SigFig Deal Shows Banks Love Robo-Advisors

canstockphoto5857599More and more companies are jumping on the robo-advising bandwagon.

Santander InnoVentures, the fintech venture arm of Santander Group, together with nine other major FIs and investors, today announced its investment in robo-adviser SigFig.

SigFig netted $40 million overall from Comerica, Eaton Vance, New York Life, UBS and venture capital firms Bain Capital Ventures, DCM, Nyca Partners, and Union Square Capital Ventures. The startup will use the funds for a major expansion of its team and the platform, the company said. (And according to this announcement that appeared on Linkedin today, Sigfig is hiring now, for many positions.)

The investment in digital advisory tech is a first for Santander, according to Mariano Belinky, managing partner at Santander InnoVentures. “The ongoing need for affordable, accessible financial advice continues to be an area of focus for the investment industry,” he said in a statement. “SigFig is at the forefront of tackling this need, providing enterprise-level wealth management technology that is secure, scalable and compliant – tailored to firms’ unique corporate strategies and individual client needs.”

SigFig’s deal with UBS Wealth Management was announced last week. The San Francisco-based startup creates and customizes digital tools for WMA’s 7,000 advisors, which will “complement” the existing expertise of UBS advisors, and not form a separate automated platform, SigFig said.

It now seems like everyone is building robo advising services, and SigFig’s CEO Mike Sha said it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what he said during the Empire Startups Fintech Conference last month.

With the partnerships that we are launching this year, we will have access to over a trillion dollars worth of wealth from those partners. And even if a small percentage of that converts, we think we’ll build a bigger business and have access to a lot more consumers, than if we tried to go alone. There are other robo advisors in the space, who pursue direct-to-consumer model, and the unfortunate part of that strategy is, you need to spend so much money on raising awareness. You get all this VC funds, and then you need to spend it on billboards, ads, podcast and sponsorships. Even after spending all that money, you still have a pretty small customer base. 

While some FIs are already leaping into the adoption of robo-advising, it will take years for most to make full use of the technology, Kate Randall Danella, Regions Bank’s newest head of private wealth management, told Bank Innovation previously.

It’s a space we are watching closely and having conversations now. We look into how to use digital capabilities to expand and on your advisory services. We are more in the discovery phase of watching and learning right now, and I would say it’s going to be another four to five years before we see a widespread adoption of this technology across the industry. This has always been, and will always be, a people’s business. Can technology help? Absolutely, but any sort of tech has to be a part of full solution, and that’s going to be a multi-year shift.

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