Robo-Advisors

Stripped down to its essentials, financial advice is a fairly straightforward proposition. Done well, a highly ethical individual stewards the assets and actions of an investor in a personal and professional interchange. But now a vibrant new class of entrepreneurs is staking their fates and their fortunes on the premise that financial advice can be delivered in a better, cheaper, easier, more ethical, more transparent manner and, as a bonus, in a way more devoid of human annoyance on both ends of the transaction. Cue the robo-advisors, arguably a callous misnomer for automated asset management. The prototypical robo-advisory entrepreneur has more brands on his or her resume than NASCAR. The bona fides of these industry upstarts often include Ivy-level colleges and MBA programs at Harvard or Stanford. They are often flush with IPO dollars realized at concerns like LinkedIn, Facebook, eBay, Amazon and Microsoft. Robo-folk believe that technology is not an enabler of advice but rather, if engineered correctly, advice itself in digital form. And, they believe the best solutions originate in Silicon Valley or academia, not Wall Street. Robo-entrepreneurs are white-boarding the whole business model, culture and technology from scratch in the conviction that little can be learned from a legacy advice system still rooted in an investment banking culture acting under the core premise that if stockbrokers get rich some of the good effects will trickle down to clients – with the clients none the wiser. Robo-advisors are a scintillating topic for students of the advice game as they grow by hundreds of millions in assets every month, constantly evolve their business models and receive cash infusions from ever-larger swaths of venture capitals. Throw in the fact that robo-advisors have yet to see a dime in profits -- and won’t in the foreseeable future -- and you have real intrigue. RIABiz has avidly covered the fast-evolving robo-advice phenomenon and will continue to do so. We present the growing body of articles here.

John Bunch became No. 2 man at the No. 1 robo-advisor for his human bandwidth.

John Bunch climbs high at Financial Engines as two execs vacate power spots and rollover retail gets accorded higher priority

Former TD retail chief's rise shows what Larry Raffone has in mind for old Mutual Fund Store machinery as Raffone works to make his mark at Financial Engines

April 20, 2017 — 10:43 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: The grass is always greener on the other side of the human-robo equation. While traditional RIAs struggle to stay digitally relevant, robo-advisors are striving to keep and/or cultivate that human touch. Robo execs are so over algorithms and guys like John ...

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Mike Sha: Wells is a big beast. With scale comes challenges.

Wells Fargo's new ADV reveals plenty about its robo's ambitions to max cross-selling and minimize channel conflict

Intuitive Investor is priced on the high side and bars micro-investors, yet is positioning itself as the anti-niche player

April 18, 2017 — 6:24 PM UTC by Janice Kirkel

Brooke's Note: There is a reason big banks prevail. Size matters. Sticking to what works matters. Imagination? Transformative thinking? Not so much. With that in mind, presume Wells Fargo didn't just randomly arrive at its new robo formula. A tad vanilla? Good news for ...

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Jon Stein, flanked by Maureen Thompson of CFA and Betterment associate counsel Seth Rosenbloom, marking the envisaged starting day of the DOL rule.

After putting big chips on DOL fiduciary rule, Betterment hosts funereal event to mark the April 10 Go Day That Wasn't

CEO Jon Stein sat shoulder to shoulder with CFP Board and Consumer Federation of America guests and held court with CNNMoney, Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports reporters

April 13, 2017 — 6:50 PM UTC by Janice Kirkel

Brooke's Note: Betterment is best known for its B-to-C robo. RIA types know it's an RIA business. But the New York robo's interesting side bet is its 401(k) platform that its founders claim to have built after they became so disgusted, as ...

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Eli Broverman: I love the formative period.

Betterment's 'call me a masochist' co-founder goes in search of more acute pain and Jon Stein flies solo

Eli Broverman leaves the table 14 years after meeting Jon Stein over a poker game

April 10, 2017 — 10:24 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: Jon Stein is perhaps the best known name in robo-advice. Not only is he the founder of the largest standalone robo but he seems to be everywhere -- on panels, in articles and on TV both as an expert and a pitchman. As Betterment ...

