with greater integration of the digital component with a firm’s other services to create a hybrid offering of robo features and tools and personal interaction.

The most obvious kind of integration would be full integration on the wealth manager’s website with the SIIP option standing alongside a wealth management firm’s existing services, whether these are discretionary investment management, retirement planning, tax planning, specialist advice services for alternative investments or the other specialist services that a firm has made into USPS. This kind of transparent approach has much to recommend it and it is already being followed by some firms. For a firm specialising in just financial planning but which wants to provide an investment management component, this policy has clear benefits.

One more subtle alternative approach might be to have, say, a client rewards programme that is shared by a firm’s SIIP users and by its full service clients. Perhaps even more effective would be to allow SIIP users to make use of a finance management dashboard like eMoney that your full service clients are already benefiting from. Allowing the users of a firm’s digital offering to participate in behind the log-in features like these signals a much clearer welcome to smaller accounts (which will hopefully become full service accounts in time) than a standalone robo-advisory website can achieve on its own.

 

Who will win the robo game?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Steffen Binder, MyPrivateBanking’s Research director will be speaking next week at the InVest2015 conference in New York:

Session Description

Online advisory firms like Betterment, WealthFront and others hold a tiny fraction of total AUM, but there’s no doubt that they pose a threat to traditional wealth managers with some customer segments. MyPrivateBanking research has quantified the threat potential of 14 leading robo-advisors companies worldwide, according to 13 criteria. This session will examine which represent the highest disruptive threat to the wealth management industry, particularly their ability to win new clients, their marketing prowess and their deep pockets funding-wise. The analysis will also show the competitive reaction of existing wealth managers and how this will reinvent the whole wealth management industry.

200 USD discount with code “ROBOGAME”

And here you can find our latest research on robo-advisors.

 

How robo-advisors can make ETF investors smarter

Friday, March 27th, 2015

/by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst/

MyPrivateBanking was very pleased to include a profile of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios in our latest report on robo-advisors, published last week, AFTER the launch of the new Schwab service and to be able to make a full assessment of it. Inevitably in such a fast changing area, fresh developments in the robo-advisor sector keep coming and this week we have seen the announcement of the acquisition of LearnVest by Northwestern Mutual. We cover LearnVest in our report, even though we don’t see LearnVest as a full robo-advisor (and neither do LearnVest). However, we do think that LearnVest has some important robo characteristics and its pricing and range of services make it a disruptive force in the industry in a very similar way to robo-advisors. The company’s acquisition by a major financial institution is another example of the way in which corporate strategy is now becoming a major motor of the robo-advisory revolution, a topic that we cover in detail in our latest robo report, which we sub-titled ‘How Automated Investing is Infiltrating the Weath Management Industry’.

John Bogle, the highly respected founder of Vanguard, recently repeated his skeptical views about exchange traded funds (ETFs), saying to FTfm that they were an encouragement for investors to use index tracking in a counter-productive manner. Bogle has been a committed opponent of market timing tactics either by private investors or mutual fund managers and at Vanguard he was a pioneer of index investing. Although many would consider ETFs to be index tracking instrument ‘par excellence’, he’s convinced that investors will be tempted to trade too frequently for their own good. Vanguard’s  own current CEO has come out against Bogle’s criticism in favor of ETFs as a healthy innovation that have lowered the costs of investing for millions of people.

In the light of this debate about the dangers of ETFs, the robo-advisor trend could be a godsend to the ETF industry. Not only are robo-advisors an effective way to encourage people to start investing, they are almost all proponents of planned investing as opposed to impulsive investment decisions. With the robo-advisors around, ETF sponsors can say ‘look, these new robo platforms depend on our products and demonstrate that it’s perfectly possible to use ETFs prudently for investors’ long-term gain.’

Of course, robo-advisors have yet to prove their index tracking commitment in a number of ways. Individual robo-advisors could stray off the path of passive or mainly passive investing and become too smart for their clients’ good. Also, as has often been said, we’ve yet to see how robo-advisor clients behave in a real panic in the financial markets. Finally, we don’t yet have data on how consistently robo-advisor clients are behaving. Are clients sticking with the plan or do they sign up with a robo in a burst of enthusiasm and then lose interest, leaving a perfectly proportioned ‘bonsai ‘ portfolio in their account rather than a full grown tree to provide shelter in retirement or adversity.

On this last point, our view is that some investors will be committed enough to enjoy real benefits and some won’t, but enough people will use their accounts in the way the robo-advisors intend for the robo model to count as a success and to be held up as an example to be followed in the retail investment market.

 

What Can We Tell from Fidelity/eMoney Advisor Deal?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

/by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst/

Yesterday there was news of two major acquisitions of fintech companies in the United States with the takeover of Advent Black Diamond by SS&C in a deal worth $2.3bn and the purchase of eMoney Advisor, the financial planning software company.

The eMoney Advisor deal is reported to have cost Fidelity Investments just $250 million and reflects the fact that although financial planning software can bring great advantages to financial advisors and eMoney Advisor seems to be highly regarded in its field, the software itself seems surprisingly cheap. A license for eMoney Advisor’s emX PRO product currently costs less than $4,000 a year. Other financial planning products in the U.S. are even cheaper.

