As the competition between robo advisors and traditional firms becomes at times very personal, Vanguard is growing its digital financial advisory unit at an astounding rate -- all before its official launch.

Vanguard says assets in its Personal Advisor Services start up, still in the pilot phase with no paid advertising support, rose from $755 million in 2013 to $10.1 billion at the end of last year. Overall, the firm has 20 million clients with more than $3 trillion in U.S. fund AUM with approximately one-third of those assets from the advisor-sold channel.

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