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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
At first, robo advisors caused some advisors to worry about competing and surviving in a market shifting toward millennials and low costs. Now, they're facing the same concerns.


It's true that assets of online managed accounts are expanding rapidly; advisory firms continue to roll out their own robo offerings; venture capital continues to flow into digital wealth provider platforms, as valuations for some close in on $1 billion, while deals for tech providers reach record figures.


But underlying these positive trends are nagging concerns about performance, survivability and profitability of many digital wealth providers.


Despite company pronouncements to the contrary, algorithm-based robo advisors saw assets drop during the recent correction. Even the most successful platforms aren't expected to be profitable for another decade, but they are already engaged in expensive advertising campaigns to gain clients.


All this activity is occurring, industry analysts point out, in a segment that still represents just a sliver of the total investment market.


And the analysts at Corporate Insight predict that the "true disruption of this industry" hasn't even happened yet, but will if this one event happens.


Click through the slideshow to find out more about their prediction and other key trends in digital wealth management or view a single-page version here. -- Suleman Din
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
"Whether leading startups in this category like Betterment and Wealthfront will remain independent in the long run is up for debate, but one thing is clear: low-cost online managed accounts are here to stay," according to the authors of Next Generation Investing 2015: Digital Advice Matures.
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
"Across the board, firms have acknowledged that the automated investment advisor has hastened an increased investment in advisor technology … firms are not simply pursuing one tactic, but are selecting a combination of strategies," note the authors of Wealth Management Trends 2015.
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
Automated wealth tools and platforms are gaining traction. But expensive ad fights for what still is a sliver of the overall investment market has observers wondering which digital-first firms can survive and become profitable.
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
Duran said United Capital will be offering up a white label version of its financial life management platform and announcing an acquisition of a robo solution in the fourth quarter.
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
"Algo-advice providers saw a 64% increase in assets in paid algorithm-based accounts from April 2014 to December 2014, from $8.9 billion to $13.9 billion," note Corporate Insight's analysts. "This success may be short-lived, however, as assets fell to $13 billion by July of this year."
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
Stein made his predictions as the digital wealth manager announced it was introducing a 401(k) offering for businesses in September.
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
Automated wealth tools and platforms are gaining traction. But expensive ad fights for what still is a sliver of the overall investment market has observers wondering which digital-first firms can survive and become profitable.
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
"Robo advisors will have to use much of the capital they raise to pay for tens to hundreds of millions of marketing dollars needed to gather assets and reach a profitable scale … it could take a decade or more to recoup advertising costs," warns Morningstar analyst Michael Wong in his report, Hungry Robo-Advisors Are Eyeing Wealth Management Assets.

He estimates the break even client asset level for robo advisors is from $16 billion to $40 billion, about 8 to 20 times the current client asset level of leading robo firms.
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
"Most wealth managers recognize that their clients are using self-service channels. To that end, adoption of self-directed tools has accelerated over the past two years," Celent analysts note.
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Digital Wealth Disruption: The Competition Evolves
Corporate Insight's authors of Next Generation Investing 2015: Digital Advice Matures leave readers with an unsettling prediction of what's next: "The true disruption of this industry probably will not occur until firms like Google and Amazon -- with their massive war chests, deep understanding of data analysis and beloved brands -- turn their sites on the retail investing market."

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