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Joe Cianciolo [with Simon Roy]: The future is the next five to 10 years. The millennials don't have that much money.

Why FutureAdvisor orphaned its B2C book of business, how post-Invesco Jemstep is doing and other learnings at CFA Society's robo-panel in San Francisco

Since BlackRock acquired it, the $152-million robo has gone full-on for big enterprises with big books of boomers and joined a chorus of robo-owners sick of millennial bullcrap

April 4, 2017 — 5:38 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: This was an elegant San Fran event of artisan cheeses and embiggening surroundings. It was the CFA Society's first go at having a financial technology event and enthusiasm ran high. But the event might have also been subtitled: how do we ...

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Lloyd Blankfein is channeling his inner Marcus to find a retail groove for Goldman Sachs.

As Goldman Sachs' badly kept secret about branding an advice robot leaks out, Goldman-watchers see contours of Lloyd Blankfein's grand if 'scattergun' virtual advice strategy take shape

The NYC investment bank's CEO may be saving the Goldman brand for last after smart beta ETFs, Honest Dollar, Motif and 'Marcus by Goldman Sachs' are up and running

March 30, 2017 — 7:20 PM UTC by By Lisa Shidler

Brooke's Note: Goldman Sachs is stepping into two breaches as it introduces a five-component virtual advice strategy. For all its mighty power in trading and investment banking, Goldman Sachs is an also-ran in all things retail. It's also a pathetic force when it comes to robo-advice ...

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Tom Kazmierczak: They cost [the investor] about the same as target date funds but circumstances may change and with ActivePlus you can update.

The genius of how T. Rowe Price's new robo extends its $165-billion automated advice franchise -- namely as a maker of target date funds

The Baltimore-based fund giant's robo is plain vanilla when viewed in a vacuum but disruptive in the flush target date fund market

March 24, 2017 — 8:39 PM UTC by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: In national defense, both kinds of missile technology have a place. In the case of ICBMs, you set them on their course and hope for the best -- or the worst. But cruise missiles and drones can be fired, steered and even halted after ...

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Scott MacKillop: Your theory assumes that if some rebalancing is good, then a lot must be better.

The three big defects in Andy Rachleff's theory of robo-advisors' ineluctable destiny of domination

Robos no doubt are tireless machines that perform tasks like tax-loss harvesting at a higher frequency than RIAs. But at what cost?

February 27, 2017 — 6:23 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Scott MacKillop

Brooke's Note: Last week we covered Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff calling the human advisor vs. robo contest in favor of the 'bots -- a proclamation that coincided with the Silicon Valley firm's rollout of planning software, which, he contends, may leapfrog the field. No less than the skeptical ...

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Andy Rachleff: You know what? It’s going to keep getting better. Because software is better than people

Andy Rachleff blasts flesh-and-blood advisors -- even planners -- as Wealthfront returns to offense in robo game after losing ground under former QB Adam Nash

The Redwood City robo's founder and CEO sneers at the traditional retirement planning process even as Wealthfront concedes it's still chasing the essential snark of automated advice: artificial intelligence

February 24, 2017 — 5:33 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler and Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: They say you can go far these days by abstaining from political correctness. Now, finally, someone in the financial planning realm has said what before remained unsaid: People suck. It's not a new charge when it comes to managing money; passively ...

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Ron Fiske: I thought I’d be there the rest of my career.

Apex Clearing adds Ron Fiske to its Pershing mafia as it plays bigger for emerging asset class -- RIA digital

Fiske departs Envestnet to rejoin Apex CEO William Capuzzi, a former Pershing colleague, to build on Apex 'big league' success as custodian for firms like Betterment and Wealthfront

February 8, 2017 — 10:05 PM UTC by By Lisa Shidler

Brooke's Note: Bob Oros, Lori Hardwick and now Ron Fiske in the past two months. If you combine RIA business knowledge and the ability to play well with others in a corporate setting, you are likely to get poached. Somebody will think you are ...

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