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Voya considers buying a robo advisor, says BD president

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Voya won't be left behind in the robo race, says Tom Halloran, president of its broker-dealer.

"I don’t have one yet, but I want one," Halloran says. "It's just a matter of how and when."

Speaking with Financial Planning, Voya Financial Advisors' Halloran says he wants the brokerage to join its competitors in the digital advice space, which is predicted to reach $400 billion by the end of next year.

Competing brokerages Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade have already established digital advice platforms and found early success gathering assets online. Asset managers such as Vanguard have also made forays in the digital advice market.

Though he did not have details to share, Halloran says Voya is inclined to seek an acquisition in order to add a digital platform to its offerings. Invesco and BlackRock have pursued a similar strategy with their respective acquisitions of Jemstep and FutureAdvisor.

"This is one of those deals where I'd rather buy one than build one," Halloran says. "There are enough people out there that have one."

Acquisition isn't the only route, however. Rival firms have chosen to partner with digital startups. UBS, for example, is working with Silicon Valley-based developer SigFig on a robo platform.

For his part, Halloran says he's been closely monitoring how the digital advice market has developed.

"If you look at firms, some are better at it than others," he says, adding that some disruptors have received more attention than warranted. "[Betterment] is a huge name in the marketplace, but [they don't manage] a lot of money. Three billion is a plan at most firms like us or Merrill Lynch."

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The prime reasons for bringing a robo online, Halloran says, are to develop advice at scale and give new tools to Voya's 2,100-strong advisor force.

"Digital advice and robos, are things at least from my perspective, I’d like to do more of going forward," he says.

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