Projected trillions in robo advice AUM hinge on mobile apps

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The key to the future of advising could be hiding right in your client’s pocket.

Assets under management on digital platforms are projected to top $4 trillion by 2022 bolstered by intuitive smartphone apps, according to new research by the consulting firm Juniper Research. (A study by the research firm Aite Group has assets at $1 trillion by 2021.)

Next generation apps may further attract millennial investors — and the next generation of wealth — as the process of investing becomes more convenient and accessible. From $330 billion in 2017, AUM on digital platforms could skyrocket twelvefold over the next four years, the study suggests, and combined revenues could top $25 billion.

“The average client spends four hours on the phone every day,” says United Capital CEO Joe Duran. “How they interact with the world is how we’re going to have to interact with them,” he says, adding that his firm is spending the majority of its tech dollars on delivering a product that can be accessed via mobile devices.

Digital platforms will continue to bring down costs for larger firms, while increasing overall serviceability and profitability, as AI and machine learning technologies evolve, according to the researcher and study author Nick Maynard. “The technologies powering robo advisors will mature to such an extent that they move from their current human supervised role to being utilized in a fully automated way,” he says.

Average fees are projected to dive as low as 0.6% of AUM by 2020, the research suggests.

Offering advanced advising services at increasingly lower costs make digital platforms attractive targets for M&A activity, says Eric Clarke, CEO of the technology firm Orion Advisor Services.

“Robos continue to have a story that resonates very well in the capital markets,” Clarke says. “They should continue to raise money at a very attractive valuation. But, for the stockholders of those firms, they’re going to have to eventually produce a payback.”

While AUM hits record highs, established digital firms could be running out of time to capitalize, Duran says. “The real losers of last year were the robos,” Duran says. “Nobody has grabbed a dominant position and now it’s just a thing that you get can get anywhere.”

Duran envisions the day when robos are as ubiquitous as credit cards and ATMs, he says. “Robos give the traditional players a way to service smaller clients — no different than a credit card,” he says. “It’s just a different way of servicing clients.”

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Robo advisors Automated investing Mobile technology Apps Fintech M&A United Capital