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U.S. Bank strikes deal with FutureAdvisor, launches robo

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U.S. Bank jumped into the robo world by striking a deal with FutureAdvisor. It plans to make the digital investment service available to its customers next year.

The Minneapolis bank is planning to aim its robo service toward “upcoming investors,” which often will be millennials, but not necessarily so, said Mark Jordahl, president of U.S. Bank Wealth Management. The new service will combine technology from FutureAdvisor with a dedicated team of advisers from U.S. Bank. That combination was especially interesting to the bank, he said.

Clients increasingly want to use technology to access information and investments, but as their financial picture becomes more complex, they also take comfort in the fact that there’s another person involved, he says. “We find that’s more and more what people want.”

Although he was quick to add that some clients may well decide to stick with the robo and not move on to a full adviser relationship, and that’s perfectly fine with him. In fact, he views the deal as just one step in the ongoing process of using technology to enhance the overall client experience.

Robos have made major strides in the banking industry in the past 18 months or so. In private conversations and at conferences, robos were initially cast as a threat to their business. Indeed, many bank advisers still view robos as a threat to steal lower-end clients.

But as the industry has shifted to more of a fee-based model, thanks in large part to the fiduciary rule, robos are more likely now seen as a way to reach more customers. The hope is that this will enable advisers to focus on fewer, higher-end clients in fee relationships, while establishing relationships with robo customers who may require more sophisticated financial needs over time.

Robos received a major stamp of approval when Vanguard and Schwab, two titans of inexpensive investing, announced they were getting into the market. Capital One also launched a robo, and other institutions that have discussed plans for their own robos, in various stages, include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

The new robo service from U.S. Bank, FutureAdvisor, was acquired by BlackRock in October with an aim to making the service available to financial institutions. As such, this is the fourth deal it’s penned, after announcing partnerships in recent months with BBVA Compass, RBC Wealth Management and LPL.

“Digital advice is here to stay and will play a larger role as the combination of digital and human advice, packaged appropriately together, continues to improve outcomes for both financial advisors and their clients,” said Bo Lu, co-founder and CEO of FutureAdvisor, in a press release announcing the U.S. Bank deal.

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