Wealth Management

Automated Financial Services Bring Technology to Financial Planning

Investors looking for cost-effective ways to save for the long term have a new choice: automated financial services. These algorithm-based investment firms are often called “robo advisers.” These services are less expensive than working through a stock broker or financial adviser, more active than a passive index fund and offer personalized portfolios based on an investor’s age and goals.

The Rise of Mobile Investing

Robo advisers can save investors a lot of money in fees. Although fee structures can vary, they are generally around 0.25 percent of assets under management (AUM), compared to 1 to 1.5 percent for personal financial advisers. When you consider the total AUM for the average investor, the fee savings can be significant.

Mobile investing is a rapidly changing and highly competitive business. In 2010, Betterment was released to the market as the first robo advisory service. Now, Betterment is an industry leader, with about $2.5 billion in AUM, according to a 2015 article in Investment News. Not to be left behind, some of the big players have come out with their own technologically-driven offerings. Charles Schwab offers Intelligent Portfolios, which has $3 billion in AUM, and Vanguard came out with Personal Adviser Services, which has $21 billion AUM.

Today, investors have a lot of choice as fee structures and minimums are subject to change. Fortunately, investors using mobile devices can easily check the latest pricing and performance, and then use their tablets and smartphones to act. Investor interest in mobile services is putting pressure on all firms to adopt robo-adviser models. “Self-directed investing used to be for those who couldn’t afford a financial adviser,” Sophie Schmitt, senior analyst at Aite Group, told CNBC in 2015. “Now, every firm is evaluating the mix of service and technology that clients want.”

Securing Mobile Investment Transactions

As individual investors rely more on tablets and smartphones for banking and investments, the security of the devices becomes vital. With KNOX, Samsung provides the only Android security solution approved for use with classified government networks and data. The KNOX Workspace solution provides separate containers for work and personal information, so a user can conduct both on a single device rather than carrying two.

With Samsung KNOX, investors are able to conduct transactions securely from their smartphones. Although a fundamental point of automated financial services is to invest for the long term, with new mobile services, investors are moving funds from bank accounts to investment accounts, or between investments, and monitoring performance.

Online Investors Save Significant Fees

Automated financial services appeal to millennials who like to control their own finances, as this group is on track to have $2.2 trillion AUM by 2020, according to the management advisory firm A.T. Kearney. “By shifting to lower-cost robo advisers, investors will collectively save themselves an estimated $1 billion in fees in 2016. Human registered investment advisers often charge 150 basis points (or $150 per $10,000) and require a starting balance of at least $250,000,” the report said. By lowering the starting balance and reducing the fee structure, investment banks are more likely to see an increase in millennial investors.

Financial Planners Are Adopting Mobile

Robo apps, which are designed for mobile devices, have been a wake-up call for traditional asset managers. Considering how much time advisers spend meeting with clients outside of the office, the industry has been slow to adopt mobile technology, but that is changing. According to Mobile Commerce Daily, a report from Aite Group explained that advisers are increasing their use of tablets. According to the report, 28 percent of advisers explained they had used a tablet in 2014, which was up 21 percent from 2013.

As the popularity of robo advisers continues to grow, the ways to access them are also getting easier. Many of these robo apps are designed for mobile use and are available for download from the Google Play store.

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Tom Groenfeldt

Tom Groenfeldt covers a range of finance and technology topics, from retail banking to high-frequency trading in capital markets to big data, supercomputers and cloud. He is a regular contributor to Forbes and to International Finance Magazine in London. In 2015, The Financial Brand named him number 20 out of the top 25 global influencers in financial services. He is a contributor to American Banker and the Financial News, and has appeared on Brett King’s internet radio program, "Breaking Banks." Follow Tom on Twitter @Tomgroenfeldt

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