SigFig Scores a Robo Deal with UBS

canstockphoto17370929SigFig, a San Francisco-based robo advisor, partnered with UBS Wealth Management to create and customize digital tools for WMA’s 7,000 advisors, it was announced today. The tools will “complement” the existing expertise of UBS advisors, and not form a separate automated platform, SigFig said.

This move is in line with SigFig’s strategy of “leading in the automated investment space” through institutional partnerships, which CEO Mike Sha discussed at the Empire Startups Fintech Conference in last month.

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. 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.

According to Sha, working with startups allows even large and slow-moving FIs to accelerate innovation. “So in the span of 30 days, we can build a fully integrated robo advice service for third party partners, and we vet it inside their site, so it actually looks and feels like the bank,” he said.

About 90% of people in the US are not optimizing their portfolios to their full potential, and “that’s the top argument in favor of robo-advisers,” Sha explained. The SigFig deal adds to the ongoing boom in the robo advisory space. Startups, like MeetInvest, an algorithm-driven robo-advisory, or WorthFM – a robo advisor for affluent or rising affluent women, have recently joined the fray. Will they, too, take the partnership route?

“I think the way the way it will shake out in our industry is that a very small number of firms will have the ability to build the technology in-house,” Sha said. “Whether they are successful will remain to be seen, but not too many companies are there to buy, and I am confident that most firms will end up partnering.”

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