In fact eMoney Advisor offers more than financial planning software with marketing tools (advisor branded media such as videos and presentations), account aggregation, vault solutions and, perhaps most importantly, its client portal. The eMoney Advisor personal financial management (PFM) tool (they call it a client site) is seen as possibly the most attractive of the company’s products in the eyes of Fidelity. MyPrivateBanking’s view is that Fidelity’s purchase should probably not be seen as a cherry picking opportunity and that they have plans for the whole product range. That said services like MINT.com or Personal Capital’s financial software are showing that personal finance portals have plenty of potential in the retail segment.

Just what those plans may be is unclear at this stage but the eMoney Advisor purchase has raised concerns among financial advisors that use its products even though Fidelity has promised not to interfere with emX’s integration on the platforms of other custodians such as Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade. Concerns have also been expressed at the possibility of Fidelity making use of big data on HNWIs’ portfolios available on the eMoney Advisor platform but this raises such serious questions about who really owns that data that we think Fidelity Investments would see this as a highly dangerous strategy.

Although we shall have to wait to see how Fidelity plans to build on its eMoney Advisor acquisition, it is clear that the company is fully aware of the need to accelerate the speed with which it engages with digital technologies to provide more help to investors. MyPrivateBanking believes that, in particular, the new collaborations between Fidelity Institutional and Betterment Institutional, and with LearnVest may be a sign that Fidelity’s focus on providing advice and planning services to the mass affluent and the young via technology is increasing.

The eMoney Advisor deal also sheds an interesting light on the volume of investment going into fintech from venture capital funds. Fidelity is paying a lot more than start up’s funding but it is getting an established revenue stream of at least $30 million a year as well as a well qualified team of 250 people. It seems likely that they have interesting plans for that team as a team but that they will respect what eMoney Advisor has already achieved since it started 15 years ago.

 

Are Robo-Advisors only for simple investment strategies?

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Over and over we keep hearing that robo-advisors are really only capable to develop simple investment strategies mostly based on simple products like index funds. For example, today Forbes carries a story that argues along these lines:

„While innovative and cutting-edge, most of today’s digitally-based offerings are still restricted to the discrete areas of basic planning and investing. People that want a more comprehensive wealth management relationship will need a broader solution, the kind that has been perfected by seasoned wealth advisory professionals.”

Well. We beg to disagree. Forbes maybe right that today’s offerings are relatively simple and restricted to basic planning and investing. But there is no doubt that software and relatively basic artificial intelligence will soon be able to tackle more complex questions.  Private banks and conventional wealth managers should not rest on the assumption that high-net worth clients and their more complex financial needs cannot be supported and advised by algorithms. Computers are able to solve complex and relatively unstructured problems in such diverse areas as diagnosing serious health conditions or advising customers on buying perfect gifts. Partly this is based on big data analysis, partly on very smart algorithms. No doubt that this kind of software will at some point soon be able to solve tax problems or estate planning. Don’t underestimate the speed of innovation. Of course, there still will be a role for humans in the advisory industry. But it will change from subject expert to human coach or therapist as many clients prefer interaction with humans rather than machines.

Check out our new report on robo-advisors for an in depth look how this industry will develop and how this brings new opportunities for conventional wealth managers.

 

The Robo-Advisor Threat

Friday, January 17th, 2014

The relationship between clients and their financial advisors has undergone a fundamental change within the past few years. While in the past wealthy clients relied heavily on the recommendations of their financial advisors and private bankers, the situation nowadays looks fundamentally different. On the one hand there is the older, yet shrinking client segment that mainly still depends on what their financial advisor proposes while on the other hand a new generation arises, namely that of the young and tech-savvy.

Though (on average) not yet earning the really big money, the urge of moving independently and self-confidently on today’s markets encourages them to deal with do-it-yourself-investments. As this generation has grown up with the Internet and all its possibilities, they know where to find the information and support they need. Most recent developments offer them tools known as robo-advisors that promise to replace face-to-face meetings with costly advisors. These tools help them to build up and manage their portfolio, give recommendations about which assets to sell, buy or to hold, and support personal financial planning. Robo-advisors range from pure technology websites to established financial service companies which are enriching their services by offering online advisory. Probably the best known example in this new, fast-growing space is a start-up company called WealthFront, based in Silicon Valley, which has just surpassed USD 500m assets under management. This trend is also partly triggered by the rise of low-cost, indexed ETFs, on which this younger generation mainly focuses rather than on active investments.

In essence, robo-advisors claim to offer not only substantially lower fees but also (in the long run) higher performance as investment decisions are taken by sophisticated, self-learning algorithms rather than error-prone human beings or investment committees.

So far, robo-advisors have only a miniscule market share in the overall wealth management market. However, we believe that over the long run such platforms could play a much bigger role, threatening established wealth management firms and eroding fee levels. Every wealth advisor firm should very closely watch these new competitors and think about defensive measures.

In the longer-term, it may be even a matter of life and death for established private banks and wealth managers to think about integrating the robo-advisor business model in their own offer for wealthy clients. The personal relationship with clients and their trust is today’s biggest asset of wealth management firms around the globe. But isn’t it true that these relationships and the hard-earned trust have recently been under attack – especially since the financial crisis started five years ago? It is not too farfetched to assume that this erosion will accelerate over the coming years and robo-advisors will play the role of catalyst in this process.

Wealth managers and private banks need to re-invent themselves and think hard about how to integrate elements and ideas of the robo-advisory-model in their own business model. How exactly this might look is the billion dollar question.

 
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