06.21.2017
By Rob Daly

Robo-Advisors Set for Evolutionary Leap

The growth of robo advisors over the past five years has been from nearly zero assets under management to approximately $100 billion, according to a panel of asset managers during the TSAM Buy-Side Conference in Midtown Manhattan.

The initial versions of the technology, which could be considered version 1.0, used the model of bringing clients to the software, according to James Mackinaw, managing director, digital wealth solutions, at BlackRock.

“There were few players that have been able to execute the model over an extended period,” he said.

However, he sees the robo-advisory space quickly transitioning between versions 1.5 to 2.0. which is characterized by bringing software to the clients.

“If you look at with the growth is starting to come from, it’s no surprise that it is coming from many of the large established direct-to-consumer businesses,” said Mackinaw.

Fellow panelists expect that the technology will experience a rapid maturation that will provide a greater breadth and depth of support for investors.

Daniel Egan,
Betterment

“I think the management of assets is going to become much more personalized,” said Daniel Egan, director of behavioral finance and investment at Betterment. “Say I have a portfolio of tech stocks, I want an index fund that is built around that. This is two years off, not five years.”

Meanwhile, Colin Kennedy, chief revenue officer at Clarity Money sees robo advisory capabilities expand beyond the typical index and ETF investment strategies that currently dominate the market.

“We expect clients to very much expect to receive personal advice across all aspects of financial services whether that’s investments, credit cards, insurance, retirement savings, and whatever else they are looking for,” he said. “It will be more thoughtful and personalized advice. While they have access to myriad amounts of information, they are going to expect financial institutions and applications to make recommendations that they can accept or reject as well as have the ability to research other opportunities.”

BlackRock even had taken stakes in startups that bring the technology’s benefits to alternative investments, added Mackinaw.

Despite the evolution of robo-advisory technology, the panelists all agree that the debate between robo-advisory versus traditional wealth management delivery likely will be retired soon.

“The idea that robo-advisory is a threat will die down,” added Mackinaw. “I think the traditional wealth managers, and I’ll include the large direct wealth managers, will continue to adopt the technology within all aspect of wealth management.”

“In five to ten years, we will not have the word ‘fintech,'” agreed Vicki Zhou, co-founder and co-CEO of WiseBanyan.

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